Reconsidering Culture and Poverty
ANNALS, AAPSS, 629, May 2010
22 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2012
Date Written: 2010
Culture is back on the poverty research agenda. Over the past decade, sociologists, demographers, and even economists have begun asking questions about the role of culture in many aspects of poverty and even explicitly explaining the behavior of the low-income population in reference to cultural factors. An example is Prudence Carter (2005), who, based on interviews with poor minority students, argues that whether poor children will work hard at school depends in part on their cultural beliefs about the differences between minorities and the majority. Annette Lareau (2003), after studying poor, working-class, and middleclass families, argues that poor children may do worse over their lifetimes in part because their parents are more committed to “natural growth” than “concerted cultivation” as their cultural model for child rearing. Mario Small (2004), based on fieldwork in a Boston housing complex, argues that poor people may be reluctant to participate in beneficial community activities in part because of how they culturally perceive their neighborhoods. David Harding (2007, 2010), using survey and qualitative interview data on adolescents, argues that the sexual behavior of poor teenagers depends in part on the extent of cultural heterogeneity in their neighborhoods. Economists George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton (2002), relying on the work of other scholars, argue that whether students invest in schooling depends in part on their cultural identity, wherein payoffs will differ among “jocks,” “nerds,” and “burnouts.” And William Julius Wilson, in his latest book (2009a), argues that culture helps explain how poor African Americans respond to the structural conditions they experience.
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