Essay on The Causes of Poverty - Cultural vs. Structural

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Parsing out the influences of cultural and structural factors leading to differential behaviors among the poor and nonpoor is a difficult challenge for sociologists concerned with stratification and inequality. This is largely due to the fact that they appear to be so heavily intertwined. Structural and cultural factors reinforce each other in complex ways. Pervasive cultural elements such as ideologies and values are used to frame and interpret existing socio-economic structures and their effects on individuals. Structural forces such as access to resources such as information, education and employment shape cultural views and attitudes as well. STRUCTURAL AND CULTURAL FORCES Structural factors include the organizational and…show more content…
Cultural forces can have two possible effects on structure. They can be used to justify existing structures and reify them. Examples of this include the culture of racism being used to justify unequal treatment towards African Americans and the cultural value of individualism being used to justify the lack of social safety nets in the U.S. Cultural changes such as access to new information or the emergence of new interpretations or conceptual frameworks can also lead to the demand for structural change. For instance, the de-exoticization of the “underclass” experience and rejection of ethnocentric theories such as oppositional values amongst the poor allowed for policies such as affirmative action to become more politically viable in the 1990's. STRUCTURAL FORCES AND BEHAVIOR Disproportional Affects of Public Policy Access to resources has been historically constrained in the U.S. on the basis of ethnicity, race and most recently class. This differential access to resources is a result of overt structural forces that create barriers to employment, housing, education and neighborhood investment. The political policy of “redlining” is a great example of how public policy can affect access to resources. This policy selectively avoided giving mortgages to individuals living in predominantly Black

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