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Culture of Poverty

In a seminal work about poor Mexican families titled Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty, the anthropologist Oscar Lewis fashioned the concept of “culture of poverty,” an explanation for why poverty is reproduced and transmitted from one generation to the next. Lewis contended that a distinctive set of cultural patterns and values among the poor, which are antithetical to mainstream values, impairs poor people's attempts at full participation in mainstream economic, political, and social sectors. He developed a list of 50 traits that he believed to constitute a culture of poverty, including feelings of marginality, hopelessness, dependency, not belonging, and little sense of history. Lewis conceived of a culture of poverty as one that inculcated poor people with no class consciousness. ...

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