Poverty and the Underclass: Changing Perceptions of the Poor in America / Edition 1

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Overview

The much-heralded War on Poverty has failed. The number of children living in poverty is steadily on the rise and an increasingly destructive underclass brutalizes urban neighborhoods. America's patience with the poor seems to have run out: even cities that have traditionally been havens for the homeless are arresting, harassing, and expelling their street people.

In this timely work, William Kelso analyzes how the persistence of poverty has resulted in a reversal of liberal and conservative positions during the last thirty years. While liberals in the 1960s hoped to eliminate the causes of poverty, today they increasingly seem resigned to merely treating its effects. The original liberal objective of giving the poor a helping hand by promoting equal opportunity has given way to a new agenda of entitlements and equal results. In contrast, conservatives who once suggested that trying to eliminate poverty was futile, now seek ways to eradicate the actual causes of poverty.

Poverty and the Underclass suggests that the arguments of both the left and right are misguided and offers new explanations for the persistence of poverty. Looking beyond the codewords that have come to obscure the debate—underclass, family values, the culture of poverty,—Kelso emphasizes that poverty is not a monolithic condition, but a vast and multidimensional problem.

During his Presidential campaign, Bill Clinton called for an overhaul of the welfare system and spoke of a new covenant to unite both the left and right in developing a common agenda for fighting poverty. In this urgent, landmark work, William Kelso merges conservative, radical, and liberal ideals to suggest howthe intractable problem of poverty may be solved at long last by implementing the principles of this new covenant.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"An excellent introduction to the debate about poverty in America. He emphasizes how little we still know about this critical problem. Poverty in the land of plenty remains a mystery."

-Lawrence M. Mead,author of The New Politics of Poverty

"A thoughtful analysis of one of America's most vexing social problems. Kelso eschews the platitudes of both left and right to examine the intractable nature of poverty and its diverse causes. He is especially insightful in his dissection of the role culture plays in poverty—and for the concern government should have for the character of its citizens."

-Linda Chavez,author of Out of the Barrio: Toward a New Politics of Hispanic Assimilation

"Kelso's book provides an excellent overview of poverty and the underclass in American society, along with perceptive observations about how contemporary views of the poor are changing."

-Kenrick S. Thompson,Professor of Sociology, Northern Michigan University

Booknews
Kelso analyzes how the persistence of poverty has reversed liberal and conservative positions during the last 30 years, suggests that the arguments of both the left and the right are misguided, offers new explanations for the persistence of poverty, and merges conservative, radical, and liberal ideas to suggest how the problem of poverty may be solved. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814746615
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1994
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

William A. Kelso teaches political science at the University of Florida and is the author of American Democratic Theory: Pluralism and Its Critics.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Pt. I The Poverty Debate
1 Doesn't Anything Work? Is a War against Poverty Really Feasible? 1
2 Poverty: How Serious Is the Problem? 14
3 What Is Causing the Problem? An Overview 31
Pt. II Explaining Poverty: Individual Explanations
4 The Lack of Human Capital 49
5 The Lack of Entrepreneurial Skills 71
6 The Growing Instability of the Family 95
Pt. III Explaining Poverty: Motivational Explanations Accounting for the Growth of the Underclass
7 Rational Economic Explanations: The Liberal Version 121
8 Rational Economic Explanations: The Conservative Version 137
9 Cultural Explanations 152
Pt. IV Explaining Poverty: Structural Explanations
10 The Barrier of Racial Discrimination 185
11 The Economy I: The Lack of Jobs 205
12 The Economy II: The Lack of High-Paying Jobs 225
13 The Economy III: Stagnating Productivity and the Lack of High-Paying Jobs 247
14 The View from the Left: Economic Exploitation and the Lack of Political Power 254
Pt. V The Changing Views of Poverty in America
15 Changing Perceptions of the Causes of Poverty: A Summary 273
16 Maybe Something Will Work after All: The Fight against Poverty Revisited 282
Appendix: The Controversy over the Government's Definition of Poverty 307
Notes 317
Index 335
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