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Underclass

The term underclass has an extensive history within the social sciences. The first scholar to popularize the term was Gunnar Myrdal in the 1960s, when using it to refer to a “class of unemployed, unemployables, and underemployed who are more and more hopelessly set apart from the nation at large and do not share in its life, its ambitions and its achievements.” While the concept of an underclass in the United States has transformed several times following Myrdal’s introduction of the term, the underclass typically refers to the class of people beneath the working class. According to Erik Olin Wright, the underclass consists of individuals who occupy the lowest position in the class hierarchy. He defines the underclass as a “category of social agents who ...

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