Essay on Culture of Poverty

Words: 5574
Pages: 23

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
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Frank Bettger (1977:187-8), in the Dale Carnegie tradition, tells how he got a list of self-improvement goals on which to focus and became one of the most successful and highly paid salesmen in America. He goes on to say that anyone can succeed by an easy formula--focused goals and hard work. This is the message of hundreds of self-help books, articles, and sermons. By extension, this literature implies that those who do not succeed must face the fact that they themselves are responsible for their failure.
While scientifically it is routine to dismiss the individual deficiency theory as an apology for social inequality (Fischer, et al, 1996) , it is easy to see how it is embraced in anti-poverty policy which suggests that penalties and incentives can change behavior. 2. Poverty Caused by Cultural Belief Systems that Support Sub-Cultures of Poverty
The second theory of poverty roots its cause in the “Culture of Poverty”. This theory is sometimes linked with the individual theory of poverty or other theories to be introduced below, but it recently has become so widely discussed that its special features should not be minimized. This theory suggests that poverty is created by the transmission over generations of a set of beliefs, values, and skills that are socially generated but individually held. Individuals are not necessarily to blame because they are victims of their dysfunctional