We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Sociology of Poverty?

By Angela Farrer
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Sociology of poverty is the concentrated study of how this particular aspect of society affects the behaviors, interactions, and outlooks of different groups of people. This study of sociology also frequently attempts to trace the root causes of poverty among people of various backgrounds. Different sociology studies of poverty can be based on varied schools of thought according to academic researchers' points of view. While the sociology of poverty usually examines the causes and circumstances closely, it normally leaves formulating possible solutions to other disciplines such as economic theory.

The study of poverty is often required for a sociology degree in order to gain an understanding of concepts such as socioeconomic class stratification. Two of the most frequently studied theories of why poverty exists include the situational theory and the structural theory. The situational theory focuses on the fact that the poor usually lack the needed resources for upward mobility, and the structural theory examines how certain arrangements of society are responsible for consistent poverty among certain groups. These theories are two examples that provide a broader framework for studying the sociology of poverty.

Scholars who are studying this field of sociology often examine more specific factors such as prolonged unemployment, a lack of available jobs that pay living wages, and insufficient education that could otherwise lift certain groups out of poverty. The sociology of poverty also includes studies of crime rates among the poor, certain cultural practices that are unique to poverty, and the most common stereotypes of the poor. A common debate among many sociologists is whether the poor are solely responsible for their own fate or if larger society is at least partially to blame for keeping them below established poverty lines.

Group interactions in poor communities are frequent areas of interest for researchers who study the sociology of poverty. Some scholars may compile case studies of the underground economies in which people in poor areas provide cash-only goods and services for one another that go unreported to tax authorities. Others may study the prevalence of illegal or semi-legal means of income that are prevalent among many communities' poorest residents. A related focus concerns how poverty functions to maintain other classes of a given society. This particular school of thought in the sociology of poverty argues that the poor have a necessary economic function because they comprise a ready labor force for the lowest-paying and most distasteful jobs that other socioeconomic classes are unwilling to perform.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By KoiwiGal — On Jul 18, 2012

@pleonasm - I can understand the arguments of people who think that the poor need more education or that they are simply less able to rise above a certain economic level, for whatever reason. It's difficult to pass a homeless man who is reeking of alcohol and not think that in some way he built his own fate.

But it's such a complex equation. There are plenty of kids out there who honestly have no idea what it means to save, what it means to work a whole day, a whole week at a time, who don't know how to bow to authority and when to stick up for themselves. Those things are really hard to instill in yourself, particularly when you don't realize that is why you can't keep a job.

And that's not even factoring in addiction. As someone who has given up smoking, I can tell you I would be terrified to ever go on hard drugs, because I don't think I'd have the power to give them up. But people born into poverty accept the move into drug culture the way people born to affluence accept the move into college life: as inevitable.

It's a sad circle and it harms everyone in the world, poor or not.

By pleonasm — On Jul 17, 2012

@browncoat - I know there are some studies that have been done with kids in schools where the teacher is told that the child isn't doing very well, or isn't smart and they treat the child differently, as though they can't achieve very highly.

I would imagine that poor kids, who don't have the nice clothes and shoes and the designer haircuts and so forth, probably get the same kind of unwitting prejudice from everyone in authority over them. I wonder if that's as much of a contributor to the rates of youth delinquency as anything else. But I come down squarely on the side of people who think that poverty is inflicted on the poor, rather than that they simply can't manage to get out of it through laziness.

By browncoat — On Jul 16, 2012

I wonder if they ever study the reactions of other people to poverty. I mean, it must have some effect on the average person, to be in the presence of people who are demonstrably poor. Does walking past a homeless person every day make you more or less likely to give to charity, for example?

One practical application of this could be to target ads for charities better on TV. Some of them concentrate on contrasting one lifestyle with another, some show before and after photos, some try humor and so forth. But which is the most effective?

And I've seen TV shows where a rich kid is matched with a poor kid of the same age and they "swap" families for a day so that they can see what it's like to have the shoe on the other foot. I wonder what that actually achieves. It might completely change the rich kid's life, or it might just be a funny thing they did one summer.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.