Theories of Poverty and Community Development
Jozette M. Broughton
Introduction to Sociology
Prof. Jeremy Bennett
December 09, 2012
In this paper I will explore how two competing theories of poverty shape anti-poverty strategies. Since most rural community development efforts aim to relieve causes or symptoms of poverty, it makes a difference which theory of poverty is believed to be responsible for the problem being addressed. In this paper three theories of poverty are discussed from research in different news articles. It will be shown that two theories of poverty, not that these are the only two, place its ...view middle of the document...
In short, fixing poverty is a dominant theme within community development, but we have infrequently examined the theories that underlie the dominant practices addressing poverty.
The purpose of this paper is to discuss how community anti-poverty programs are designed, selected, and implemented in response to different theories about the cause of poverty that “justify” the community development interventions. The definition of poverty and theories that explain it are deeply rooted in strongly held research traditions and political values, reinforced by encompassing social, political and economic institutions that have a stake in the issue. Thus, a purely objective explanation of poverty is displaced by an increase of socially defined issues and concerns from both liberal and conservative perspectives. Moreover, no one theory of poverty has emerged that either subsumes or invalidates the others (Blank, 1997). Explaining poverty remains a lucrative field for academics, policy makers, book publishers, and ideologues, and as a consequence the range of explanations has proliferated.
A sampling of community based poverty programs show how varied community level anti-poverty efforts can be:
1. A county directed its schools to identify children not attending school more than ten days per school-year without medical excuses, and then if the family received TANF benefits, the child’s portion of the family welfare payments were withheld to enforce school attendance and assure that welfare kids not get left behind for another generation.
2. Nonprofits and CDCs develop comprehensive approaches to poverty based on a multifaceted approach including employment development, education, housing, access to healthcare and social services, as well as personal networks and participation in community programs that increase social capital.
The first example is based on theories that poverty is perpetuated by individual or family irresponsibility which should be stopped by stiff penalties and the final addresses poverty in a comprehensive and cumulative way. Each example reflects a different theory of what causes poverty and how to address it.
I consider a theory an explanation that links several concepts in this case theories explain poverty (as defined below) by linking different factors thought to cause or perpetuate poverty through distinctive social processes. Interventions that reduce a cause of poverty should reduce poverty as a consequence. The emphasis here is on poverty in developed countries such as the USA. The purpose of this paper is to expand our understanding of just two different theories of poverty that underlie the common toolbox of programs which community developers apply to address the problem of poverty in their community.
Poverty in its most general sense is the lack of necessities. Basic food, shelter, medical care, and safety are generally thought necessary based on shared values of human dignity. However, what is a necessity to one...