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Aspects of Poverty

The culture of poverty was a phrase coined during the 1960s that provides a psychological explanation of poverty and the poor. There are many definitions of poverty but one of the most common equates poverty with deprivation, "insufficiency in food, housing, clothing, medical care, and other items required to maintain a decent standard of living" (DeNitto 2000, 67). Poverty can also be viewed as exploitative or structural. However, with respect to the "culture of poverty", poverty is viewed as not only a lack of resources for a decent standard of living but also a mental attitude among the poor. As DeNitto (2000) defines it, the culture of poverty "involves not just a low income but also attitudes of indifference, alienation, and apathy, along with lack of incentives and self-respect" (80). Many liberal ascribe to this viewpoint of poverty, but conservatives argue that opportunities to get ahead are widely available. Mead argues that nonwork exists because of a lack of work enforcement and attitudes among the poor toward work, "the poor do not believe they have the opportunity, and this still keeps them from working" (DeNitto 2000, 97).

Such a perspective of poverty as the "culture of poverty" is not anything new in historical terms. Since Elizabethan times welfare payments have been minimized to prevent individuals from choosing welfare payments instead of getting a job. Welfare has long been positioned as an unattractive option when compared to work. However, during the 1960s the Kennedy and Johnson administrations increased spending on ambitious social welfare programs. Unfortunately, these welfare programs had little impact on the numbers of poor. Many argue that "much of today's poverty is a direct result of the social policies and programs of the 1960s and 1970s" (DeNitto 2000, 93). This argument believes that social welfare programs actually contribute to the "culture of poverty" by keeping qualified individuals...

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Aspects of Poverty. (2000, January 01). In Retrieved 09:01, October 20, 2014, from