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Theories of Poverty and Anti-Poverty Programs in Community Development Ted K. Bradshaw Human and Community Development Department University of California,

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Presentation on theme: "Theories of Poverty and Anti-Poverty Programs in Community Development Ted K. Bradshaw Human and Community Development Department University of California,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Theories of Poverty and Anti-Poverty Programs in Community Development Ted K. Bradshaw Human and Community Development Department University of California, Davis, CA April 2004

2 Issue: how do you help people get out of poverty? Many different approaches Many different approaches 1.Enforce attendance in school 2.Get people out of poverty prone cultures 3.Change the economic and political system to eliminate discrimination 4.EZs help poverty prone geographic areas 5.CDCs take a comprehensive and cumulative approach that integrates community and individual improvement

3 Why do we need a better theory of poverty? Premise: If we understood what causes poverty we could better focus antipoverty efforts Premise: If we understood what causes poverty we could better focus antipoverty efforts However, there are many competing theories of poverty However, there are many competing theories of poverty Much of what we do that is successful is not well represented by the theoretical discussions Much of what we do that is successful is not well represented by the theoretical discussions Recent theoretical debate has narrowed to the conservative individualists vs the progressives who want to change structure Recent theoretical debate has narrowed to the conservative individualists vs the progressives who want to change structure

4 Theory and Practice: How community development addresses Poverty Five theoretical perspectives contrasted Five theoretical perspectives contrasted Model of analysis: Model of analysis: –What causes poverty? –How does the theory explain poverty? –Potential community development responses –Examples

5 1. Individual theories of poverty Individuals are to blame for their poverty Individuals are to blame for their poverty –Historically powerful model –Social Darwinism, Bell Curve –Pervasive within conservative thinking –Rooted in neo-classical economics –Laziness, incompetence, bad choice –Self help strategies-American dream

6 Individual theories Theory assumes that competition rewards winners with affluence and general stability; losers are poor Theory assumes that competition rewards winners with affluence and general stability; losers are poor Also assumes that individuals can change their behavior by making better choices Also assumes that individuals can change their behavior by making better choices We do not do any favors for the poor by relieving them of the need to take responsibility for their actions We do not do any favors for the poor by relieving them of the need to take responsibility for their actions

7 Responses Most responses are punitive Most responses are punitive Welfare reform Welfare reform Policing the poor Policing the poor Term limits on benefits Term limits on benefits Public humiliation Public humiliation Sterilization Sterilization

8 Community development responses Countering the dominant policy response Countering the dominant policy response –Shift from blaming the victim –Individualized programs –Supportive Self help

9 Individual examples (for community developers) Drug rehabilitation Drug rehabilitation Second chance programs Second chance programs Safety net Safety net Training Training Counseling Counseling Help for disabled Help for disabled

10 2. Cultural Theories of Poverty Assume that behaviors are learned and rooted in social environments Assume that behaviors are learned and rooted in social environments Subcultural values dominateexample of ghetto housing projects Subcultural values dominateexample of ghetto housing projects Sympathetic view: Individuals are social beings and are not blamed Sympathetic view: Individuals are social beings and are not blamed

11 How do cultural theories work? Peer influences Peer influences Learning based on what is successful Learning based on what is successful Behaviors and values may be in opposition to dominant groups Behaviors and values may be in opposition to dominant groups Options are limited because lack of information getting to people Options are limited because lack of information getting to people

12 Potential responses Use social groups and peers in a positive way Use social groups and peers in a positive way Expand education and information programs Expand education and information programs Community building Community building Socialization efforts Socialization efforts Leadership development Leadership development

13 Examples of Cultural Responses Head start and after school programs Head start and after school programs Entrepreneurial and business training Entrepreneurial and business training Asset based community development programs Asset based community development programs Cultural appreciation Cultural appreciation

14 3. Structural theories of poverty This theory assumes that individuals have strong motivation to succeed This theory assumes that individuals have strong motivation to succeed However, the poor are overwhelmingly prevented from success by structural barriers that need to be removed However, the poor are overwhelmingly prevented from success by structural barriers that need to be removed Progressive thought seeks reform of the system rather than punishing individuals Progressive thought seeks reform of the system rather than punishing individuals

15 Structural Barriers that lead to poverty are found in many sectors of the society Barriers that lead to poverty are found in many sectors of the society –Economy –Education –Health –Housing –Politics –Safety and environmental justice –Transportation

16 Structural barriers cause poverty in many ways People are prevented from achieving their potential by irrelevant criteria such as race, gender, age… People are prevented from achieving their potential by irrelevant criteria such as race, gender, age… People with advantage perpetuate and extend their opportunities because they can People with advantage perpetuate and extend their opportunities because they can Political structures do not value the poor Political structures do not value the poor

17 Structural changes in community development Community organizing Community organizing –Advocacy can stimulate change –Political organizing can increase representation for the poor –As poor groups get more information they can negotiate better opportunities

18 Structural changes in community development Organizational development and service provision Organizational development and service provision –Alternative routes to success through new businesses, training, and housing –Support structures for struggling efforts that benefit the poor –Force main stream institutions to be more responsive to the poor

19 Examples of structural change Cooperatives or nonprofit businesses for poor Cooperatives or nonprofit businesses for poor Workforce development programs linked to real jobs negotiated because of community actions Workforce development programs linked to real jobs negotiated because of community actions End of redlining and other discriminatory housing practices End of redlining and other discriminatory housing practices Voter registration and mobilization Voter registration and mobilization Ethnic markets that meet needs of minority communities. Ethnic markets that meet needs of minority communities. Health clinics and effective worker safety programs Health clinics and effective worker safety programs Rural economic development Rural economic development

20 4. Geographic theories of poverty Why are some regions poor while others are rich? Why are some regions poor while others are rich? Poverty is concentrated in neighborhoods, states, regions, and nations Poverty is concentrated in neighborhoods, states, regions, and nations Often the places with the greatest natural resources are also the poorestespecially in rural communities Often the places with the greatest natural resources are also the poorestespecially in rural communities

21 Why is poverty concentrated in certain areas? Agglomeration of problems in some areas and economic growth in others Agglomeration of problems in some areas and economic growth in others People move to more affluent areas if they are able to do so People move to more affluent areas if they are able to do so Advantaged and urban areas have greater economies of scale in supporting beneficial growth Advantaged and urban areas have greater economies of scale in supporting beneficial growth Rural areas suffer from isolation Rural areas suffer from isolation

22 Responses to geographical concentration of poverty Redistribution policies by state and federal governmentspending, office location, and purchasing Redistribution policies by state and federal governmentspending, office location, and purchasing Targeted development policies Targeted development policies Investment in infrastructure and other public goods Investment in infrastructure and other public goods Focused community organizing Focused community organizing

23 Examples of meeting needs of underdeveloped regions Investments in the Southern US Investments in the Southern US Neighborhood revitalization Neighborhood revitalization Rural development efforts from TVA to local tourism development Rural development efforts from TVA to local tourism development Regional community networking Regional community networking Rural-plex programs based on creating rural clusters Rural-plex programs based on creating rural clusters Redevelopment, enterprise zones, marketing programs, trade areas, etc Redevelopment, enterprise zones, marketing programs, trade areas, etc

24 5. Cumulative theories of poverty Two key ideas Two key ideas –Poverty conditions and causes are linked in interdependent spirals of decline, and these spirals are very hard to reverse –Individuals and their communities are intertwined such that factory closings lead to unemployed individuals who have personal problems but who also contribute less to the community, causing community decline Do poor communities make poor people, or do poor people make poor communities? Do poor communities make poor people, or do poor people make poor communities?

25 Cumulative causes of poverty This approach acknowledges the complexity of poverty at every level in contrast to those who seek single factor solutions This approach acknowledges the complexity of poverty at every level in contrast to those who seek single factor solutions This approach also does not distinguish between individual and community because they are intertwined This approach also does not distinguish between individual and community because they are intertwined

26 Successful responses to cumulative poverty conditions Community responses + individual help Community responses + individual help –Break spiral of poverty through intensive and strategic planning –Whole community participation and visioning –Asset mapping and community revitalization –Linking economic development with equity and justice

27 Successful responses to cumulative poverty conditions (cont) Individual responses + community action Individual responses + community action –Comprehensive development efforts for individuals, based on strategic efforts toward self sufficiency –Long term follow-up with individuals to see that they get skills and opportunities to use them –Integrate individuals into groups in their community and help create a climate of civic responsibility –Build self confidence and a realistic plan

28 Examples Asian Neighborhood Design strategy for self sufficiency Asian Neighborhood Design strategy for self sufficiency Duncans supportive communities Duncans supportive communities Delancy Street Delancy Street Collaborative programs such as RCAC Collaborative programs such as RCAC

29 Implications There is overwhelming and growing evidence that cumulative, cyclical, and complex approaches to poverty are essential There is overwhelming and growing evidence that cumulative, cyclical, and complex approaches to poverty are essential

30 Conclusion CD poverty programs would benefit from an evaluation of their theory about the cause or cure for poverty CD poverty programs would benefit from an evaluation of their theory about the cause or cure for poverty –Thus far, there are too many competing theoretical perspectives that succeed only in reinforcing preexisting political perspectives –There is a great need for more comprehensive evaluations of successful anti-poverty programs –These evaluations must be linked to theories about the cause of poverty


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