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Experiencing Poverty Voices from the Bottom



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This collection of readings provides the voice, the presence, and the perspective of the poor who live on the margins and are generally invisible to the middle and upper classes. The goals of this reader are twofold: (1) to bring the realities of the lives of the impoverished as close to the reader as possible (2) to get the reader to listen carefully to these voices of the poor in order to enhance their understanding of: How the poor became poor. How the poor are treated by individuals and organizations in the community. What keeps the poor poor. How the poor manage day-to-day. What theory of causation best explains poverty. The consequences of the welfare-to-work federal legislation. The best solutions for ending poverty.

Author Biography

D. Stanley Eitzen is professor emeritus in sociology from Colorado State University, where previously he was the John N. Stern Distinguished Professor.  He recieved his Ph.D. from the Unitsity of Kansas.  Among his books are: Social Problems, which was awarded the McGuffey Longevity Award for excellence over multiple editions in 2000 by the Text and Academic Authors Association, and Diversity in Families (both co-authored with Maxine Baca Zinn), Solutions to Social Problems: Lessons from Other Societies (with Graig S. Leeham) ,  Paths to Homelessness: Extreme Poverty and the Urban Housing Crisis (with Doug A. Timmer and Kathryn Talley), Sociology of North American Sport (with George H. Sage,) and Fair and Foul: Rethinking the Myths and Paradoxes of Sport.  He has served as the president of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport and as editor of The Social Science Journal.


Kelly Eitzen Smith received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Arizona in 1999.  She is currently the director of the Center for Applied Sociology and a lecturer at the University of Arizona.  At the Center for Applied Sociology she has conducted research in the areas of day labor, homelessness, poverty, urban housing and neighborhood development. Her sociological interests include gender, family, sexuality, stratification, and social problems.  She is the co-author of Experiencing Poverty, 1/e, Social Problems 11/e, and In Conflict and Order 12/e (forthcoming).

Table of Contents

Prefacep. viii
Poverty in the United States and the Sociological Imaginationp. 1
The Extent and Distribution of Poverty in the United Statesp. 3
The Sociological Imaginationp. 8
Notes and Suggestions for Further Readingp. 9
Theories of Poverty: Why Are the Poor Poor?p. 11
Theories of Poverty: Who or What Is to Blame for Poverty?p. 13
Individual Theories/Cultural Explanationsp. 13
Structural Explanationsp. 15
Notes and Suggestions for Further Readingp. 17
Poverty or At Home in a Carp. 18
The Armstrongs: An Oral History of a Homeless American Familyp. 24
Feeling Trappedp. 28
No 40 Acres and a Mule: An Interview with a Displaced Black Farmerp. 30
Notes of a Racial Caste Babyp. 35
Reflection Questions for Part IIp. 40
Poverty and Vulnerabilityp. 41
One Step Awayp. 43
Notes and Suggestions for Further Readingp. 44
A Veteran Speaks of the Forgotten Wounded of Iraqp. 46
On the Margins: The Lack of Resources and the Lack of Health Carep. 51
Personal Voices: An Unnatural Disasterp. 57
The Domino Effectp. 59
Reflection Questions for Part IIIp. 62
Living on the Economic Marginsp. 63
Survival and Financesp. 65
Notes and Suggestions for Further Readingp. 66
Ain't No Middle Classp. 68
The Working Poorp. 84
Discrimination/Racism/Stigmap. 88
The Stigmatizing of the Impoverishedp. 89
The Consequences of Stigmatizing the Impoverishedp. 89
Notes and Suggestions for Further Readingp. 90
The Dynamics of Welfare Stigmap. 91
Sunset Trailer Parkp. 99
Migrants and the Communityp. 106
At a Slaughterhousep. 109
Parenting in Povertyp. 121
Notes and Suggestions for Further Readingp. 121
The Empty Christmasp. 123
Karlap. 125
Vinela Tejada: Custodian, Vanderbilt Hall, Harvard Medical Schoolp. 127
Reflection Questions for Part IVp. 130
The Impact of Societal Institutions on Individual Livesp. 131
Housing/Homeless Shelters/Neighborhoodsp. 133
Living in Poor Neighborhoodsp. 134
Notes and Suggestions for Further Readingp. 135
Shelterp. 137
The Residents of Rockwell Gardensp. 140
The Welfare Systemp. 144
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996p. 144
Notes and Suggestions for Further Readingp. 145
Welfare As They Know Itp. 147
Money: Milwaukee, Summer 1999p. 151
Trapped in the Double-Bind of Welfarep. 153
Schools and Schoolingp. 162
Notes and Suggestions for Further Readingp. 162
Seventh Grade Disasterp. 164
Always Runningp. 166
Work and Workingp. 172
Wagesp. 172
Alienationp. 172
Riskp. 173
Sweatshopsp. 173
Notes and Suggestions for Further Readingp. 173
Looking for Work, Waiting for Workp. 175
Chicken Runp. 181
The Story of a Garment Workerp. 186
Frank Morley: Custodian, Littauer Center for Public Administrationp. 189
Reflection Questions for Part Vp. 192
Individual and Collective Agency and Empowermentp. 193
Changes from the Bottom Upp. 195
Notes and Suggestions for Further Readingp. 196
Surviving Chicago's Toxic Doughnutp. 197
Welfare Rights Organizing Saved My Lifep. 200
Josefina Flores: A Veteran of the War in the Fieldsp. 204
How Predatory Lending Victims Fought Back and Wonp. 207
Reflection Questions for Part VIp. 211
Afterwordp. 213
The Forgotten Children of Affluent Americap. 213
Reflection Questions for the Bookp. 218
Glossaryp. 219
Web Sitesp. 221
Indexp. 224
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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