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date: 23 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the culture of poverty thesis, focusing on its many lives, deaths, and reincarnations. It first considers the intellectual history of the culture of poverty thesis before discussing how the argument has been interspersed throughout U.S. history and applied to various groups. It then considers the argument’s scholarly reproduction, noting how it is underlain by a binary whereby segments of the poor, racial minorities, and immigrants are positioned as having a deviant, morally suspect culture that undermines their potential upward mobility, whereas white middle- and upper-class Americans are positioned as having a normal, morally upstanding culture that secures their class position. The article also describes four routine scholarly practices that engender a specter of support for the culture of poverty thesis. Finally, it argues that the culture of poverty should either be put to rest or allowed to live based on its own merits, and suggests ways to end its unintentional resurrection.

Keywords: culture of poverty thesis, poor, racial minorities, immigrants, poverty, culture of poverty, white middle class, white upper class

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