Underclass is a term similar to
Marx's concept of Lumpenproletariat. A group that is
not in a regular economic or social relationship with the rest of the
community. Underclass refers to the chronically unemployed, those who live on the
proceeds of petty crime, panhandlers, or bag ladies.
American sociologists use this
term since a large underclass is thought to pose a threat to the stability of society
because they are not adequately connected to the institutional and cultural regulation
that is experienced by most social members.
Myths about Race and the
Underclass - Concentrated Poverty and "Underclass" Behaviors
Yvette Alex-Assensoh, Indiana University-Bloomington
Urban Affairs Review, Vol. 31, No. 1, 3-19 (1995)
The prevalent view held by both academics and policy makers is that underclass behaviors
are predominantly characteristic of African-American communities.
Concern about such behaviors has
expanded partly because the underclass phenomenon has diffused down the urban hierarchy to
small- and medium-sized cities. This article demonstrates that in two areas of
concentrated poverty in Columbus, Ohio, so-called underclass behaviors are not associated
with race. Data from a study of neighborhood poverty and political participation in those
areas are used to show that whites and African-Americans exhibit statistically
indistinguishable and substantively similar levels of such behaviors.
Hispanic Women in Texas:
An Increasing Portion of the Underclass
Juanita M. Firestone, Richard J. Harris, University of Texas at San Antonio
Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 16, No. 2, 176-185 (1994)
This research analyzes data from the 1980 and 1990 Current Population Survey files and
attempts to determine whether human capital or cultural explanations provide a viable framework for
understanding the experience of Hispanic women in Texas.
Latinos, Poverty, and the
Underclass: A New Agenda for Research
Douglas S. Massey, University of Chicago
Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 15, No. 4 (1993) © 1993 SAGE Publications
In the 1980s scholars interested in Hispanic issues sought to advance research by ensuring
that Latinos were included in the debate on the urban underclass. It is argued that Blacks
and Latinos differ in such fundamental ways that the underclass model, which was developed
primarily to describe the situation of inner-city Blacks, cannot legitimately be employed
to understand the social and economic problems of contemporary Hispanic groups in the
Thinking about the `Underclass': Towards a Political Economy of
CHRIS CROWTHER, Sheffield Hallam University, UK
Theoretical Criminology, Vol. 4, No. 2, 149-167 (2000)
This article critically examines the relevance of behavioural and structural versions of
the `underclass' and argues that this distinction should be deepened in order to
understand the policing of this population. This task is performed in the context of a
society in transition from a Keynesian Welfare State (KWS) to a Schumpeterian Workfare
State (SWS). The jobs that are created by the resultant changes in the labour market are
not likely to be filled by the `underclass' who will be doubly disadvantaged by the
subordination of social policy to economic policy and crimefighting. Also, as a
consequence of neo-liberal-led reforms of the police service the organization no longer
has the resources and government support to control and manage the 'underclass'.
The chav phenomenon: Consumption, media and the construction of a new
Keith Hayward, University of Kent, UK, Majid Yar, University of Kent, UK,
Crime, Media, Culture, Vol. 2, No. 1, 9-28 (2006)
This article argues that the decline of the underclass discourse in the UK,
and the rise of the chav, are not unconnected. We contend that there are
numerous homologies between the meaning content, objects and tenor of these two terms, and
suggest that the chav represents a popular reconfiguration of the underclass
idea. We argue that the discourse of the underclass turned crucially upon a (perceived or
real) pathology in the working classes relations to production and socially
productive labour. Its emergent successor, the concept of the chav, is in
contrast oriented to purportedly pathological class dispositions in relation to the sphere
The Family and the Urban Underclass - An Integrative Framework
ROBERT F. KELLY, Wayne State University - Journal of Family Issues, Vol. 6, No. 2,
The major innovation of the concept of an underclass is that it treats dependent welfare
women and poor urban male criminals as a single social group. A major source of the
concept is an implicit synthesis of two bodies of economic theory and
researchnamely, human capital and dual labor market theory. This synthesis is best
exemplified by the National Supported Work Demonstration. A major limitation of the
synthesis is that it lacks a clear articulation of the influence of the family in
underclass behavior. A theoretical framework is presented here that integrates family
theory with the synthesized economic theory of the underclass. The integrated framework is
used to examine the impact of current and proposed child support enforcement practices on
Urban Industrial Transition and the Underclass
JOHN D. KASARDA, Department of Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel
The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 501, No. 1, 26-47
Major U.S. cities have transformed industrially from centers of goods processing to
centers of information processing. Concurrently, the demand for poorly educated labor has
declined markedly and the demand for labor with higher education has increased
substantially. Despite improvements in their overall educational attainment, a great
majority still have very little schooling and therefore have been unable to gain
significant access to new urban growth industries. Underclass blacks, with exceptionally
high rates of school dropout, are especially handicapped. Whereas jobs requiring only
limited education have been rapidly increasing in the suburbs, poorly educated blacks
remain residentially constrained in inner-city housing. Within underclass neighborhoods,
few households have private vehicles, which are shown to be increasingly necessary for
employment in dispersing metropolitan economies. Reasons for the success of recent Asian
immigrants in transforming cities are considered, and policies are suggested to rekindle social mobility in the black underclass.
Puerto Ricans and the Underclass Debate - MARTA TIENDA, University of
The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 501, No. 1,
This article uses data from the Current Population Surveys of 1975, 1980, and 1985 and the
1980 census of population to investigate why the economic status of Puerto Ricans has
declined more than that of Mexicans and Cubans.
Employment Histories and the Concept of the Underclass - Lydia Morris, Sarah
Sociology, Vol. 26, No. 3, 401-420 (1992).
This paper reports on research carried out in Hartlepool. By comparing the work histories
and characterising features of these three groupings the paper sets out to explore the
theoretical and empirical validity of the notion of the underclass, focusing specifically
on two competing definitions: nonparticipation in the labour market, and systematic
disadvantage in the labour market.
The data reveal a distinctive pattern of broken employment for the second of the three
groups identified above. Those affected are thus located between the two contrasting
positions of long-term unemployment, and relatively secure employment. The existence of
such a grouping is argued to undermine a definition of an underclass purely in terms of
About and Beyond the `Underclass': Some Notes on Influences of Social Climate on
British Sociology Today - John Westergaard - Sociology, Vol. 26, No. 4,
The concern of this article is with the influence of fashion and social climate on social
speculation. The `underclass' notion is a nice example of fashion.
Polarisation, Underclass and the Welfare State - Bill Jordan, Exeter
University - Marcus Redley, University of Surrey
Work, Employment & Society, Vol. 8, No. 2, 153-176 (1994)
The authors argue that too little scholarly attention has been given to the divergence
between better-off and poor people's practices over work and welfare. This dimension of
polarization - the way higher-income couples orientate towards property, occupational and
private welfare, and low-income couples towards means-tested benefits, in their employment
decisions - has important implications, both for the underclass debate and for the future
of the welfare state.
Urban housing and the role of 'underclass' processes: the case of Ireland
Brian Nolan, Christopher T. Whelan, The Economic and Social Research Institute,
Journal of European Social Policy, Vol. 10, No. 1, 5-21 (2000)
Rising levels of urban deprivation and a perception that poverty has become more
concentrated in such areas and has taken on a qualitatively different character have
provoked a variety of popular and academic responses. The potentially most fruitful set of
hypotheses focuses on the unintended consequences of social change. A combination of weak
labour force attachment and social isolation is perceived to lead to behaviour and
orientations that contribute to a vicious circle of deprivation. In examining the value of
this conceptual framework in the Irish case we proceed by measuring directly the
social-psychological factors which are hypothesized to mediate the 'underclass' process. A
significantly higher level of poverty is found in urban public-sector tenant households.
Controlling for the critical social-psychological factors we found that net effect was
reduced by less than a quarter and concluded that the remaining effect is more plausibly
attributed to the role of selection than to underclass processes.
The creation of a new underclass in China and its implications
Dorothy J Solinger, Weatherhead East Asian Institute at Columbia University; School of
Social Sciences, University of California,
Environment and Urbanization, Vol. 18, No.1 (2006)© 2006 Environment and Urbanization
The emergence of a new urban underclass in China is a major challenge confronting the
Communist Party, and its potential for fomenting instability has unnerved the Party. A
strong case can be made, however, that the members of this emerging group have been cast
into their current plight chiefly as a result of the marketization reforms that the regime
itself set into motion two and a half decades ago.
The Underclass, 'Social Isolation' and 'Concentration Effects'
The culture of poverty revisited - Andrew
H. Maxwell, Department of Anthropology, Montclair State College
Critique of Anthropology, Vol. 13, No. 3, 231-245 (1993)
Increasing impoverishment in inner-city localities has prompted the development of new
concepts such as William Julius Wilson's 'social isolation' and 'concentration effects'.
It is said that these concepts refer to the community-level effects of economic
restructuring in the United States. For this reason it is argued that such concepts differ
from Oscar Lewis's 'culture of poverty' notion; they do not imply a self-perpetuating,
autonomous cultural entity. In attempting to clarify this aspect of the discussion I will
examine the conceptual foundations of Wilson's view of 'the underclass'.
Race and the Underclass.