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Understanding Poverty A Relational Approach

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2023-10-16
  • Publisher: Polity

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Supplemental Materials

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People in poverty suffer daily under misconceptions about economic hardship and its causes. Providing the most comprehensive consideration to date of poverty in the United States, Elizabeth Seale tackles how we think about issues of culture, behavior, and poverty, cutting straight to the heart of debates about social class. The book addresses tough questions, including how being poor affects individual behavior, and how we can make sense of that in a larger social and political context. The central premise is that to understand the behavior and lives of people in poverty, one must consider their relational context, especially relations of vulnerability and the human need for dignity. Poverty is a social problem we should address as a society by changing social relations that, as a matter of course, cause unnecessary and immense suffering. To do so, we must directly confront our lack of regard for people in poverty by recognizing that they are in fact worthy of an effort to induce major social change.

This critical introduction to poverty will be an important read for undergraduate students and above in sociology wanting to learn more about the growing social problems of poverty, inequality, and stratification.

Author Biography

Elizabeth Seale is Professor of Sociology at SUNY Oneonta.

Table of Contents

1. On Understanding

Poverty in the U.S.

My Research Experience

How We Think and Talk about Poverty

A Relational Approach

What a Relational Approach Contributes

Relations of Vulnerability and the Desire for Dignity

Aims and Overview of the Book

2. Who Are the Poor?

Defining and Measuring Poverty



Similarity to and Difference from the Nonpoor


3. Family and Parenting

Single Mother Households

Young Moms

Child Maltreatment


4. Culture

Historical Context

Culture of Poverty and Policy

Problems with the Culture of Poverty Arguments

Contemporary Research on Culture and Poverty

A Culture of Dependency or a Culture of Blame?


5. Structure and Social Relations

How Structure Creates Poverty

Social Policy: Punishing the Poor

The Limits of Structuralism

A Relational Approach

6. Opportunity and Personal Autonomy

Going to College

Finding (Better) Employment

General Autonomy


7. Vulnerability and Dignity

The Relations of Poverty

Changing Our Thinking about Poverty

The Significance of a Relational Approach


Supplemental Materials

What is included with this book?

The New copy of this book will include any supplemental materials advertised. Please check the title of the book to determine if it should include any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.

The Used, Rental and eBook copies of this book are not guaranteed to include any supplemental materials. Typically, only the book itself is included. This is true even if the title states it includes any access cards, study guides, lab manuals, CDs, etc.

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