Article

Poverty

David Brady

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online July 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0041
Poverty

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The sociology of poverty focuses on the nature, causes, and consequences of poverty. Sociologists have explored why poverty varies across countries, across urban and rural places, and over time. Sociologists have also examined why some individuals are poor, scrutinizing the characteristics that differentiate the poor from nonpoor and that describe the experience of poverty. This is truly a multimethod field, with equally influential traditions utilizing ethnography and intensive interviews, as well as sophisticated statistics. Poverty sociologists have linked the consequences of poverty with a myriad of social domains, ranging from education to employment to health. In addition, poverty sociologists anchor the roots of poverty in workplaces, families, neighborhoods, and politics. As a result, the sociology of poverty is a very heterogeneous field. There are even disconnections between some subfields, and there has been little attempt to identify the common themes across subfields. Partly, this results because the majority of the sociology of poverty concentrates on the urban United States. The study of poverty in other affluent democracies and research on the developing world often operate as separate areas. Nevertheless, one can discern a common (albeit loose) theoretical orientation that poverty is the result of the structures and institutions of society, as opposed to the deficiencies of individuals. This orientation has often been debated within sociology, reflecting the discipline’s debates about structure and agency more broadly. Sociology has seemingly always had some interest in poverty, such as in the early Chicago school’s interests in urbanization, industrialization, immigration, and neighborhoods. The classic figures of sociology like Max Weber, Émile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons, Georg Simmel, and Auguste Comte did not write much about poverty; however, concern with poverty exists in the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. In recent decades, sociological poverty research has probably been most active among those studying race and cities in the United States and among those examining cross-national differences in welfare states. In the 2010s and 2020s, it is likely there will be growing pressure to shift sociological attention away from so disproportionately studying urban poverty in the United States. Also, there is growing interest in unifying the sociologies of poverty and paying more attention to poverty in the developing world—where the overwhelming majority of poor people reside. Hence, this bibliography tries to straddle the dual goals of reviewing the main literatures in the field as it exists and seeking to identify frontier directions for emerging research.

Article.  14305 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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