Conservatives often condemn the poor, particularly African-Americans, for having children out of wedlock, joblessness, dropping out of school, or tolerating crime. Liberals counter that, with more economic opportunity, the poor differ little from the nonpoor in these areas. In answer to both, Coping with Poverty points to the survival strategies of the poor and their multiple roles as parents, neighbors, relatives, and workers. Their attempts to balance multiple obligations occur within a context of limited information, social support, and resources. Their decisions may not always be the wisest, but they "make sense" in context.
Contributors use qualitative research methods to explore the influence of community, workplace, and family upon strategies for dealing with poverty. Promising young scholars delve into poor black inner-city neighborhoods and suburbs and middle-income black urban communities, exploring experiences at all stages of life, including high-school students, young parents, employed older men, and unemployed mothers. Two chapters discuss the role of qualitative research in poverty studies, specifically examining how this research can be used to improve policymaking.
The volume's contribution is in the diversity of experiences it highlights and in how the general themes it illustrates are similar across different age/gender groups. The book also suggests an approach to policymaking that seeks to incorporate the experiences and the needs of the poor themselves, in the hope of creating more successful and more relevant poverty policy. It is especially useful for undergraduate and graduate courses in sociology, public policy, urban studies, and African-American Studies, as its scope makes it THE basic reader of qualitative studies of poverty.
Sheldon Danziger is Director of the Poverty Research and Tranining Center and Professor of Social Work and Public Policy, University of Michigan. Ann Chih Lin is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, University of Michigan.