Online Program

Is there a culture of poverty among the one percent of the United States? what would be the health and social implications?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 : 2:30 p.m. - 2:50 p.m.

Russell Lopez, MCRP DSc, Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, Northeastern University, Boston, MA
For fifty years, the theory of a culture of poverty (COP), a shared set of traits common among many residents of low-income communities, has been a major driver of US social policy and an counter argument to the idea that societal and structural issues need to be addressed in order to assist the poor. There are many hypothesized features of a COP including avoidance of personal responsibility, dependence of government, isolation from others, and short time horizons. These attributes have been associated with adverse individual and population health and social outcomes.

This research used this COP framework to conduct a preliminary assessment as to whether an analogous set of shared set of attitudes and behaviors exists among some of the wealthiest populations of the United States. While this group is obviously not poor, the analysis suggests that many of the one percent are dependent on government (tax breaks for unearned income), blame others for reversals (the mortgage crisis), are socially isolated (gated communities and enclaves), have short time horizons (day trading) and have higher rates of anti-social behavior (strong dislike of certain individuals and institutions). While this analysis is preliminary, if there is indeed an analog to a COP among the wealthy there are several important policy implications. It suggesst a need for breaking up enclaves of the wealthy, policies for addressing income inequality, reducing tax breaks for the wealthy, and educating this population so they might understand their dependence on the broader society for the benefits they enjoy.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Define a culture of poverty Describe its hypothesized characteristics and outcomes. Analyze different groups using a culture of poverty framework. Identify potential characteristics in the One Percent that are consistent with hypothesized culture of poverty traits. Describe potential policy implications of these traits among the One Percent.

Keyword(s): Social Justice, Poverty

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I did all the research for the background of this presentation.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.