Why Poverty?

Mapping Poverty in AmericaNew York Times. Published on January 4, 2014.

This week let’s use the crowdsource to discuss Goldsmith and Blakely’s (2010) chapter, “Top-down Economics and Bottom-up Politics” in their book, Separate Societies: Poverty and Inequality. We will use this crowdsource as a way to being making sense of this chapter together.

Specifically, the chapter presents three perspectives on the question, ‘Why does poverty exist?’.  What are the various perspectives?  Can you give examples to help explain these perspectives?  Which perspective presents the most compelling argument for explaining poverty?  How do these perspectives mesh with you own understandings of poverty?

Also consider: What other points in the chapter did you find interesting, intriguing, complicated or confusing?  What do you have questions about?

Remember, this is a collective/group project, so you don’t need to respond to each of the prompts listed above – together we should respond to these questions.  In that regard, you should read others comments and add to the conversation (not repeat a point someone already made).  This may be responding to someone’s comment, or answering/trying to answer a question posed by another student, or questioning a point made by another student.

REMINDER: You are not posting to the blog for this assignment.  You will include your thoughts and responses in the comments section of this post.

Comments due by 12noon, Sunday 2/5/17.

For more general information on the weekly crowdsource, click here.

Crowdsource, Topical


  1. Goldsmith and Blakely’s article highlights the three most prominent theories behind poverty: the culture of poverty, poverty as a result of economic turmoil, and a structural view of poverty. The first two theories are the most narrow and do not apply to a majority of impoverished individuals. The culture of poverty blames the poor: they are lazy, often addicts, and remain in the poverty cycle due to a lack of family values (5-6). Not only is this theory not applicable in many cases, it also relies on racial prejudices. The second theory places very little responsibility on the individual, and faults the economy as a whole. The authors refer to this as a “temporary weakness in the economy” (8). While it is imperative to take this perspective into account, it is just as extreme as the first theory. There have always been people living in poverty, even when the economy is doing well. Recessions and depressions often account for increases in poverty, but are not responsible for the phenomenon as a whole. The third theory is perhaps the most effective at explaining poverty. It is a cycle: one that begins with low wages, foreign competition, and a lack of government intervention, and ends with “physical, social, and political isolation” (10). This theory accounts for personal responsibility and the overall economic climate. One of the most prevalent ways to break the poverty cycle is to obtain an education; however, many people are unable to receive a proper education, and the cycle continues.

  2. According to Goldsmith and Blakely’s article, the existence of poverty can be explained through a series of perspectives. One of which is said to have several dimensions of separation which includes three main ideas: social segmentation, economic inequality, and sharp geographic isolation. The article states that often times peoples will use segmentation and isolation to hide the seriousness of impoverished peoples and use it to rationalize their situation, therefore causing a further separation of poor people (2). Through the idea of pathology, poverty is caused from those suffering from defects of their own pathological activity. This perspective, although proven to be “outmoded”, has been used often as people suggested that poor people’s irrational behavior was to blame for their situation (4). This ideology was also detrimental to impoverished people as they often acted out in self-destructive behavior from feeling ignored and useless because that is how they were treated. The most comprehensive perspective of poverty was viewing it as a structural issue. The article states that certain patterns and socioeconomic arrangements create poverty (9). Although certain people would benefit from economic policies causing them to thrive in an affluent society, the oppressed, unfortunate, people at the bottom would suffer more. Goldsmith and Blakely contend that reshaping the city for human and physical resource development would benefit an economy in need of national revitalization and that new policies should be put in place to increase the possibilities (12).

  3. According to Goldsmith & Blakely, the origins of poverty can be understood through three prominent perspectives as already mentioned. One of the perspectives calls attention to an individual’s personal unfounded tendencies; it is quite simple to take a first glance at an individual and to then describe the individual based on this glimpse (e.g., stating a homeless man is homeless because he is viewed as an alcoholic when seen drinking beer on the street). I completely agree with Sara who stated that this theory is far too narrow and is not applicable to the impoverished. I have served as a mentor to a homeless child who lived in a shelter while enrolled in the Big Buddy Program at Queens College, where I met families and understood their truth of their current situations. There are individuals who unfortunately became homeless due to domestic violence, natural disasters, non-committed crimes, and much more. The homeless individuals that are seen on the street should not be assumed to be in those circumstances based on assumed irrational decisions taken; many individuals must wait to be enrolled in a shelter and can never be guaranteed this housing as the process is quite lengthy; many may not want to enroll in a shelter and can be seen on the street because of the shelters’ poor conditions and known maltreatment. I came to learn that this so-called “culture of poverty” is nothing but a label against those who are poor and further develops social separation; if society decides to take a second or third glance at an individual who is poor or homeless, then maybe they would come to understand that these stereotypes do not give them any justice.
    A second perspective focuses on public, government assistance that “corrects” the temporary circumstances of the poor (7). As Sara very well stated, even with government assistance and a strong economy, poverty will still exist. These government aids only limit poverty but unfortunately do not eliminate it; plans in eradicating poverty should not be short-term solutions. These programs do not help each individual to depart from poverty entirely; it is more of a temporary escape.
    The last perspective describes poverty as a result of three interrelated forces within political and economic structure and is the most successful in explaining poverty. Due to lack of employment, poor individuals have been disconnected from mainstream society over the generations resulting in their “physical, social and political isolation” (10), as Sara mentioned. Additionally, these individuals have difficulty entering the workforce because of their lack of education or credentials and their personal presentation. Moreover, poor individuals are dependent on the government’s public charity (10). These factors do indeed create a cycle that may seem impossible to escape. An individual may find a job at low wages and may not be able to afford rise in rent, thus leading to a hopeless journey of finding a job with little or no education and an affordable place to stay. This within itself is a cycle because the individual may be able to find a job but rise in rent is inevitable, especially in NY, and rise in pay is infrequent.

  4. The “separation” outlined by Goldsmith and Blakely in this chapter has caused many poor individuals to feel that no future lies ahead of them and where prosperity and hope once thrived, is now gone. Clearly, a country that focuses on the ideals of democracy isn’t carrying out its responsibility to the best of its ability and giving the poor any assistance during such hard times. The authors point out that during the 1940s and 50s, “The opportunity structure was seen to be strong enough to allow all those who tried, to move into decent, rewarding life conditions” (7) so where and why has all that opportunity disappeared? Instead of working towards limiting the issue and treating it as a long-term goal, short-term goals are being accomplished. As humans, we want quick solutions, but by doing this we will eventually harm society because the problems of the future will come and haunt us.

    I agree with Karina that the final perspective explains the presence of poverty the best, but I would like to add on to the “interrelated forces” that she referred to. I believe that in our attempt as a country to live up to the demands of globalization and boast our “capitalist prowess” many individuals have been blinded by greed and therefore the poor are not receiving the attention they need and they themselves cannot escape their situation due to a lack of resources. Greed is the desire to have more than what one has and is a yearning for domination. America is a capitalist nation, giving rise to the idea of individualism. People become self-centered individuals and believe their wants, needs and so forth take priority over those of others. Such a mindset results in miscommunication between society and the ability to work towards achieving goals such as reducing poverty.

    The authors claim that poverty can be reduced, imply the importance of education and state that changing political policy is crucial in reducing poverty but don’t provide much information about how to go about doing so on local levels, therefore my question is- what steps can we take in our own communities or communities in need to put pressure on government institutions to enact change? After all, it takes a village to raise a child and our child, America, is “dangerously close to disassociating into separate parts” (2).

  5. In chapter 1 of “Top-Down Economics and Bottom-up Politics” by Goldsmith and Blakely. The authors mention “separation” primarily concerned with poverty because it can change people’s life. as the authors said “New separation and political use of differences in race, social background, and place become the unavoidable consequences of new competition. In turn, these practices then build upon discrimination against the poor and minority persons in offers of employment, the assignment of status, and the distribution of income(2).” which mean the income level depend on the differences in race, social background, and place. but no everyone has the same conditions. therefore, it leads to many inequalities and unfair. Personally, if the income level does not depend on above conditions, I think it might be better for everyone because everyone has same opportunity to get a job just depend on the ability.

  6. Goldsmith & Blakely provided numerous theories and perspectives on poverty as already stated by others such as economic turmoil which is a critical blow to a nation and its people yet that didn’t seem like the most prominent cause of poverty. The most persistent cause that stuck out as a main source for poverty was this idea of separation, and how it’s been one of the main contributors to poverty since the beginning. What it does is hide the fact that there are people in need of help in this country as poverty rates increase and what separation does is sort of brush it off to the side and hides it from those who are not poor and by doing so it’s in a way an excuse for society to keep moving forward with no regard to those in need since they can’t be seen. Just how they stated in the chapter “this distance itself naturally makes inequality more palatable to those who are better off, and the separation continues” (2). All this is doing is prolonging problems that are always going to be there if actions aren’t taken soon. Not only does separation have its role in poverty according to the chapter it plays a role in the discrimination of the poor as well so what should be done is create more employment opportunities for those in need as well as better government assistance not just only for those who qualify but for others struggling as well.

  7. In Goldsmith and Blakely’s article, we are shown three different perspectives on why poverty exists. The first, and most common perspective is best known as “judging a book by its cover.” Many people make assumptions based off of looks, but these assumptions are usually in accurate. From my experience as a photographer, I have really gotten to know some of these homeless people, many of whom fall below the poverty line , but not all of them. Most peoples first assumption is that they are drug addicts or alcoholics. It is very stereotypical to assume that based off of looks. One example is Daniel, who lives at McCarren Park in Williamsburg Brooklyn. Daniel lost all of his immediate family many years ago, and was left alone on the streets. He has been in and out of jobs his whole life. Daniel is a very clean cut man, and having seen him on the street you would never assume he was homeless. He works out for 12 hours a day, doing mainly calisthenics. He shaves in the bathroom, and washes his clothes twice a week. When I met him the first time, he had just washed his clothes, and only had a dollar and fifty cents left to spend on food. He bought a small side of rice with 3 pieces of broccoli in it. While some would complain about the meal, Daniel was happy, he was content. He has everything he needs. With a drastic rise in separation, people like Daniel go unnoticed. As Goldman and Blakely stated in their article, it is the act of objectifying poor and homeless people that causes this separation between the poor and the wealthy. I agree with Raiaan when they mentioned how separation is causing a lack of prosperity and hope, but that does not mean that everyone who lacks money lacks hope as well. Many of these poor people are just down on their luck, especially in a city like New York, where it is nearly impossible to get a job, let alone an apartment for less than $1,000 a month. This is well explained by the final perspective mentioned in the article. It shows how a lack of employment has greatly contributed to the rise in poverty. As Sara explained, many of these individuals lack the proper education to meet job requirements, therefore placing them in a never ending cylce of struggling to meet the self sufficieny standards.

  8. As demonstrated in the article, Goldsmith and Blakely give us convincing arguments as to why poverty exists and why we allow it to. The discussion on stereotyping and negative assumptions about poor people was most intriguing since it implies that the problem is deeper than government. They tell us a theory of how poverty leads to racial and socioeconomic inequality by the physical separation between the wealthy and the poor which further creates a rift in politics, and therefore reshapes how we view poverty. As the authors point out on page 4, some may believe that being poor is a matter of life choices, a “survival of the fittest” mentality, that many underprivileged people are just lazy or don’t participate. They quickly turn the argument around to suggest that this is an oversimplification of the issue and that there are deeper issues than laziness, which is true. Rich or wealthy people buying into this stereotype allows for the oppression to perpetuate, which I agree with. I constantly hear people say “work hard and you won’t be poor” and suggest that poor people are just lazy, often coming from children who grew up with privileges that allowed them to succeed. Raiaan’s last paragraph proposes a great question, what needs to be done? Are government programs enough? “Enough” is arbitrary and different to everyone which is also part of the problem. Community involvement and perhaps a better attitude about people who live in poverty is necessary

  9. In Goldsmith & Blakely’s Chapter 1, they brought up crucial arguments as to Why does poverty still exists. Like Sara, the theory of poverty as pathology is one that I don’t agree with, because the theory claiming that poverty exists because of laziness, addiction, and wrong values being passed down in a family as a cycle is very generalized. It is the opportunities the people are given which change the chances of whether they live in poverty or not. The issue here is that people who live in poverty face the challenges of minimal opportunities to escape it. This is where the theory of Poverty as a Structure comes in. The economy is what dictates what the poverty rate will be, and with a finite amount of jobs available there will always be a certain percentage of the population who is unemployed. The government has a direct hand in this as well with what policies they set up and how it may affect the people by what opportunities it does or doesn’t give them. Something I found very interesting was an idea in the article which I cannot help but agree with, and it is the fact that, “American society is like water just above the freezing point, dangerously close to dissociating into separate parts.” (2) Now more than ever America is separate. Not only in a political sense, but also a cultural sense, and most importantly in the sense of financial stability. The poor are getting poorer and the rich always get richer. The gap between the two is growing and the government must implement policies to upstart programs that will help those in poverty unlike the unreliable programs referred to on page 7/8. Once it is easier for poverty stricken youth to get an education, I believe that’s when we will see the poverty rate take a hit but until then the cycle will continue. It begins and ends with the capitalistic society we live in.

  10. In the chapter, “Top-down Economics and Bottom-up Politics” Goldsmith and Blakely argue and emphasize the idea that actions taken by the government to improve the nation’s economy only produces destitution for many. Goldsmith and Blakely define poverty as separation in which the American society is prone to immediately judging whom we see are poor and solidly creating a fine line away from the poor; this even being caused by competition in association with “…political use of differences in race, social background, and place…” (2). To understand such separation, Goldsmith and Blakely discuss the three perspectives of the actuality of poverty. The first theory describes “culture of poverty” – that the poor rely and follow immoral values in which they are viewed as not socially, mentally, and physically intact; they lack initiative/motivation to generate an economic and social solution for themselves. However this theory views the poor in a stereotypical form and we shouldn’t criticize the poor to be solely idle, limited, and wrongful as this is an act of prejudice and such ideas only cause more segmentation.

    The second theory presents that “…poverty simply reflects temporary weakness in the economy…” (8). For many years, the government has established many public programs for the purpose of helping people avoid and stay out of poverty. Although many programs have benefitted many people and families, and has partially accomplished decreasing the rate of poverty, its still existence is clearly enough to claim that poverty would never completely vanish. Also, the reality of unemployment due economic decline seeks “…that a strong demand for labor, to create numerous and well-paid jobs, is a necessary basic factor in any fight against poverty” (8). With these limited programs, poverty will always exist.

    The last theory explains that the socioeconomic arrangements and changes due to economic constraints generate poverty. This theory conveys the most compelling argument for explaining poverty as without any sufficient aid from the government, many people are divided from the dominant values and activities in society due to their inevitability towards the shortage of employment, incapability to obtain a formal education, and the “…institutional hostility of the welfare systems, penal institutions, and related bureaucracies…” (10) that force the poor to rely on public charities. Because of many people not having the opportunity to experience a formal education, they resort to low-paying jobs or remain unemployed and thus become succumb to the lack of opportunities and division from the social system.

    I agree with Vahe’s comment about the government needing to step up and actually allow access to better and effective programs that will aid those living in poverty. The programs mentioned in the chapter that the government established are coded as an accessibility and accomplishment to many in terms of solving familial consequences and …”disability payments or unemployment benefits, and even these are now under threat” (8). Those living in poverty don’t need a limited escape from adversity, but a set and permanent plan in which the government will authorize a format to employ people and issue educational, familial services and community outreach at all times, no matter the economic status of the society. There needs to be an insistent order to equalize urbanization, remove status discrimination, and issue equal income contribution. As Goldsmith and Blakely say, “…through cooperation with state and national coalitions and by means of other influences on national politics, local politics can move toward success” (12) as the government needs to involve and restructure the opportunities of those living in poverty and have the vulnerability to the exposure of human ability and determination.

  11. Sara’s explanation of the three theories presented early on the chapter and her explanation of the two extremes and the more generally accepted theory meshes will with Goldsmith’s and Blakely’s narrative. The poor simply do not have the option of waking up and day and deciding they do not want to be poor anymore. The poor become very separated and socially distant from the non-poor because of many factors, not limited to, improper portrayal of their situation, racism and sexism. The separation is exacerbated by powerful figures who lead the non-poor to believe that the poor are 100% at fault for their own situation, this reduces the sympathy people give the poor and thus with less understanding comes less aid. I agree with Goldsmith and Blakely on their point that the local political systems work in tandem with global socioeconomic factors in creating poverty . The poor do not have access to quality education, vocational skill training, are demonized by branches of service such as the police force ” A tradition in fiction testifies to the obstacles imposed on rational and well-organized poor people by those who subscribe to the demeaning stereotypes” (5). The authors believe that the stringent demands of the globalized capitalist system will create more poverty as the big corporations have a larger effect on the labor market and thus the poor, who i’ve already stated have poor or improper access to educational resources, are marginalized. One point in the reading that i found particularly interesting is Mead’s point about society’s view that the poor must accept demeaning or ‘ugly’ jobs, “The inclination to refuse demeaning labor is hardly confined to the disadvantaged”, any reasonable person would initially reject the idea of labor they do not like however due to the financial constraints of the poor, some are forced to accept these jobs and thus they become synonymous with these demeaning jobs and this does nothing but contribute to the already prevalent social separation between the poor and the non-poor (6). Ultimately i stand firmly with the authors, the current systems in place, both institutions and government, simply do not do enough to help liberate the poor from their situation; the current assistance is simply too short term (as many of my classmates have stated). More must be done to help equip the financially disadvantaged to help them fight their way out of poverty.

  12. In Goldsmith and Blakely’s (2010) chapter, “Top-down Economics and Bottom-up Politics” in their book, Separate Societies, poverty is blamed on either the individual or the whole. There are some theorists that compare poverty to pathology. The activity of the poor are the consequences of the their own defects. This kind of thinking is used to justify sexism, individualism, and racism. It is also said that poverty is inherited by older generations, where bad habits are passed down. With this kind of thinking, the poor stays poor and the rich stay rich. However, the idea of the whole victimizing the poor has become a more popular opinion as to why poverty exists. Poverty is a result of social structure, situation, and lack of opportunity.
    I agree with Daniel’s point that poverty is in a way “swept under the rug”. The problem is increasing, yet we are not finding efficient solutions to create a better situation for our society. The only way we can attempt to rid a nation of poverty, is to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. However, this is easier said than done. There has to be economic and structural changes.Separation encompasses ideas of social segmentation, economic inequality, and sharp geographic isolations(2). Individuals who face poverty, are dealt with very limited accessible options. The most compelling argument made that sums up the aspects of poverty is present through previous comments made. Americans are disconnected from a greater society because the poor don’t have the same options as the rich. Poverty is formed because of lack of employment, educational differences, and hostility of the welfare system…(10).
    This chapter allowed me to understand that poverty will be an issue that will extremely difficult to overcome. There are conflicting views to the causes, but the effect remains the same. In my opinion, opportunity seems the be the biggest difference between individuals who are considered rich and poor. Liberation of the lower class is what this nation needs in order to advance and move on from these issues.

  13. Goldsmith’s and Blakely’s chapter provides some insight as to why poverty still exists and why we allow it to by providing three different theories (as mentioned in other posts). While discussing the first theory – culture of poverty – the authors mention two viewpoints . First, that “the poor are irrational (and therefore to blame for their own problems)” (5) and a second that “the blame for poverty on social structure , situation and lack of opportunity” (5). Personally, I would have to agree more with the second viewpoint considering many minorities don’t have the same accessibility and opportunity as majority groups considering the social structure and oppression in America. This is highly debatable but just my opinion.
    In regards to the second theory I am honestly surprised this failed. When the authors mention “as the economy has restructured and the nature of public policy has changed to fit global challenges, public transfer programs have worked less well” (7) what confuses me is that they mention ‘global challenges.’ I would like to know more specifically what challenges they are referring to.
    The third theory mentions how “this globalization of the American economy has forced massive changes” (9). I find this ironic considering through history globalization has pushed America into being the ‘superpower’ it is but now it’s in a way hurting people through paying them low wages and uses exploitation.
    What bothers me and opens my eyes is that in the definition of poverty they include “racially distinct Americans” (10) which backs up my opinion regarding the first theory that minority groups don’t have the same opportunities as majority groups which pushes them into poverty more often. The authors make an argument that “politics and economics can be reshaped…to attack problems of domestic urban poverty” (11) which I absolutely agree with. Obviously these ideas won’t solve all the problems of poverty but as far as looking out for things like small businesses, civil rights associations etc would be one step in the right direction.
    In the last few pages the author really solidify their views which I agree with especially when they say “it is a time to act locally, because we need global change” (14) but Raiaan does raise an excellent question (which I feel is still agrees with the authors) when they say “what steps can we take in our own communities or communities in need to put pressure on government institutions to enact change?” Personally, I feel we (the people) are the only ones that can make the changes we want to see. We

  14. Goldsmith and Blakely clearly outline the fundamentals of how people view poverty to have been created. They separated these views into three categories: the circumstances that surround poor individuals, the temporary “fixes” provided by the government, and the overall lack of assistance and flaws in the structure of fighting poverty. Goldsmith and Blakely strongly emphasized the idea of separation, the idea that people disassociate with individuals who are not at their standard of living because it is easier to just ignore it. The poor will distance themselves from the middle or upper class citizens, and to these citizens, it makes life more satisfying. It is almost like ignoring the idea of someone in your family being ill: as long as you do not think about it, life can continue as usual. The moment you do think of it, however, you start to feel differently and less satisfied about what your life is like in the moment. Just as Daniel had mentioned before, poverty is sort of hidden from the public eye as if it is not that big of a problem. This is the greatest flaw we as a country have to overcome and fix if we want anyone to come out of poverty and be successful.

    Theorists also looked at poverty as a pathology, a science to see the cause and effect of something. Many times, this type of thinking does not help aid in fixing the problem, but instead places the blame on the poor themselves for their lifestyle. Some theorists claim that poor habits of attitude towards success and life are passed down generation to generation and as a result, younger generations are taught to believe that the way their living is of no fault of their own and that it is acceptable to live the way they do.

    In my opinion, this thinking is exactly what keeps the poor from getting any kind of aid at all. The middle and upper classes view the poor as lazy and incompetent without any ambition whatsoever. If one was to see the poor just as the middle and up classes do, why would they be inclined to help them or believe they deserve it in the first place? Poverty should be seen as much of a problem as the economy, civil rights, education, and so forth.

    I believe Goldsmith and Blakely described poverty and its aspects very clearly. These ideas were all things we all most likely already knew, but to see them in these perspectives and see how they can be put into action is really an eye-opener. Let’s hope this separation issue does not get any worse than it is already and that we can help the people that are in very strong need of it.

  15. Goldsmith and Blakely describe three perspectives on why poverty exists. The first perspective puts the blame on the stereotypical behaviors and attitudes placed on poor people that limits their ability to climb above the poverty line because of preexisting notions of their abilities, knowledge, and experience. These stereotypes affect the self worth of poor people to the point where they live up to their stereotypes and are further hindered from being above poverty. I disagree most with this perspective because it makes it seem like it’s better to place blame on poor people and their actions rather than looking for a way to eliminate stereotypes and make them feel encouraged to pursue better opportunities rather than living up to their stereotypes. An example of this occurs in schools with poor education systems in struggling neighborhoods. Being reduced to a stereotype could deter students from furthering their education and being an active member of the workforce because of lack of encouragement and opportunities to progress in life. The second perspective describes poverty caused by incidents that cannot be controlled and are temporarily fixed through government assistance programs. These programs have proved to not be successful at getting struggling individuals out of poverty. The programs are not extensive enough to completely fix issues with poverty. It seems like these programs are put in place just to say that something is being done to make it look like the economy is improving but in reality, people are still struggling and not progressing the way economists make it sound like they are. The third perspective focuses on poverty as a cycle with the lack of control over the domestic economy from the federal government because of international affairs combined with polices further limiting the poor to low wage jobs and no progressive assistance from the government. This perspective is most compelling because it focuses on the issue of poverty on a larger scale rather than blaming the individual for opportunities they can’t get because they are being pushed aside by the government.
    From this reading I realized that although I do not agree with it, the stereotypes placed on poor people is what decides a lot about how important they are compared to higher classes and the opportunities they get. I agree with Paraskevas when it comes to opportunity separating the rich and poor because it is an important factor in gaining knowledge and experience to be able to advance. I was also able to see poverty on a larger scale in terms of the government and the role international affairs play in poverty.

  16. Goldsmith and Blakely bring to light every little aspect of poverty that may go through our mind unannounced and present many theories and ideas to why poverty exists and why instead of moving forwards in society with this issue, we just seem to move further and further away from the dilemma. Just like predicted back in the 1980s, according to Goldsmith and Blakely, the new generations will be completely emerged in capitalism, as competition is the main idea being spread, therefore concerns of equality are pushed aside and ignored. We distance from the “rest” and create a separation of socio-economic classes, and we create greater gaps of inequality and injustice. In these separation of socio-economic classes, we do not only see the typical wealthy, working-middle class and poor, but also “poverty with several dimensions” (p.4). Social segmentation, economic inequality and geographic isolation; the greater the distance between the “classes”, the greater the “forces of poverty” (p.10). These so called forces building poverty are creating 1. “disconnection from mainstream society,” politically, socially and physical, this unfortunate group of individuals becomes lonelier and more helpless. 2. Educational and social handicaps, basic places where skills are learned, are being denied and prevent the poor from attempting to raise the ladder of inequality. 3. “Institutional hostility of welfare systems; penal institutions and related bureaucracies,” thus making the poor impossible to participate in their government, by making them “victims and dependents.” A provided solution in this chapter is for policies that restructure the economy and policies that reduce poverty to work together in order to achieve our goals to reduce poverty, equalize resource distribution and augment the middle class.

  17. Goldsmith and Blakely presented three possible theories behind poverty. The theories are that poverty is a cycle or that poverty is caused by arbitrary circumstances. The third and final theory that they present is that poverty should been seen as a structure. I agree with Sara that this is the possibly the most accurate theory at explaining why poverty exists. As aforementioned, the imperfections in the structure are that those who are poor isolate themselves due to circumstances, lack of social skills and education prevent the poor from entering the workforce, and that governmental programs that are aimed to help the poor actually cause them to be dependent on charity, rather than helping them get back into the workforce (10). I agree with Vahe that education could be the solution to the problem. This is, because obviously education allows us to obtain the skills we need for a job.

  18. Poverty, based on the chapter from “Top-down Economics and Bottom-up Politics”, focuses on the “behavior of the poor, liberal public policy or economic structure”(4). In other words, the problems of poverty occur due to the different conflicts in the society and are not easily to find out if people do not pay enough attention to how heavily the duties are for helping those people getting a better life. In the chapter, there are three perspectives that point out the problems that cause the poverties in the society. First, the poverty as pathology means that people do not carry the positive attuites due to the problems in the society such as the racism, sexism, and individualism. “many of them begin to believe they are worthless because that is how they are treated.” (5) These factors put the roles of people as the “inferior” that makes them giving up with their hopes of working hard not only have the effects on themselves, but also the deployment of the society. By changing the attuites of people and getting away with their negative ways of thinking, both the society and people should look at them with both equal treatment and opportunities in life. Just like the chapter mentions that “We believe that more equal access to better jobs and other improvements in the structure of equality would cut down on counterproductive behaviors.” (6) I totally agree with the authors idea that gives people equal opportunities on picking the better jobs will make them feel more strong in mental, valuable to the society and worth for doing contributions. Second, the poverty as incident or accidents means that people have low skills for working or some health issues that really affecting them for productivities. “Those with very poor skills, those disabled because of illness or accident, those in declining rural areas, and few in inner-city neighborhoods.” (7) The government is trying the best to help those people by giving different supports such as the medication, Minimum wages and other transfer payments to helping them improving their life standard. Third, the poverty as structure means that the conflicts inside the economy such as the inflation, rescission or taxes problems that are affecting people daily life. “Parts of the balance of power now lies with foreign markets, corporation, banks, and governments, as well as U.S based corporations themselves operating overseas.”(9) In my opinion, the jobs are taking over by other people who are living in overseas that are trying to steal the opportunities from those people who really need to working for surviving. Another important fact pointed out in the chapter is that the separation creates poverty issues. “ New separation and political use of differences in race, social background, and place become the unavoidable consequences of new competition.”(2) The idea of competition occurs in the society and there is no way to escape from it, but people tend to use their eyes to judge others such as race and social background to determine if that person is capable of doing certain jobs. This idea lacks the equal chance of competition and opportunities between people. In other words, the race marks them as the “inferior” of the society, which should not happen in today’s society.
    The poverty as pathology is the most compelling argument for explaining poverty because the author puts his points on not just the human himself, but more of how they react to social treatments. In other words, the author understands the chain effects by fixing the social issues first.“It will be more useful for us to examine ways to change the situation, not to change people’s attitudes.”(6) By going deep into emotions that people have with their life standard, the author gives valid solution for improving the life standard both from society’s perspectives and people’s own perspectives with their life.
    The ideas that present in the chapter really give me a better understanding of poverty that the conflicts in there in the society even though if you don’t see it. I will start thinking about the poverty as a part of elements when I learning everything such as history and economic. In addition, I also agree my classmate Victoria Tyszka says in her comments above that the upper classes see other as lazy and incompetent that match my idea of “inferior” with people who truly need help by others, the correct ways with the treatments and the governments, the welfare supports for the life standard. All of these factors will make resolve the problems of poverty little by little. ——— Xianrui Chen (Jerry Chen)

  19. In their first chapter Goldsmith and Blakeley mention three ways in which society can better understand the reasons behind poverty and how we can work in better ways to improve it. In the article, they wrote of a growing separation between the poor and affluent, to me this was the most interesting and biggest reason for the increase in poverty. In our country, there used to be a large and booming middle class, however, the middle class had been decreasing from year to year- the rich are becoming richer and the poor are becoming poorer. A good metaphor given in the article compared the U.S to water “American society is like water just above freezing point, dangerously close to dissociating into separate parts” (2) The growing gap in between the two groups in America has already created many issues between them, if the gap continues to grow and no help is given to the needy, the country will be completely split. The split can be seen in our everyday lives, cooperate mangers are given millions of dollars a year, whereas working class families are just getting by. The article stated that in 1988 the “best paid manager who sat atop Disney enterprise “earned” about 40 million. meanwhile, the wage paid to working Americans continued to fall. “(3) the low wages that are given in most middle class jobs are not enough to sustain the needs of families.

    While there are some social reforms and policies made by the state and private organizations to try and prevent and decrease poverty, many prove to be unsuccessful, another point made in the article. Often the organizations who work to get rid of poverty are not well funded by the state. Many organization are only able to give a temporary fix but not keep poverty at a minimum overall. It is a widespread idea that public programs help to decrease poverty however according to the article in 1980 this theory was proven untrue mostly due to the fact that there was “political difficulties in funding and maintaining such programs” because the state’s main priority is not poverty they do not give it much funding.

    The change in economic structure over the years has also caused an increase in poverty, the global market has changed greatly over the past 50 years. New demands are made in the types of skills needed in worker, and there has been a creation of a more competitive market, leaving those who were not specially trained or given a good education behind. Corporations, banks, governments, U.S owned cooperation’s, and foreign markets all affect poverty “massive changes in the industrial structure of U.S cities” (9) have only caused a decrease in poverty because cities are now seen a place of unskilled and poor people. People who are wealthy leave and those who are not must stay behind.

    The main purpose of the article was to give an “optimistic vision”(10) to the decrease of poverty. Goldsmith and Berkeley showed a good point in the article, rather than seeing the growing poverty, need to reduce it, and our failures to reduce it, as a burden we should see it as “key parts of a new vision” (10). In order to really solve the issue of poverty and separation in the U.S society must find long term solution, and incorporate the needy in our society. We must strengthen our domestic economies and inner city and state issues before we try to completely combat the issue of poverty.

  20. Because of the racial issues in this country I find it hard to connect my own personal experiences, coming from a poor family, to how poverty is viewed as either an individual or as a whole. According to Goldsmith and Blakely’s (2010) first chapter in the book, “Top-down Economics and Bottom-up Politics,” urban poverty, renamed into “persistent poverty” or “underclass” or “new” poor to serve more meaning and generate new interests and yet became all the more easier to misunderstand and misuse. There are 3 perspectives of poverty and dividing the issues into subcategories could enlighten the reader on each of the views.
    1. Poverty as Pathology
    Poverty is inherited, yes. Nature and nurture. Being born to poor parents with poor work ethics can predetermine a child into growing up a poor adult and could pass on the same genes and environment to future generations. Poverty is a situation that is not viewed as a problem of the top 5% because of how there is already a divide. Top 5% do not see the bottom 5% and therefore it is not a problem that needs solving. The poor, just like “as Jonathan Kozol argues in Rachel and Her Children, many of them (the homeless in this case) begin to believe that they are worthless because that is how they are treated.” (Chapter 1, pg 5)
    2. Poverty as Incident/Accident
    I came to this country, with my entire family, with no money, no house, no work experience, and loans and bills to pay. I could say that my poverty was an incident. Like all incidents and/or accidents, it was temporary. The government provides public programs that provide short-term relief, thinking that the recipients of the help are only going through a temporary poverty.
    3. Poverty as Structure
    In connection to the first theory, the group of racially distinct Americans stayed as a part of that group because of their pathology, their belief that they are worthless because of how they were treated. Coming from poverty and not having enough resources to rise up from it has become an accepted structure in modern world. “When the squeeze came from the global economy…” (Chapter 1, pg 11), it bothers me how only the poor were greatly affected by the said “squeeze” and although the top 5% might have been affected as well, it wasn’t as evident and as life changing as how it transpired with the poor. Politics and economics have a lot to say in this regard. Goldsmith and Blakely’s thesis: “New policies should be directed toward strengthening such [success] possibilities.” It’s a balance. The rich have to change so that the poor may change.

  21. In “Top-Down Economics and Bottom-up Politics” by Goldsmith and Blakely we can analize that the author assign resposability
    to politic and economic factors for generating poverty instead of fixing it. It is impulse by a certain events like competition,
    which separates people into different areas that distinguishes them from different social classes. Another interesting point is how
    from the three perspectives of poverty , pathology, incident or accident, and as a structure. Poverty as pathology is the one that
    can help to explain the most of why it exist. Poverty of pathology help me understand that sometimes wrong values passed from parents to children have an effect on them in other words if they don’t encourage the next generation to inspire for more to be ambitious they will not make to much out of their life like dropping school or just conform with a low pay job or goverment help.

  22. The article shares with us three different perspectives. The first two (poverty as pathology and poverty as incident or accident) define arguments on opposite sides of the spectrum. What comes to mind when reflecting is an internal versus external locus of control. There is a divide between who is the defining the problem and who the problem is happening to. Professor Hackett’s statement that “we” all want the same end result, just have different ideas of how to reach that point references in the my thought process.

    Aerial view of these perspectives diagram more as a triangle and not three columns. One builds on the other. Defining first only viewing the individual and growing to build and expand on the effects that cause the problem.

    Going back to the first perspective of poverty as pathology, I would like to share with everyone an article I read two weeks ago. A bill has been in the workings in Hawaii advocating for homelessness being a legal diagnosis leading to a prescription that can be filled. I found this very interesting and accurately so ties into the reading.


    1. Thank you for sharing this article! I had missed it, but I’m very pleased.. and I will definitely reuse it when we get to our discussion on affordable housing..

  23. The first perspective on poverty that is discussed focuses on the supposed glorification of a “culture of poverty” that struggling individuals have and how that reinforces their social positions. Goldsmith and Blakely do a sufficient job in indicating how this description of the poor often serves as justification for segregationist behaviors such as racism or sexism. Even when it was meant more innocently it had a very “white man’s burden” tone of saving the savages from their own vices. In short poverty cannot be blamed on the impoverished as doing so would ignore the very real social forces that act upon every individual in both deterring and reinforcing ways. We must therefore assume that all individuals who behave rationally only act in ways that are allowed by their confines.

    The second view proposed is that poverty occurs because of incident and can be remedied. This optimistic view is more accurate than the first as newly impoverished individuals may find themselves there because of an accident or an economic downturn that they had no effect in creating. What this viewpoint ignores however is that poverty is self reinforcing and the limited structures we have created to aid those in poverty have proven to be mostly ineffective and extremely costly. The failure of these welfare programs can also be likened to a failing education system that due to consolidated funding allows for some schools to succeed and others to fail. Goldsmith and Blakely indicate WIN as an example of a failed initiative to help impoverished women succeed.

    Finally Goldsmith and Blakely address what I believe to be the primary issue of poverty and that is that it is a construct. Goldsmith and Blakely place the blame on international forces and how increased globalization has allowed for their markets to affect ours. While I agree with that notion since the first thing to get cut in difficult times is often social welfare programs I would argue the issue goes further. A decision to cut social programs in difficult times breeds a culture of individualism that oppresses those who, due to accident or misfortune, are unable to break their own cycle of poverty mentioned earlier. Now combine that individualism with the ever present and continuing separation of wealthy and poor by both literal and figurative walls and now we begin to see how many rationalize poverty as the problem of “someone else”. This rationalization day by day allows for the passive continuation of a system that only consolidates wealth and power to the shrinking minority at the top.

  24. In “Top-Down Economics and Bottom-Up Politics” (pp. 1-14). In Goldsmith, W., & Blakely, E. (2010) describes three viewpoints on why poverty exist. This chapter can help us understand why not everyone is on the same side when we talk about economic status.

    In the first theory “Poverty as Pathology” I do think we can inherit poverty, sometimes people like me come from a very poor country or like in many cases they were born here and they are very poor, and I think people sometimes think that because they were born to poor parents they are worthless and they just give up in life. Also, when you come from a poor family like me sometimes you cannot go to school, not because you lazy or you don’t want to go, it’s because the poverty around you force yourself to only work these minimum wage jobs and when you realize that what you doing it’s not long term worth it, it’s too late sadly.

    Second theory “Poverty as incident/Accident” As we all know life isn’t perfect and accidents happen very often, but I also think that no matter how big is your problem we can always bounce back from any situation. Coming from a poor family and country I always keep my mind positive when something bad happens in life. I try to always work very hard on each task in life but knowing that we always should be ready for anything that life have for us in the future. In my opinion, accidents are temporary and if we know how to face them we should be fine.

    Third theory “Poverty as Structure” explains how poverty can come from economic constraints and because of that many people are in different positions when we talk about economic status. The scarcity of employments and the incapability to obtain a good education is the reason why poverty is everywhere in this country. And as we mentioned earlier anytime of accident or hard situation in life can be the reason many people are on welfare and food stamp right know. I personally don’t like the idea of long terms government supplements but I think they are very helpful in a short terms basis. I think when people get on food stamp or welfare they stop trying to work hard or to look for a job because the government is already taking care of them.

  25. The existence of poverty can be explained in different perspectives in Goldsmith and Blakely’s chapter which includes the theories of poverties. One perspective proposes that the stereotypes towards people who are in poverty were there because of family values and attitudes and it carried throughout new generations, despite the fact that it was commonly disputed by researchers and theorists alike. There was another notion that proposed that people were impoverished due to unforeseen circumstances having to do with the economy. For example, I have a friend who grew up in the projects. Her family has received assistance from the government in regards to their income. However, she had to grow up knowing that people looked down on her due to her socioeconomic status. She always felt that she wouldn’t be able to climb up the social ladder despite her working a job, going to school, and helping her mother pay the rent. Another perspective on approaching poverty is to view it as something that is inevitable under our system- whether it be an accident or an incident. Critics of government assistance programs believe that welfare will only benefit the poor for a short amount of time- but not long term. They propose that people who receive the assistance will rely on them too much, and get too comfortable instead of finding new jobs or furthering their education to make them more employable. The most compelling argument on how to approach why poverty exists is through looking at failures within the system. There’s different factors in the system that play a role in making the lives of disadvantaged people more difficult. This includes lower chances of employment, racial discrimination, weaker educational backgrounds and access to capital, and ultimately a lower chance of moving up from poverty. My perspective with poverty coincides mostly with the third theory; which states that it is usually not self-inflicted and does not coincide with laziness, but other problems concerning the economy and society. It isn’t the fault of the disadvantaged; better yet, it is the fault of the system that put them in that position. The idea of “rags to riches” is difficult to achieve in the current state of our society and economy.

    1. I agree with Michele that I have come to increasingly view poverty as a consequence of economic and political structure. Growing up, though, I was not taught that way. My parents, who are working class immigrants, usually spoke of poverty as pathology commenting on the abuse of welfare by lazy people living on government subsidies. Only in college did I learn that the corporations of the superrich are receiving more government subsidies than the poor, meanwhile this phenomenon is never discussed or chastised. I believe that the government of our nation is working and being limited to benefit transnational corporations at the expense of it’s citizenry. In this view, the only solution to eradicating poverty is a structural reimagining of what our social contract should be.

  26. According to Goldsmith and Blakely, there are apparently three things behind people being poor. The first thing is that people do not try hard enough in school. This is the most common since people have a high tendency to become lazy and not try hard enough in school. If you don’t try hard enough in school, you’ll have a harder time being able to find a very stable job. Another thing is that people don’t feel the urge to work for many hours causing them to find a job that doesn’t require hard work. These jobs don’t have good pay. The second thing is that the government isn’t giving people opportunities. They making requirements to get high paying jobs, as a result people are having a harder time receiving jobs with high pay. The third and final thing is that people don’t have the requirements to obtain jobs with high pay. This is because they are either new to the country or didn’t have the resources to be capable of getting these jobs.

  27. According to Goldsmith and Blakely, there are apparently three things behind people being poor. The first thing is that people do not try hard enough in school. This is the most common since people have a high tendency to become lazy and not try hard enough in school. If you don’t try hard enough in school, you’ll have a harder time being able to find a very stable job. Another thing is that people don’t feel the urge to work for many hours causing them to find a job that doesn’t require hard work. These jobs don’t have good pay. The second thing is that the government isn’t giving people opportunities. They making requirements to get high paying jobs, as a result people are having a harder time receiving jobs with high pay. The third and final thing is that people didn’t have the requirements to obtain these jobs or didn’t have the resources.

Comments are closed.

Spam prevention powered by Akismet