Essay on Culture of Poverty

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WORKING PAPER SERIES Theories of Poverty and Anti-Poverty Programs in Community Development Ted K. Bradshaw RPRC Working Paper No. 06-05 February, 2006 Rural Poverty Research Center Introduction Community development has a variety of strategies available to meet the needs of those persons and groups who are less advantaged, usually in poverty. Community developers help all communities, but their passion lies disproportionately with people who do not have adequate personal resources to meet their needs or with communities with large populations of people who need assistance. These people and communities receiving attention from community developers are extensively varied in most other respects than…show more content…
The economic theory that the poor lack incentives for improving their own conditions is a recurrent theme in articles that blame the welfare system’s generosity on the perpetuation of poverty. In a Cato Journal article, economists Gwartney and McCaleb argue that the years of the war on poverty actually increased poverty (adjusted for noncash transfers) among working age adults in spite of unprecedented increases in welfare expenditures. They conclude that “the application of simple economic theory” suggests that the problem lies in the war on poverty programs: They [welfare programs] have introduced a perverse incentive structure, one that penalizes self-improvement and protects individuals against the consequences of their own bad choices. (1985: 7) This and similar arguments that cast the poor as a “moral hazard” also hold that “the problem of poverty continues to fester not because we are failing to do enough, but because we are doing too much that is counterproductive” (Gwartney and McCaleb 1985:15). Their economic model would solve poverty by assuring that the penalty of poverty was great enough that none would choose it (and welfare would be restricted to the truly disabled or otherwise unable to work). A less widely critiqued version of the individualistic theory of poverty comes from American values of individualism—the Horatio Alger myth that any individual can succeed by skills and hard work, and that motivation
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