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Book Review: Poorly Understood: What America Gets Wrong about Poverty



Rather than clarify, the book muddies understanding of poverty.
Book Review
Research on Social Work Practice
2021, Vol. 0(0) 16
© The Author(s) 2021
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Book Review
Mark R. Rank, Lawrence M. Eppard, & Heather E. Bullock. (2021).
Poorly Understood: What America Gets Wrong about Poverty. New York:
Oxford University Press. 242 pp. US$29.95. ISBN: 9780190881382.
Reviewed by: William M. Epstein,School of Social Work, University
of Nevada, Las Vegas, NV, USA
DOI: 10.1177/10497315211034805
Over the past few hundred years, an enormous literature
concerning poverty and inequality has accumulated in the
social sciences, literature, the arts, journalism and the popular
press. If counting arbitrarily starts with Smith, 1776 Wealth of
Nations in 1776, millions a Milky Way of poverty studies,
treatises, researches, commentaries and summaries of the
evidence have been published without advancing the enter-
prise of rationality beyond objective descriptions that are
rarely profound but usually incomplete, redundant, politically
unimportant and often much contested.
Certainly since biblical times, poverty has been seen either
as a personal or social problem, or sometimes as both. The
science of poverty purports to identify its causes. In this most
profound regard it has failed and is doomed to failure. There is
no rational way to isolate the causes of poverty and settle
ideological disputes, that is, to separate out situational factors
from the free will of individuals and destiny itself (The poor
you will always have with you,from Matthew 26:11). Usually,
there is only more credible and less credible evidence without
denitive criteria to adjudicate between them credibility re-
maining a largely subjective determination. The motive to be
reasonable the fallback position from rationality that offers no
improvement over credibility, practicality, data-based, research-
informed or other misleading substitutes for compelling proof
is often ummoxed by confusion over the nature of reason.
Rationality is a bit clearer than reason even when it maintains a
social content. Irrationality is clearer still. However, to dene
rationality as the absence of irrationality would seem to require
anearinnity of knowledge, the very problem that turned
proof away from verication to falsication (Smith, 2019;
Finocciaro, 2019;Kahneman, 2011;Ravetz, 1971).
In setting out to debunk the social myths of poverty and
inequality in the United States, Poorly Understood (PU) as-
sumes that the myths themselves prevent more generous and
effective poverty policies and that more objective and co-
herent information can convince believers to abandon the
myths. Thus, it presents presumably scientic research to
correct misinformation about povertys extent, causes, and
costs while assessing the effectiveness of existing and past
welfare programs. Final summary chapters attempt to explain
the persistence of the myths while arguing for specic so-
lutions and social strategies to create policy change, again
presumably based on scientic grounds.
By way of countering the perception that poverty is a
relatively rare occurrence in the US, Chapter 2 repeats portions
of a life course analysis of Americans between 25 and 65 years
of age to conclude that over seventy percent of Americans will
experience at least 1 year of poverty during their lifetimes
(Rank & Hirshl, 2015). The analysis, previously published by
one of UPs authors, favors a relative denition of poverty that
is considerably higher than the customary absolute standard of
poverty that is accepted by most prevailing social welfare
programs and national legislation. Naturally, the relative
measure increases the apparent number in poverty. PU pegs
the relative denition of poverty to the 20th percentile of the
distribution of annual household income which works out to
be about US$25,000 for an individual in 2011 250% of (1.5
times higher than) the absolute threshold of poverty. This may
be a condition of economic duress but hardly constitutes
indigence or subsistence. The UP cutoff point for individuals
(presumably one person households) represents 49% of
median family income although it is frequently unclear
whether the research addresses individuals or households.
In any event, the authors fail to justify this higher standard
although astute justications of relative measures also date
back at least to Wealth of Nations (1776) There is great value
in discussing income sufciency and income deprivation but
little value in stretching common understandings of poverty
without a detailed explanation that explicitly justies the
grounds on which to prioritize greater social and economic
equality over survival and extreme poverty. The exaggeration
of poverty is also apparent in the failure to reprint the nal
paragraph of the previously excerpted 2015 life course
analysis that acknowledges an enormous amount of income
volatility among poorer populations and thus mitigates the
severity of the books estimates of poverty.
However, just as there is a great deal of uidity at the top of the
income distribution (70% of the American population will ex-
perience at least 1 year in the top 20th percentile of the income
distribution; so too is there uidity at the bottom of the income
distribution. Taken together these ndings indicate that across the
American life course there is a large amount of income volatility.
Rather than a rigid class structure, the top and bottom ends of the
income distribution are fairly porous. This nding provides an
interesting and important caveat to the overall story of rising
levels of income inequality across the past 40 years. (Rank &
Hirshl, 2015 p. 6)
The authors might also have emphasized that life course
tables are inadequate to explain the prevalence and incidence
of poverty (Cellini, Mckernan, and Radcliffe 2008).
In a subsequent chapter PU claims that deliberate mis-
representation by recipients [of welfare] is uncommon(p.
109). Yet, just about all recipients have unreported and thus
illegal income (Edin, 1991). Rather than strain reason to paint
unrealistic virtues onto the face of the poor, it would be re-
freshing to acknowledge that the poor are human in the
manner of most and anxious to support themselves and their
children. After all, welfare cheating by recipients is just a tiny
instance in the ubiquity of cheating by the comfortable and
afuent: taxpayers, spouses, athletes, business people through
their approved ethic of doing whatever needs to be done
especially to each other, children lying to parents, government
contractors and employees, elected ofcials, teachers and
professors, doctors, dentists, lawyers, psychotherapists, the
police, religious divines, scamsters, greedy power-hungry,
irremissible connivers, and even cheaters when they rat out
associates.. At least the welfare caseload has the excuse of not
having enough support through public programs to feed,
clothe and protect their children even at common levels of
decency; apparently their cheating gets them only a bit above
absolute poverty, if even this. UP might have improved their
argument with an acid point of public policy and social
equality: the IRS has been consistently cut back since the
Reagan administration and now allocates much of its re-
sources to audit recipients of earned income tax credit while
the probability of auditing wealthy taxpayers has shrunk to a
rarity that actually encourages cheating.
The notion that the poor are crooks relative to the virtuous
majority persists in spite of its apparent falsity. In this regard, the
poor do not need to be ennobled; the rest of the nation needs to
develop a sense of shame about itself. Still, hostility to those on
public welfare persists with popular consent. Citizens do not
like paying taxes and often think of their gross income as an
inviolable possession a rightful set-aside from public claims.
This anti-social attitude is rarely conceded or reported accu-
rately to pollsters. Yet protests over the IRS staff cuts have been
so quiet you could hear mice eat crumbly cheese.
It is inhuman to expect the neediest to live lives of un-
blemished virtue. Yet it is quite revealing of widespread
meanness and a hypocrisy of scapegoating to make so much of
relatively petty infractions while almost one-half of the nation
sustained a president who cheated on family, public duties,
fairness, and decency with a near pathological disregard for
the truth and respect for democratic rule.
The other chapters handle the causes of poverty, issues of
education, the conditions of the poor, a description of the
American welfare system, arguments that public programs can
in fact reduce poverty among a few others. Concluding
chapters attempt to justify the logic of the book and offer
specic policy recommendations that address income support,
social safety net programs and the like. They are consistently
impaired: often shallow, misleading, ideologically driven,
rarely inaccurate but often incomplete, and inattentive to the
impaired rationality of their arguments. Each presentation fails
to consider the serious limitations of its data analyses in es-
tablishing the causes of the phenomena that are discussed as
well as the long term consequences of suggested interventions.
The trade-offs of social welfare are rarely touched on. In this
regard, minimalist attempts to reduce income poverty without
reducing social inequality may well ratify social inequalities
by accepting them as inevitable. It accepts and stigmatizes
poorer groups as unproductive and outside the American
communion of virtue. If social integration is a necessary goal
of a humane program to reduce inequality apparently im-
plicit in the policy suggestions of the nal chapters then at
least the educational and jobs systems in the United States must
also be deeply reconstructed. These in turn require supportive
programs of housing and day care along with increased access
to health care. Since economic growth has accounted for much
more poverty reduction than any public welfare program, public
efforts to shore up the commercial sectors of the society have
long been justied. Thus, the bill for a serious reduction of
inequality in the United States is enormous, growing larger with
every additional attempt to repair social inequality and increase
social integration. Ambitious social welfare goals entail a
substantial redistribution not only of income but also of wealth
and the opportunities that income purchases. The impediment
to an ambitious social welfare program is not the ignorance
created by myth but a knowing rejection of its goals by the
American people. Lacking detailed and complex discussion, the
presented data and subsequent expositions fail as compelling
proof of anything, notably including the causes of poverty.
The books persistent failure shared with the eld of
poverty studies as well as prevailing theories of policy making
in the United States is to sidestep the absence of credibly
demonstrated causes of poverty and of rational evidence of
effective programs aimed at poverty reduction. At the same
time it largely downplays the extent of popular preferences in
determining social policy. The authors might have taken a
refreshing step for academics and conceded that lacking the
virtues of rationality, all of their arguments rest on a speculative
authority and the authorsideological preferences.
PU boasts to be the rst book to systematically address
and confront many of the most widespread myths pertain-
ingtopoverty(p. 1). In fact, it is hardly the rst or even
among the rst thousand to attempt this. The biannual
Green Bookseries edited by the US House of Represen-
tatives (at least during Democratic House control, see for ex-
ample US Congress. House. 2004), Citro & Michael (1995),
2Research on Social Work Practice 0(0)
Lamprman et al. (1971),Duncan (1984),Handler & Hasenfeld
(1997) are a sample of more comprehensive and detailed
antecedents than PU in handling poverty, poverty data, and
poverty programs.
Usually claiming to improve on contemporary under-
standings with a more rational view, the vastness of both
scholarly and popular material that describes and analyzes
poverty and inequality emphatically stands against the basic
assumption of UP that America is uninformed. To the con-
trary, deep need in the United States probably persists because
it is intentional, accepted and even frequently applauded.
Rather than cabals and conspiracies of business, social elites,
otherwise powerful players and hidden malefactors, the
American people themselves have perpetuated poverty and
inequality in this country.
There is no disembodied systemthat tyrannizes the
American people. Instead, American citizens have freely in-
stitutionalized and perpetuated high levels of inequality and
poverty despite the nations extraordinary wealth. The iniq-
uities of the nation exist because of popular support and
decidedly not in spite of it. The metaphoric attribution of
embeddedto inequality, racism, and violence suggests that
they are innocently contracted diseases a systemic failure
without personal choice. However, persistent social conditions
in an open, democratic society such as the United States
become embedded,structural, and culturally denitive to
the extent to which they express a longstanding and uncoerced
popular will. Despite what Americans may tell pollsters, social
welfare institutions are broadly endorsed. No one may like
them but as second best choices they have the enduring
support of an enormous majority an informal but decisive
ranked-choice election of social values.
National preferences for an inadequate public response to
social need have persisted for hundreds of years. The enduring
myths are unlikely to yield to a more eloquent, dramatic,
emotional and generous narrative grounded in better objective
and coherent information. Indeed, the mythology associated
with inequality and need in the United States is much like the
mythology of religion. Both have earned erce loyalties
beliefs made invulnerable to rationality and objective co-
herence by unquestioned faith in the sublime, subjective,
intuitive, and emotional. Secular myths are little different from
religious myths; both subvert rationality and critical scrutiny
in obedience to the subjective. PU makes the common error of
the professional intellectual by overprizing the inuence of
ideas and objective truth. Faith, self-certitude and narrow,
short-sighted parochial self-interest customarily win the war
with rationality, reason and decency. America is certainly the
land of the free: alas, the freedom to be mean-spirited, cheap,
petty, and harsh.
PU handles myth as factual error. However, myth as false
belief fails to address its profound social role that better speaks
to its persistence. Myth functions to reconcile aspiration with
reality; it embodies and dramatizes the values that justify the
common compromises of social policy. The factual standing of
myth its improbability, strangeness, exaggeration and oth-
erworldliness is quite irrelevant to the actual social role in the
same way that fairy tales, science ction, and fantasy operate to
convey meaning by consciously defying the canons ofobjective
reality. Popular myths are not competitive with demography
and science nor are they quaint folklore. More accurately, they
are soothing ctions that justify social choices and often cloak
powerful, determinative beliefs in respectability and virtue.
The impossibility or at least the absence of rationality in the
relevant research may hint at why PU cites the injustice of
poverty which is well outside their reliance on rationality. At the
same time, the authors ignore the possibility that the call of
justice in American democracy has been a whisper, too soft to
hail strong antipoverty programs. Indeed there has always been
great opposition in America to address rising levels of in-
equality even when, as recently, increasing deciencies in
education, nutrition, housing, health and mental health and
others are coincidental with the broader economic and insti-
tutional failures of the American system. Yet these observations
do not lead rationally to the conclusion that failings of the
structural rather than the personal levelplaces much of the
responsibility for poverty beyond that of the individual(p. 93).
For hundreds of years, conservatives have argued that
deciencies of character attributed to the poor and near poor
indolence, joy-seeking, lack of personal discipline, criminal
behavior and such explain why hard times affect them more
than others. Yet this is no more convincing than the progressive
position that these behaviors are themselves the natural con-
sequences of failed social institutions. The selection of a single
link in the chain of causation is often capricious and ideo-
logical, a question of convenience more than truth or decency.
The issue of responsibility is not amenable to rational adju-
dication except occasionally when social interventions express
testable ideological assumptions and rational experimental
methods can be applied. Thus, evaluations rational or im-
paired of programmatic effectiveness carry along serious
political, ideological and professional implications.
The few successes of rational assessment are unfortunately
limited in application or have been subsequently shown to be
at best misrepresented by the researchers (Epstein, 2019;Kirk
et al., 2015). The more common fare of impaired research fails
to establish the facts of program outcomes. Social welfare
research is rife with biases and porous designs: unrepresen-
tative samples, huge attrition, inadequate and absent controls,
unreliable data and unreliable measuring instruments, lack of
follow-up, and the common existence of conrmation bias that
subtly convert stakeholder hopes into outcomes. Indeed, re-
search grants by both public and private auspices to test the
outcomes of social welfare programs cash welfare, psy-
chotherapy and its many forms of talk therapy, criminal
justice programs and the enormous range of treatments offered
through the social clinic but also often including medical and
pharmaceutical as well as educational research are typically
awarded to researchers with the largest professional and per-
sonal interests in specic outcomes. Replication is rare; research
Book Review 3
by neutral investigators is even rarer. The result is the illusion of
scientic expertise that begs attention to the ideological and
personal interests of the researchers and the degree to which
those biases are indulged by the American people through their
public and private institutions. PU simply ignores these prob-
lems while insisting on the graven authority of their data.
The myth of individual autonomy the godhead of pre-
vailing American mythology sings raptures to the cultural
virtues that justify the nations exceptionalism: self-creating,
self-motivating, self-actualizing, imaginative, intuitive, en-
trepreneurial and presumably free of learned constraints. The
belief in bombastic, heroic individualism has persisted as long
as the nation, impervious to the common observation that the
only Americans who are truly autonomous are wealthy her-
mits. Yet, they too carry along the limitations and lessons of
their socialization if even from their foster-parent wolves,
apes, and lions.
The myth of the autonomous will creates a dualism of mind
and body in which mind becomes a mystical presence: it
inuences the body but is itself not a material entity such as the
brain and thus amenable to scientic scrutiny. Yet autonomy
as myth and not just metaphysics is telling of social prefer-
ences not least of which is the desire to sustain the hierarchy of
will: those with superior dominating wills and those without
heroic qualities, leaders and followers, the chosen and the
condemned, the worthwhile and the worthless, contributors
and bloodsuckers. Autonomy, the soul, the will, and com-
panion myths are profoundly romantic in the manner of Jungs
collective unconscious, Freuds subconscious (as well as his
other constructions of the psyche), the Holy Ghost, Hegels
world mind,and on and on. However, the rejection both of a
romantic sense of reality and the imperfections of an erratic
practice of rationality does not imply the inevitability of ni-
hilistic ignorance. The chosen govern Heaven and Hell
without published constitutions and appeals courts but citizens
of a democracy can choose decency.
Fact-checking myth seems oblivious to the nature of myth
as it reveals determinative social values that are both anti-
democratic and endorse inequalities. Fact-checking assumes
that a society is basically sound, requiring only occasional
touch-ups of truth to nourish its light of civilization. However,
the reformist impulse a truth here and there, a few US dollars
for need, a new program to assist a small number of people
cannot succeed in the face of widespread need and popular
resistance to sharing resources. A willful ignor ance becomes a
death wish when a society reinstitutes past injustices and acts
as though existential problems are illusions.
The prevalence of hard times is hardly a myth in the United
States but rather a condition that Americans are quite aware of
in their families and communities. Yet widespread need does
not seem to inspire widespread support for greater equality and
justice. Apparently Americans accept the myth of personal
responsibility for economic and social outcomes as well as
personal behavior (eg, crime, school failure, unemployment,
etc). Even many in poverty and near poverty vote against anti-
poverty social policy that would benet them and accept
ideologies of personal responsibility and blame for their own
conditions. They populate churches whose sermons empha-
size the reality of personal freedom and thus individual re-
sponsibility. The poorest states consistently vote for
conservative anti-welfare candidates and by large margins
Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, Kansas, West
Virginia and others. The incidence of hostile attitudes toward
public welfare does not vary much by income class, race or
union afliation (Epstein, 2004) In 1937, more than 50% of
those on public welfare reported that they were against ex-
panding eligibility to uncovered groups (Schiltz, 1972).
Opinion and attitude polls rarely report large support for a more
generous social welfare policy. Presumably, those in need
deserve to bethere and private charity should address the others.
Americans seem unconcerned with the conditions of pre-
sumably deserving citizens, notably poor children, foster
children and the permanently disabled who are poor. Perhaps
antagonism toward welfare might be rationalized, at best, as an
ascetic commitment to a puritanical work ethic and an ideo-
logical blindness for suffering in the quaint belief that it builds
character and is a spur to industriousness. Yet the widespread
unconcern with the many millions of indigent children and the
disabled who are obviously not responsible for their plight
suggests a widespread national cruelty, even savagery. The
conditions of child foster care have been an American scandal
for more than two hundred years along with consistent failures
to protect public education, health care, day care, jobs, income,
fairness, justice and the tens of millions of citizens who do not
conform with tacit standards of heritage, parentage, or intimate
choices. In an open society that applies little coercion, long
standing decits dene citizenspriorities. The myths are thus
not fact-based convenient excuses amenable to objective fal-
sication but rather soothing ctions that obscure and ratio-
nalize primitive, misanthropic, even sociopathic motives.
PU is either too polite or too reluctant to indict the
American people for decits of character implicit in
the choices that sustain the American system. However, the
strategy to debunk misinformation with objective truth pre-
sumes that citizens have been deprived of the truth and are thus
innocent of their tolerance for poverty and inequality. Fol-
lowing this logic, social harms did not grow out of the
knowing consent of the American people but were forced on
them by nefarious actors of great power immune or invisible to
popular accountability. Thus the implicit assumption of ig-
norance and the subsequent strategy of truth telling endorses
the view of the American people as basically righteous,
generous and well-meaning. However, the alternative reality is
more plausible: the American people are complicit in creating
and endorsing poverty, inequality and other social ills. The
myths follow along obediently.
Myths are the folk music, the poetry, the ethnocentric glow
of patriotism and cultural loyalty. The historical Christ has
little to do with belief in His divinity, the immaculate
4Research on Social Work Practice 0(0)
conception, or the miracles of saints; it does not matter
whether Queen Esther and Scheherazade convinced their
kings to be kind and compassionate; the Buddhas actual
existence is no hindrance to Buddhism; whether Jonah ac-
tually was swallowed by a whale does not diminish belief in
the moral legacies of the Old Testament; George Washingtons
prestige is expressed, not tested, by his 100% truth-telling;
whether the Civil War was fought over statesrights rather
than slavery does not imperil the widespread belief in white
supremacy (blind to irony that the supremacists themselves
seem to refute the supremacy of whiteness).
Many myths are compulsively repeated in popular culture
because the appetite for them is nearly insatiable. The lost
causeof the Civil War tends bar in much of the United States.
The literal and metaphoric Western frontier in American
history the stuff of oaters, adult westerns, statues, paintings,
ction, and country-western music expresses and reinforces
idealized American values of self-invention, personal re-
sponsibility, the nations exceptionalism and the primacy of
emotion over reason. The facts of the American frontier as
brutal, lawless, larcenous, racist, misogynistic, ignorant, in-
effective, wasteful, genocidal and rife with economic and
social failure has hardly diminished the market for impossibly
heroic creation stories. The continuing popularity of manifest
destiny implicit in myths of the Western frontier even ex-
cuses American imperialism. Objective truth is incidental
and irrelevant to the popularity of myth.
Fact checking myth is about as pointless as fact-checking a
Walt Disney production. Did Mickey Mouse really work for
the wizard? Yet the myth of an open society in which virtue,
notably individual effort, is the key to success encourages both
the attribution of immorality to those who fail and thus the less
eligibility of their claims on fair compensation. Quite to the
point, literally hundreds of years of scholarship and journalism
attacking alleged falsity in popular beliefs has apparently
failed to convince many citizens to embrace a fair and gen-
erous social welfare policy.
Judged by the free choices of the society over time, poverty
and inequality do not appear to be much of a problem. The
American people are not prevented from choosing greater
equality by economic incapacity, a psychiatric impairment, or a
physical inrmity such as an addiction to the internet, television
or single malt whiskey that distracts them from the widespread
reality of suffering and unfairness. If anything, the American
people have long suffered an epidemic problem of civic de-
pravity and cruel indifference for which the only solution is
common decency (with a nod to Camus) that has been denied in
their myths and social choices for hundreds of years.
Coming to grips with the members of American society is
taking a very cold bath in the frigid waters of what they
choose. It is true that the US Senate structurally dees the
democratic norm of one person one vote, that at least
two Republican presidents received fewer votes than their
Democratic opponents, that gerrymandering has produced a
disproportionate Republican presence in Congress, that cor-
porate money seems to favor conservative policy, that nu-
merous states are engaged in voter suppression, and that more
liberal national policy is being blocked by a decided minority
of Republican senators often representing low population
It is also true that conservative candidates received 49% of
the presidential vote in 2020 with Trump gaining 47.5% and the
libertarian candidate running to his right winning 1.5% of the
vote. Without the mishandling of the COVID pandemic, Trump
would most likely have been reelected with a majority vote.
There has not been widespread outrage over the governments
inattention to the Jan 6 Capitol insurrection, to the blockage of
anti-poverty proposals by the Republican senators, to the rise of
white supremacy, Christian nationalism, and hate crime, to
growing poverty and inequality, a warming climate and so forth.
Nor has there been widespread support for social welfare
spending including for health and education, reform of policing,
diminution of economic and social inequality, or jobs created to
reduce the nations carbon footprint.
Tribalism denes national politics and prolongs the
American tradition of cruelty and civic indifference. The
constituency for brutal irrationality fundamentalism in many
forms triumphant over coherent objectivity is enormous and
has long erected barriers against a generous and supportive
American social welfare policy. American innocence is
contradicted by the willful ignorance of large portions of the
population. Their enthusiasm for autocracy, tyranny and
scapegoating to stop time and rewrite history recalls the
volksgemeinshaftof the German Reich.
The recent debacles of voter sppression, election denial,
vaccine hesitancy, and racism, and the detachment of many
elected ofcials from the January 6th riots among other
longstanding acts of hostility toward democratic governance
anud objective coherence tabulates the extent of support for
fascism in the United States. A modern, fair democracy cannot
function with a large portion of its members willing to employ
scapegoating as a tactic of political cohesion and turn the
institutions of democratic decision-making over to tyrants.
The solution to Americas social problems does not lie in a
newly discovered respect for objective facts and science but
rather in the acceptance of common decency. The issue is one
of morality rather than rationality. What Americans and the
authors of PU get wrong about poverty and inequality is that it
can be xed without Americans rst xing themselves.
Declaration of Conicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conicts of interest with respect to
the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) received no nancial support for the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.
Book Review 5
William M. Epstein
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Epstein, W. M. (2004). Cleavage in American attitudes toward social
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Epstein, W. M. (2019). Psychotherapy and the social clinic in the
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Finocciaro,M.A.(2019).On trial for reason: Science, religion, and
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Schiltz, M. E. (1972). Public attitudes toward social security: 1935-
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6Research on Social Work Practice 0(0)
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
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Research on poverty in the United States has largely consisted of examining cross-sectional levels of absolute poverty. In this analysis, we focus on understanding relative poverty within a life course context. Specifically, we analyze the likelihood of individuals falling below the 20th percentile and the 10th percentile of the income distribution between the ages of 25 and 60. A series of life tables are constructed using the nationally representative Panel Study of Income Dynamics data set. This includes panel data from 1968 through 2011. Results indicate that the prevalence of relative poverty is quite high. Consequently, between the ages of 25 to 60, 61.8 percent of the population will experience a year below the 20th percentile, and 42.1 percent will experience a year below the 10th percentile. Characteristics associated with experiencing these levels of poverty include those who are younger, nonwhite, female, not married, with 12 years or less of education, or who have a work disability.
This book offers a compelling critical analysis of American society by examining the role of psychotherapy within social policy and the culture that has fashioned it. It takes a deeply critical look at ‘the social clinic,’ defined here as a ubiquitous organizational arrangement that includes clinical and community psychology, counseling, clinical social work, psychiatry, much of the self-help industry, complementary and alternative medicine and others. Epstein’s analysis concludes that the social clinic lacks credible evidence of effectiveness and its continued popularity expresses popular but predatory American values such as romantic individualism, the triumph of the subjective, a sense of personal and political chosenness, persistent bigotry, and a preference for tribal as opposed to civic identities. This careful examination of American society through the lens of psychotherapeutic practice characterizes the social clinic as a soothing fiction of the United States. The book offers caring services as the unrealized alternative to clinical treatment, capable of achieving greater personal adjustment as well as social and economic equality. It will appeal to readers with an interest in social welfare, public policy, and public administration, as well as to students and scholars of psychotherapy, counseling, social work, rehabilitation, and community psychology. William M. Epstein was Professor of Social Work at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, USA until his retirement in 2019. He is the author of The Masses are the Ruling Classes (2017), Empowerment as Ceremony New (2013), and Democracy without Decency: Good Citizenship and the War on Poverty (2010).
Current welfare reforms-including recently enacted federal legislation-are largely symbolic politics, argue two experts in this important new book. According to Joel F. Handler and Yeheskel Hasenfeld, the real problem we face is not the spread of welfare but the spread of poverty among the working poor, a group that includes most welfare recipients. The surest way to solve the problem is to create jobs and supplement low-wage work. The authors offer proposals that would make it possible for individuals to support themselves and their families through working and that would establish a safety net for those relatively few individuals who are unable to do so. The authors discuss current policies, efforts, and programs designed to deal with the poor and analyze what works, what does not work, and why. Instead of income maintenance strategies, they promote policies that would facilitate leaving welfare for work-particularly in the case of single mothers. Their proposals range from creating jobs and supplementing income through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to raising the minimum wage to providing health insurance and child care support. These are not inexpensive solutions, but they must occur if we truly wish to live in a society that strives to provide opportunities for all.
Science is continually confronted by new and difficult social and ethical problems. Some of these problems have arisen from the transformation of the academic science of the prewar period into the industrialized science of the present. Traditional theories of science are now widely recognized as obsolete. In Scientific Knowledge and Its Social Problems (originally published in 1971), Jerome R. Ravetz analyzes the work of science as the creation and investigation of problems. He demonstrates the role of choice and value judgment, and the inevitability of error, in scientific research. Ravetz's new introductory essay is a masterful statement of how our understanding of science has evolved over the last two decades.
Much of the literature on the underclass alleges that welfare induces dependency. The author uses data from intensive interviews with 50 Chicago-area mothers on welfare to show that welfare pays too little to entice recipients into a life of passive dependence. The women interviewed all supplemented their AFDC and food stamp benefits with at least one of two sources of unreported income: assistance from family, friends, boyfriends, or absent fathers, and income from work
When it comes to understanding and treating madness, distortions of research are not rare, misinterpretation of data is not isolated, and bogus claims of success are not voiced by isolated researchers seeking aggrandizement. This book’s detailed analyses of coercion and community treatment, diagnosis, and psychopharmacology reveals that these characteristics of bad science are endemic, institutional, and protected in psychiatry. This is mad science. Mad Science argues that the fundamental claims of modern American psychiatry are not based on convincing research, but on misconceived, flawed, and distorted science. The authors address multiple paradoxes in American mental health, including the remaking of coercion into scientific psychiatric treatment in the community, the adoption of an unscientific diagnostic system that now controls the distribution of services, and how drug treatments have failed to improve the mental health outcome. This book provides an engaging and readable scientific and social critique of current mental health practices. The authors are scholars, researchers, and clinicians who have written extensively about community care, diagnosis, and psychoactive drugs. Mad Science is a must read for all specialists in the field as well as for the informed public.
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