Social Problem Research


Poverty can be termed as an exceptionally complicated social issue, which complicates the identification of causes. Stark (2009) explains poverty as a social issue, that there are stereotypes that the poor are their authors of poverty based on the notion of ‘all is possible in America’. Some theorists accuse the economically underprivileged as engaging in self-defeating behavior while others accuse them of having little concern about the future by living for the moment. Worse, some theorists accuse the poor as fatalists where no one can help them from the culture of poverty that they pass from one generation to the next, which makes them feel powerless, hopeless, passive, inferior, and exude negativity. 

One major cause of poverty is structural adjustment where cutbacks in education, health, and other vital social services result in loans and repayments. Poor countries are forced to open their economies to compete with one another, as well as with industrialized and developed nations. To attract innovations in their countries, poor nations spiral race to the bottom to identify countries with cheaper resources, reduced wages, and lower standards. This is one contributing factor to equality and poverty for many individuals. 

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Another sociologist perspective of poverty is the flight of the middle class, which reduces the opportunities of inner‐city poor individuals to attain satisfactory jobs. O’Connor (2009) argues that some poor individuals may prefer to rely on welfare rather than working in demeaning jobs like house-helps. This has led to the contemporary attacks of the welfare system. Lastly, poverty persists because there lacks a simple solution or explanation of its existence in society.  

Sociological Perspective of Poverty

The aspect of poverty can be explained following Karl Marx conflict theory, which argues that a society is in a state of perpetual conflict due to the competition of limited resources. The rich using this theory will make laws and societal structures to support their dominance while frustrating the poor. Sociologists also argue the aspect of poverty from dependency cultures, fecklessness, or moral failings. Davies and Imbroscio (2009) argue that social class positions greatly affect the opportunities open to an individual. 

Popper (2013) argues that there is a close association between poverty and a person’s behavior, which makes it challenging to disentangle poverty from welfare receipt and unemployment. This has been one of the political arguments that fail to understand that not all poor people are out of work and not all unemployed are poor. Some political arguments view poverty as a self-made problem. Davies and Imbroscio (2009) explain that some sociologists politicize the issue of poverty and link it with substance abuse, welfare receipt or unemployment. 

Emerging Policies

Following a social policy perspective, a countervailing aspect can be followed, which states that some welfare policies are affordable and feasible for nations with low incomes. Kotler and Lee (2009) argue that following the implementation of social transfers, poverty levels have drastically reduced. This can be attained by a country following comprehensive social policies that aim at universal coverage. The government can increase federal aid for working but poor individual including childcare subsidies and income credits. Additionally, social policy that ensures universal health insurance should be hastened. Another policy is providing better health services and nutrition for the poor families, increasing the supply of affordable housings, improving schools attended by the poor, and establishing well-funded early childhood intervention programs. In addition, a country can provide a national “full employment” policy for the poor, increase minimum wages, and introduce federally funded job training.


Davies, J. S., & Imbroscio, D. L. (Eds.). (2009). Theories of urban politics. Sage. 

Popper, K. (2013). The poverty of historicism. Routledge.

O’Connor, A. (2009). Poverty Knowledge: Social science, social policy, and the poor in twentieth-century US history (Vol. 59). Princeton University Press.

Stark, B. (2009). Theories of Poverty/The Poverty of Theory. Brigham Young University Law Review, 2009(2), 381–430.

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