Theories of Poverty

Christopher K. Johnson and Patrick L. Mason

in The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Poverty

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195393781
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Theories of Poverty

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  • Health, Education, and Welfare
  • History of Economic Thought



This article begins with an examination of the evidence in support of traditional explanations of poverty: labor market and macroeconomic conditions; family structure; and government policy and programs. It argues that these explanations provide a useful but ultimately incomplete understanding of poverty. It then considers alternative explanations that are under-researched in the United States: social capital and social exclusion. Social capital is defined as “the social and economic spaces in which individuals reside and which provides them with certain group interactions, networks, and resources that help to inform their strategic actions that provide access to public and private resources.” Social exclusion occurs when individuals do not have access to standards of well-being, such as health care, education, and affordable housing.

Keywords: poverty measures; labor market; macroeconomic conditions; social capital; social exclusion

Article.  13476 words. 

Subjects: Economics ; Health, Education, and Welfare ; History of Economic Thought

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