Who Are the Poor? Re-examining the Poverty Threshold
What exactly is “poverty,” and how do we, as a society, determine who is considered “poor”? This module includes four lessons to explore the meaning of this concept, how it is measured, and alternative ways we might measure poverty.
Learning objectives: After completing this module, the student will be able to:
- Describe the way in which poverty is currently defined, explain the reason this approach is used, and describe its shortcomings and implications
- Explain the differences between objective measures and relative measures of poverty, and argue for one over the other
- Show examples of patterns of concentrated poverty in urban and rural areas, comparing them in terms of social correlates of poverty, using data as evidence
- Provide an explanation for concentrations of poverty in particular areas, connecting concepts from the research with illustrations from the lives of everyday people
Here are four lessons for this module:
- Readings and Socratic inquiry: Objective and relative measures
- Create a relative measure of poverty
- Case studies: Patterns of poverty in urban and rural areas
- Re-conceptualizing poverty
Final assignment : Students are to write a 500-750 word paper, with accompanying Social Explorer slides, that describes the differences and similarities in patterns of concentrated poverty in different urban and rural areas, including social correlates (race, family structure, and age). The response paper should also explain the likely reasons behind these patterns, drawing on the assigned readings. The paper can be started in Lesson 1, and revised after Lesson 4. After final revisions the paper should explain how their interpretation of the distribution of poverty has changed as a result of using the ratio measure provided by Social Explorer. The paper should also advocate for the measure that they believe most accurately portrays the scope and distribution of poverty.
- Gauge students’ comprehension of core concepts during whole-class discussion, using this Discussion Checklist (Lesson 1)
- Evaluate students’ application of the concept of relative deprivation during the presentations, using this Presentation Rubric (Lesson 2)
- Evaluate students’ response papers that advocate one measurement of poverty over another, using this Paper Rubric (Final paper)
- Seccombe, K. (2000). Families in poverty in the 1990s: Trends, causes, consequences, and lessons learned. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 62, 1094-1113
- Brady, D. (2003). Rethinking the sociological measurement of poverty. Social Forces, 81, 715-751.
- Cassidy, J. (2006, April 3) Relatively deprived: How poor is poor? The New Yorker. Available at: http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/04/03/060403fa_fact