Posts Tagged ‘poor’


The Relativity of Social Understandings

April 10, 2009

Much of the public understands that most social problems in our society have a long history. They view their understandings of the character of most social problems as being just as concrete and well understood. But, some research has shown that many Americans living in poverty today have better housing, food, and personal property compared to most of the middle class in American history. Robert E. Rector wrote that in 1998, if you adjust for inflation, the lowest 20% of the poor had incomes equal to that of the average American household in the early 1970s! This brings up the point of how relative our social judgments can be.

Would you like to respond to this topic? If so, please address one of the talking points below:

1. Were you aware of how dependent our understandings of what constitutes poverty are upon social context? What insights does this afford you about assessing your understandings of other social problems?

2. Since what constitutes poverty has changed dramatically in the last 40 years, do you think the underlying causes of poverty have also changed? Why?

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