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Reconsidering Culture and Poverty

Mario Luis Small

University of Chicago

David J. Harding

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Population Studies Center

Michèle Lamont

Harvard University - Department of Sociology


ANNALS, AAPSS, 629, May 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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Date posted: August 18, 2012  

Suggested Citation

Small, Mario Luis and Harding, David J. and Lamont, Michèle, Reconsidering Culture and Poverty (2010). ANNALS, AAPSS, 629, May 2010. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2131376

Contact Information

Mario Luis Small
University of Chicago ( email )
1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States
David James Harding
University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Population Studies Center ( email )
426 Thompson St., P.O. Box 1248
Ann Arbor, MI 48106-1248
United States
Michèle Lamont (Contact Author)
Harvard University - Department of Sociology ( email )
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
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