Alternative Conceptions of Poverty and their Implications for Income Maintenance

Spilerman, Seymour; Elesh, David

This paper speaks to the problem of designing income maintenance programs from the perspective of sociological theory. First, the underlying logic of situational and cultural theories of poverty is delineated, and some of their general implications are explored. Afterwards, the predictions of these theories with respect to the response by poor persons to an income maintenance program are examined. It is argued that, in place of seeking whether one or the other type of explanation is valid in general, we ascertain for which groups in poverty and for what types of response a particular theory is likely to be more useful. The discussion is illustrated by a consideration of how an individual's response to income maintenance is likely to vary with ethnicity and neighborhood organization.



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Society for the Study of Social Problems

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February 25, 2015