Sociology Index

CULTURE OF POVERTY THESIS

Books on Culture of Poverty Thesis

The theory that certain groups and individuals tend to persist in a state of poverty because they have distinct beliefs, values and behavior that are incompatible with economic success. The culture of poverty theory is a social theory that tries to explain the cycle of poverty. culture of poverty theory was discussed academic circles in the 1960s. culture of poverty theory tries to explain why poverty exists despite anti-poverty programs.

Oscar Lewis was an American anthropologist contended that the culture of poverty is both an adaptation and a reaction of the poor to their marginal position due to stratification in a capitalistic society.

The thesis is controversial and is opposed by situational theory, which locates the genesis of poverty in economic and social structures of society rather than in the value orientations of individuals or groups.

It is similar to 'low class culture theory' where it has been argued by some that the lower class have developed and transmit to their children, a different set of cultural values and expectations. They also argue that culture of poverty is a barrier to the success of lower class in society.

The people in the culture of poverty have a strong feeling of marginality, of helplessness, of dependency, of not belonging. They are like aliens in their own country, convinced that the existing institutions do not serve their interests and needs. Along with this feeling of powerlessness is a widespread feeling of inferiority, of personal unworthiness.

This is true of the slum dwellers of Mexico City, who do not constitute a distinct ethnic or racial group and do not suffer from racial discrimination. In the United States the culture of poverty that exists in the Negroes has the additional disadvantage of racial discrimination. - Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty (1959).