‘Culture of Poverty’ Makes a Comeback

Dear Commons Community,

Today’s NY Times has a provocative article on the role culture plays in keeping generations of  people in poverty.  The article mentions the controversial work of Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1965 as one of the starting points of the debate on the issue .  What followed was the controversy of “blaming the victim” for his/her own poverty.  The article goes on to describe recent work in this area such as at the 2010 annual meeting of the American Sociological Association, where attendees discussed the resurgence of scholarship on culture. And in Washington last spring, social scientists participated in a Congressional briefing on culture and poverty linked to a special issue of The Annals, the journal of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.  The article is fairly balanced quoting liberals and conservatives as well as referring to well-known personalities including President Obama.  Major social scientists are quoted in the article with the issue coming down to policy makers viewing poverty through one of two competing lenses,  Michele Lamont, an editor of the special issue of The Annals, said: “Are the poor poor because they are lazy, or are the poor poor because they are a victim of the markets?”

This debate will go on!


The article is available at:


Comments are closed.