In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Poverty

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Data Sources
  • Conceptualizing and Measuring Poverty
  • Historical Perspectives
  • Dynamics Of Poverty
  • Issues of Employment and the Economy
  • Inequality
  • Consequences and Effects of Poverty
  • Welfare
  • Alleviating Poverty
  • Moral and Ethical Issues
  • International Perspectives
  • Poverty Research Centers
  • Advocacy and Policy

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Social Work Poverty
Mark R. Rank
  • LAST REVIEWED: 14 April 2011
  • LAST MODIFIED: 14 April 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389678-0122


Poverty generally refers to individuals residing in households lacking the necessary income to purchase a minimally adequate daily basic basket of goods and services, and as a result they are often disenfranchised from the wider society. In the United States, considerable research has focused on understanding the patterns and dynamics of poverty, groups at risk of impoverishment, explanations and theories of poverty, consequences and effects of poverty upon individuals and society, and strategies for alleviating poverty. Poverty has also been addressed from a moral/ethical framework and by various advocacy and policy groups.

General Overviews

Each of the sources below provides an overview and introduction to the field of poverty. These include Glennerster 2002, online material available at the Institute for Research on Poverty, textbooks (Iceland 2006 and Schiller 2008), edited volumes (Cancian and Danziger 2009 and Edwards, et al. 2007), and monographs (Blank 1997 and Rank 2004).

  • Blank, Rebecca M. 1997. It takes a nation: A new agenda for fighting poverty. New York: Princeton Univ. Press.

    Provides a thorough overview of the characteristics and nature of poverty, along with discussing various policy approaches and their effectiveness in alleviating poverty.

  • Cancian, Maria, and Sheldon H. Danziger, eds. 2009. Changing poverty. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.

    Fourth book edited by Sheldon Danziger between 1980 and 2010 that deals with American poverty. Provides in-depth coverage of a variety of key topics and research areas by well-regarded social scientists.

  • Edwards, John, Marion Crain, and Arne L. Kalleberg, eds. 2007. Ending poverty in America: How to restore the American dream. New York: The New Press.

    Short and accessible articles from many leaders in the field who participated in two separate conferences at the University of North Carolina’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.

  • Glennerster, Howard. 2002. United States poverty studies and poverty measurement: The past twenty-five years. Social Service Review 76.1:83–107.

    DOI: 10.1086/324609

    Article that discusses the contributions of American social scientists to the study of poverty since the late 20th century, as viewed from a comparative perspective.

  • Iceland, John. 2006. Poverty in America: A handbook. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

    Second edition examining the topics of measuring poverty, characteristics of the poverty population, causes of poverty, and policy approaches to poverty alleviation.

  • Institute for Research on Poverty, Focus.

    Biennial online magazine that provides informative articles on poverty- and welfare-related topics. Provides an excellent and succinct overview of key topics in the field.

  • Rank, Mark Robert. 2004. One nation, underprivileged: Why American poverty affects us all. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

    Examines the characteristics and nature of American poverty, why poverty is a concern for all Americans, and how to create a fundamental change in America in order to address and reduce poverty.

  • Schiller, Bradley R. 2008. The economics of poverty and discrimination. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    Tenth edition of this textbook on poverty. Divided into three sections: the measurement and counting of poverty, specific factors related to poverty, and policy options for addressing poverty.

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