SCS 3720 Lecture Notes - Lecture 14: Capitalism, Working Poor, Krahn People

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Published on 8 Feb 2013
Explaining Poverty:
-at one level, poverty is a social constructiondepends on the definition
-individual-level explanations focus on the attributes of people who are poor
-focuses on causes that lie “within the person” ex. Someone is poor due to low intelligence
-some evidence suggests that personal attributes do explain a small amount of poverty ex. If someone
has a physical disability then they have a higher risk of living in poverty
-but not all people w/ disabilities live in poverty and majority of those who do, don’t have
-thus, poverty for the most part is not a consequence of individuals attributes
-another explanation focuses on the attitudes of individuals (attributes that are acquired not inherited)
-ex. Low self-esteem, lack of achievement motivation, inability to delay gratification
-poverty is perpetuated b/c poor families employ inadequate child-rearing practices that
enhance bad attitudes
-stresses “culture of poverty” as a way of thinking and acting shared by poor families
-this reasoning dismissed by sociologists as “blaming the victim
-cause-and effect: people who are poor may develop “bad attitudes” because of poverty and
not be the causes for it
-many people who are poor do work, are religious, don’t smoke or drink etc
-another explanation stresses the social organization of society, or subsystems in society, as
explanations for poverty
-ex. Capitalist economies (Canada) feature cyclical booms and busts, periods of low
unemployment and high profits followed by high unemployment and low profits
-high rates of unemployment mean more families are forced to live on reduced income and for
many mean living in poverty
Krahn and Lowe: “a weak work ethic and a lack of effort” are seldom the explanation for individual
poverty; “more often the problem is on if not enough good jobs
-other analysts stress social policy as a factor affecting poverty levels
-minimum-wage legislation is a social policy that creates a group of working poor
-system of tax collection and tax allocation illustrates another way that social policies affect poverty
-progressive taxation system is one in which a greater proportion of income is paid in tax as
incomes rise
-in Canada is progressive but fairly neutral
-b/c GST and fuel taxes are flat or neutral
-those who earn more are able to shelter their income from taxation ex. In registered
education savings plans or retirement savings plans
-thus net effect does little to redistribute income and little to erode poverty
-lastly, other sociologists would stress ways of thinking or ideological perspectives as explanations for
-negative images of various groups lead to an undervaluing of the ways of life of some people
ex. First Nations or the disabled
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