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Theories of Poverty and Anti-Poverty Programs in Community Development

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Presentation on theme: "Theories of Poverty and Anti-Poverty Programs in Community Development"— 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 95616 April 2004

2 Issue: how do you help people get out of poverty?
Many different approaches Enforce attendance in school Get people out of poverty prone cultures Change the economic and political system to eliminate discrimination EZs help poverty prone geographic areas 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 However, there are many competing theories of poverty 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

4 Theory and Practice: How community development addresses Poverty
Five theoretical perspectives contrasted 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 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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 3. Structural theories of poverty
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 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 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 with advantage perpetuate and extend their opportunities because they can Political structures do not value the poor

17 Structural changes in community development
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 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 Workforce development programs linked to real jobs negotiated because of community actions End of redlining and other discriminatory housing practices Voter registration and mobilization Ethnic markets that meet needs of minority communities. Health clinics and effective worker safety programs Rural economic development

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

21 Why is poverty concentrated in certain areas?
Agglomeration of problems in some areas and economic growth in others 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 Rural areas suffer from isolation

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

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

24 5. Cumulative theories of poverty
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?

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 also does not distinguish between individual and community because they are intertwined

26 Successful responses to cumulative poverty conditions
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 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
Duncan’s supportive communities Delancy Street Collaborative programs such as RCAC

29 Implications 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 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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