Compassionate Individualism


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Compassionate Individualism Symbolic Struggles in an American Helping Profession
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1 online resource (481 p.)
Eppard, Lawrence M
University of Florida
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
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Thesis/Dissertation Information

Doctorate ( Ph.D.)
Degree Grantor:
University of Florida
Degree Disciplines:
Sociology, Sociology and Criminology & Law
Committee Chair:
Shehan, Constance L
Committee Members:
Gattone, Charles F
Broad-Wright, Kendal L
Stoilkova, Maria Milkova


Subjects / Keywords:
culture -- hegemony -- ideology -- individualism -- inequality -- poverty -- social -- states -- stratification -- united -- welfare -- worldview
Sociology and Criminology & Law -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Sociology thesis, Ph.D.
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theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
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This dissertation examines the worldviews of social work students and how they either reinforce or challenge existing American cultural assumptions about poverty, inequality, and welfare. It also examines the factors which shape these worldviews, including highly-individualistic American cultural assumptions. Social work students were chosen because they typically perceive themselves as oppositional to many of these assumptions, and thus provide a unique insight into the power of American culture. This study was framed by the work of Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, Pierre Bourdieu, Mark R. Rank, Alice O’Connor, David Brady, and others. The impetus for this study was the notion that many social problems are socially constructed and as much a result of the way we think about them as they are about individual characteristics or actions. When individual-level characteristics and actions are considered, they need to be analyzed in terms of their relationship to the social structure. Despite this, the public and social scientists have largely focused on the individual, likely due to the influence of American cultural assumptions that support the individualism perspective; as a result, welfare policy has reflected this micro-level focus. This study examines the effect of these individualistic cultural assumptions on people pursuing a helping profession. The study findings are based on an ethnographic study in a U.S. BSW program consisting of eight months of fieldwork, 25 interviews with students, and document analysis of course materials. The findings suggest that, even in a “liberal” and somewhat structurally-minded field such as social work, highly-individualistic American cultural assumptions are mediated through personal experiences, family upbringing, and students’ studies to produce “compassionate individualism.” This means that most BSW students who graduate from MAU have individualistically-oriented worldviews supporting common American cultural assumptions about poverty, inequality, and welfare, albeit in a somewhat more “compassionate” form than typically expressed by the dominant culture. This suggests that the influence of American culture is very strong for all people across all fields, and that cultural assumptions and social scientific knowledge about these social issues need to be more structurally-inclusive before these social problems can be solved. We cannot create what we cannot first imagine.
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by Lawrence M Eppard.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 2013.
Adviser: Shehan, Constance L.
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2 2013 Lawrence Michael Eppard


3 To Papa


4 ACKNOWLEDG E MENTS This dissertation and my completed Ph.D. certainly took a village a nd I am sure to miss a few important people in these acknowledgements. This is regrettable as there were so many important people who contributed in meaningful ways during this process, so I will try my best to thank everyone involved. For each person that I mention it seems that I could confidently I never would It is true for each one of them. I truly could not have done any of this without the love and support of my wonderful wife Sara h. I thank her for being excepti onally patient, supportive, loving understanding, and helpful throughout this process. I am extraordinarily fortunate to have had her as my partner on this journey Sarah is not only a tremendous companion but the most wond erful mother, friend, and sh oulder to cry on. I am not sure how she was able to handle my qualifying exam melt down without a corresponding meltdown of her own but she did so with grace. She was able to successfully guide me through that and ultim ately to this very satisfying finish line. There are not many people who would have had the endless p atience to place many parts of their especially as they were starting their family, to allow their partner to focus on something so time co nsuming S arah is an absolutely amazing and kind woman who m I love with all of my heart I owe so much of this to her. I also want to thank my wife for bringing my son, Riley and my daughter, Ella Grace, into our lives along the way and thank Sarah, Riley and Ella for bringing me moments of such joy throughout this long process. I thank my parents, Maureen and Larry, for providing me the necessary tools to successfully navigate my educational journey and the endless forms of critical support (emotional, f inancial, etc.) needed to complete it. Their parenting, teaching, coaching,


5 etc., prepared me well to tackle challenges like this. My mom is not here to see me reach the fini sh line, but she played a major role in ensuring that I eventually arrived here. I also want to apologize to my father for having to endure countless barbs from fellow hackers on the golf course telling him I know that i f I ever work even a fraction as hard as my father has in his career then I will be very successful in mine. I also want to thank the rest of my family, my sisters Julie and Jennifer, my grandparents, Tom, Lorraine, Wilmer, and Joyce as well as my extended family and in laws for their support throughout this process. Thanks t o Jennifer for spoiling her nephew and for providing me with some light hearted breaks during this process. Along the way I was able to see her graduate from college and make a lot of people ver y proud, myself included. I want to t hank Julie for being so g ood to us and to my little man Riley and help ing his dad get some work done It was in the most critical moments of this project when I needed hug e blocks of time to finish my research that Julie came through for us the most. I have no idea how I would have completed s help. I am extraordinarily lucky to have her as a sister and close friend and Riley to have her and Jennifer as aunts I cannot wait to see Riley, Ella, and Reid play to gether! I want to thank Mema (Lorraine) for always being there whe n I needed to talk and/or vent. Mema is a wonderful grandmother and she is always there whenever you need her and always fun to talk to. I really am one of the luckiest people in the world t o have been born with such tremendous grandparents. I want to thank Paps (Wilmer) and Meemaw (Joyce) for taking time out of their schedules on multiple occasions to take me to dinner (and pay


6 for a it was certainly a needed break and it was nice to talk to people other than Pierr e Bourdieu and Louis Althusser. Elvis ( Jim ) and Debbie Yassine deserve a huge thank you for everything they do for our family, especially over this past year. Jim and Debbie in our lives in countless ways which we can never repay and which kept us somewhat sane They deserve a ton of credit. There are many great people at the University of Florida who deserve credit. I want to thank past and current members of the staff of the Department of Sociology and Criminology & Law. I have long been of the belief that staff members in academic departments are really the people who keep them running. All of the past and present staff members were so helpful during my g raduate career at UF : Donna Balkcom, Nadine Gillis, Holly Martin, Sheryl McIntosh, and Susan Spaulding. I will never forget how much Nadine did for me while she was at UF, she always did everything I ever asked of h er quickly and with a smile. Nadine was s uch a pleasure to see in the department every day Our current staff superstar, Sheryl McIntosh has been indispensable a s I have come down to the wire this year I have always known how important staff members are, but having Sheryl there for such critica l support in dealing with all of the dissertation and graduation deadlines is a great reminder of what a great person she is and how important she is to our department. I want to thank my fellow graduate students in the department for their friendship and collegiality as well as the intellectual environment they fostered which allow ed me to grow as a sociologist. I also want to thank all of the professors who have impacted me in my time at UF, I grew as much intellectually at UF as at any time in my educati onal career. There were many in


7 the sociology department and I am sure to forget some, but people like Dr. Shehan, Dr. Gattone, D r. Broad Dr. Borg, Dr. Koropeckyj Cox, Dr. Bures, Dr. Peek, Dr Zsembik, Dr. Mayer, Dr. Perz, Dr. Ardelt, and others were all so helpful and knowledgeable What a tremendous department! I also had a remarkable experi ence learning from anthropologists Dr. Stoilkova and Dr. Baber in another really impressive department at UF. A gigantic thank you goes to my dissertation committee, Dr. Constance Shehan, Dr. Charle s Gattone, Dr. Kendal Broad and Dr. Maria Stoilkova; they are as fine, supportive, and helpful a committee as I could have asked for. I also want to thank Dr. Karen Seccombe for her help early in the process and thank two members, Dr. Karen Rosenblum and Mario Zangla. I want to thank Connie (Dr. Shehan) for guiding me so gently through this process. Connie always knew exactly how to support me with precisely the right words at precisely the right mome nt. She is truly one of the nicest and warmest people that I have ever met, just one of my favorite people. I am lucky to have chosen a dissertation chair and mentor who so perfectly c omplimented my own personality. As my professor, as our department chair for four out of my five years at UF, and as my dissertation committee chair and mentor she was consistently amazing. I will always remember being able to drop in to talk to her whenever I needed to and her always being willing to chat (even when I could clearly see that she was in the middle of working when I arrived) I could not have done any of this without Connie, she is everything I could have ever hoped that a mentor would be. She is a kind, remarkable person.


8 I would like to thank another remarkabl e person, Dr. Charles Gattone for helping me in so many ways that I am at a loss for where to begin. Like Connie, Dr. Gattone was always available for me to drop in and discuss just about anything, whether it was a complicated theoretical question or just chatting about our wonderful children. His support was so critical both in the dissertation process as well as throughout my time on the job market. Talking with him up until ( and sometimes after ) midnight on multiple nights before several job interviews was so helpful; his comments about and critiques of my research presentations and teaching demonstrations were so helpful, and having him to same time that I was involved in my most critical dissertation work, and Dr. Gattone was there for me every step of the way. I am forever in hi s debt. The completion of this project and the success of landing a university position are in large part because of him. Dr. Broad and Dr. Stoilk ova both contributed a great deal to the completion of my de gree and project and deserve many thanks. Dr. Broad qualitative methods course was excellent and helped to prepare me to develop this project. I am not sure I have ever met a person like Dr. Bro ad who is able to communicate so effectively and provide such valuable critiques while always sounding positive and without ever sounding like she is criticizing. I almost drove her crazy flipping back and forth multi ple times between methodologies when wr iting my proposal from grounded theory to case study to ethnography back to grounded theory and on and on and she was always even keeled and supportive. She is one of the true gems of our UF sociology faculty one of the people that makes a department Eve ryone wan ts to work with her and I was very lucky to have had the chance. Globalization course was one of the best


9 courses I took at UF, and she was one of the sharpest minds that I learned from It was my experience in her class that mot ivated me to ask her to join my committee, and I am glad I did. She asked really important questions during the proposal phase that led to a much stronger project in the end. Dr. Stoilkova is an extraordinarily nice person and the sharpest of minds, and my only regret is that I was not able to work with her more. Mario Zangla. He was a tremendous influence on me in high school and I retained him as a very close friend to this day. Mario seems to have the best of every desirable trait: he is kind, funny, super intelligent, a great listener, a true friend, and so much more. Mario is the type of friend that you promise yourself you will never lose, ever. I will always be in return; that is why I drove a Hyundai to get here tonight, and he drove an eighty thousand dollar BMW I want to thank Dr. Karen Rosenblum for being a major part o f my entire educational career. She has been my mentor since the moment course in the spring of 2005 at GMU My love of sociology is because of her and the infectious manner in which she engages students. Dr. Rosenb lum has been there for me in every way that I needed for eight (seemingly long for her I am sure) years: fro m helping me to discover and complete the sociology minor at GMU, to applying to sociology graduate programs to getting through my graduate work and thesis at VT, to getting through my program, qualifying exams and dissertation at UF (and giving me


10 cruci al feedback on my work) to landing an academic job (by doing everything from reviewin g my job market materials to participating in often long telephone discussions about interviews ). Along with Connie and my wife Sarah Dr. Rosenblum was one of the most i mportant people that I leaned on during the inevitable qualifying exam meltdown and I do not think she even realizes how her support in that moment was a major reason why I succeeded. I will always fondly remember her sitting around a table at my wedding reception with oth er important people in my life and how lucky I felt in that moment to have her in my support network. Another great memory is of her walking up to me before my graduation from GMU and the kind words that she shared with me in that private moment that day; little did she know that I would force her to help me navigate through many more years at two more universities! I thank Dr. Rosenblum a million times over. She is one of the people that I have come across in my life that convinced me of the awesomeness of humanity important people and did not let her go. Someday I will release her from her responsibilities. S omeday. I would like to t hank all of the participants of this study for taking the time to ta lk openly and honestly with me. All of my participants provided me with a tremendous amount of useful data and were very flexible and generous with their time and meeting locations. I want to thank in the BSW program at MAU who was th e one who allowed this study to happen by giving me full access to their program. I also want to thank t he other faculty members of MAU for welcoming me into their program and classrooms. I cannot name any of the participants or MAU faculty here due to the


11 importance of confidentiality but they were all extraordinarily helpful and truly made this study happen. Finally, I would like to give spe cial thanks to my grandfather, Thomas Connors, who I have always known most affectionately as Papa. Papa is not on ly my grandfather, but my mentor, confidante, best man, and for so much of my life my best friend; everything I am, anything about me that I consider to be good, has his fingerprints all over it. We were truly two peas in a pod. I have intentionally and co nsistently tried to model myself after him for my entire life, and continue to do so after his passing ; he is what I aspire to be. He taught me how to be kind, how to love and respect fellow human beings, how to communicate, how to critically analyze, and so much more. We started this jo urney together a long time ago and I am deeply heartbroken to have had to travel the last fe w miles without him. I can only imagine how happy this would have made him. I miss Papa a great deal and dedicate this completed dis sertation and completed Ph.D. to my dear friend


12 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................ ................................ ............................... 4 LIST OF TABLES ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 15 LIST OF FIGURES ................................ ................................ ................................ ........ 16 LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ................................ ................................ ........................... 17 ABSTRACT ................................ ................................ ................................ ................... 18 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 20 2 THEORETICAL TOOLBOX AND LITERATURE REVIEW ................................ ...... 23 Theoretical Toolbox ................................ ................................ ................................ 24 Antonio Gramsci ................................ ................................ ............................... 24 Louis Althusser ................................ ................................ ................................ 28 Pierre Bourdieu ................................ ................................ ................................ 36 Noam Chomsky ................................ ................................ ................................ 53 David Brady ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 77 Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 91 Literature Review ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 94 ................................ ................................ ........ 96 Work Ethic ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 100 Women, Poverty, and Welfare ................................ ................................ ........ 104 ................................ ...................... 111 The Triumph of Individualism ................................ ................................ ......... 113 Ideology in Action: W elfare Stigma ................................ ................................ 120 The Racialization of Welfare ................................ ................................ ........... 125 Common Poverty Perspectives ................................ ................................ ...... 132 What are Ideologies/Worldviews? ................................ ................................ .. 136 3 METHODS ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 140 Research Questions ................................ ................................ ............................. 140 The Ethnographic Method ................................ ................................ ..................... 142 Why Ethnography? ................................ ................................ ......................... 143 Data Collection ................................ ................................ ............................... 145 Object of study/unit of analysis ................................ ................................ 145 Access and recruitment ................................ ................................ ........... 145 Observations/fieldwork ................................ ................................ ............. 146 Interviews ................................ ................................ ................................ 150


13 Interview sample and sampling method ................................ ................... 154 Interview sc hedule ................................ ................................ ................... 155 Data Analysis ................................ ................................ ................................ 158 Themes, categories, and codes ................................ ............................... 159 F rom data to theory ................................ ................................ .................. 164 Writing the Final Report ................................ ................................ .................. 165 Role of the Ethnographer ................................ ................................ ............... 167 Objectivity ................................ ................................ ................................ 168 Validity and Replicability ................................ ................................ ................. 169 Ethics and Confidentiality ................................ ................................ ............... 171 Research Dates ................................ ................................ .............................. 174 4 SOCIAL WORK AS A PERSONAL PROFESSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 175 Person al Experience and Social Work ................................ ................................ .. 186 ................................ ................................ .......................... 186 ................................ ........................ 188 ................................ ................................ .............. 192 ................................ ................................ ................................ 195 Noreen: Child of the 1960s ................................ ................................ ............. 197 ................................ ................................ .......................... 202 ................................ .............................. 208 Cultural Heritage ................................ ................................ 210 ................................ ................................ ......................... 214 ................................ .................. 217 ................................ ..................... 220 ................................ ................................ ................. 222 ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 223 ................................ .......... 225 I Want to Change the World ................................ ................................ .................. 238 The Influence of Privilege ................................ ................................ ..................... 241 ................................ ................................ ........................ 245 Program Influence ................................ ................................ ................................ 250 5 VALUES ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 266 The Role Of Bad Choices And Deviant Values ................................ ..................... 269 ................................ ................................ .............................. 312 The Rare Structurally Oriented Worldview ................................ ............................ 327 6 SYMBOLIC STRUGGLES ................................ ................................ .................... 330 The U.S. is a Meritocracy ................................ ................................ ...................... 330 ................................ ................................ ..................... 332 Deserving Chil dren, Undeserving Adults ................................ ........................ 350


14 Competition over Equality ................................ ................................ ..................... 353 Setting Themselves Apart ................................ ................................ ..................... 362 The Stigma of Welfare ................................ ................................ .................... 369 Regulating The Poor ................................ ................................ ............................. 372 Work Requirements ................................ ................................ ........................ 372 ................................ ................................ 375 Drug Testing the Poor ................................ ................................ .................... 383 Welfare Morality ................................ ................................ ................................ .... 391 Welfare is Wrong ................................ ................................ ............................ 392 Welfare Dependency ................................ ................................ ...................... 393 Personal Responsibility and Sel f Sufficiency ................................ .................. 397 Why Would I Need Welfare? ................................ ................................ .......... 402 Welfare as Last Resort ................................ ................................ ................... 404 Government Waste and Stealing Middle Class Money ................................ .. 405 ................................ ................................ ..................... 409 No Handouts! ................................ ................................ ................................ 410 ................................ ................................ ..... 411 Poverty = Homelessness ................................ ................................ ...................... 412 7 FURTHER DISCUSSION AN D CONCLUSION ................................ .................... 414 Compassionate Individualism ................................ ................................ ............... 419 ................................ ............... 421 Fixing Individual Deficiencies ................................ ................................ ......... 426 The Invisible, Normative Social Structure ................................ ....................... 427 Questioning W elfare ................................ ................................ ....................... 436 The Considerable Influence of Privilege ................................ ......................... 43 8 Welfare Morality and Regulating the Poor ................................ ...................... 441 Utopia of endless opportunities ................................ ................................ 443 Do poor women deserve to have children? ................................ .............. 445 The assumpti on of immorality and drug use ................................ ............ 446 Logical Inconsistencies ................................ ................................ ................... 447 Explaining the Prevalence of Compassionate Individualism ................................ 448 Implications ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 454 Limitations and Future Research ................................ ................................ .......... 457 APPENDIX A IRB F ORMS/INFORMED CONSENT FORMS ................................ ..................... 460 B INTERVIEW GUIDE/SCHEDULE ................................ ................................ ......... 469 LIST OF REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ............................. 470 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ................................ ................................ .......................... 481


15 LIST OF TABLES Table page 5 1 Responses to the Interview Question Asking Students to Rank Thr ee Major Poverty Perspectives in Terms of Highest and Lowest Level of Agreement. ................................ ................................ ............................ 268


16 LIST OF FIGURES Figure page 2 1 ptual Model for Institutionalized Power Relations Theory ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 83 4 1 Program and Resulting Impact on Poverty/Inequality Wor ldviews ......... 177




18 Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy COMPASSIONATE INDIVIDUALISM: SYMBOLIC STRUGGLES IN AN AMERICAN HELPING PROFESSION By Lawrence Michael Eppard August 2013 Chair: Constance Shehan Major: Sociolo gy This dissertation examines the worldviews of social work students and how they either reinforce or challenge existing American cultural assumptions about povert y, inequality, and w elfare. It also examines the factors which shape these worldviews, inclu ding highly individualistic American cultural assumptions Social work students were chosen because they typically perceive themselves as opposit ional to many of these assumptions, and thus provide a unique insight into the power of American culture. This study was framed by the work of Antoni o Gramsci, Louis Althusser, Pierre Bourdieu, Ma David Brady and others T he impetus for this study wa s the notion that many social problems are socially constructed and as much a result of the way we think about them as they are about individual characteristics or actions. When individual level characteristics and actions are considered, they need to be analyzed in terms of their relationship to the social structure. Despite this, t he public and social scientists have largely focus ed on the individual, likely due to the influence of American cultural assumptions that support the individualism perspective ; as a result,


19 welfare policy has reflected this micro level focus. This study examines th e effect of these individualistic cultural assumptions on peopl e pursuing a helping profession. The study findings are based on an ethnographic study in a U.S. BSW program consisting of eight mo nths of field work 25 interviews with students, and document a nalysis of course materials. The findings suggest that, even in a somewhat structurally minded field such as social work, highly individualistic American cultural assumptions are mediated through personal experiences, family upbrin ging, and s studies to produc ost BSW stu dents who graduate from MAU have individualistically oriented worldviews supporting common American cultural assumptions about poverty, inequality, and welfare, albeit i n a somewhat typically expressed by the dominant culture. This suggests that the influence of American culture is very strong for all people across all fields, and that cultural assumptions and social scientific knowledge abo ut these social issues need to be more structurally inclusive before these social problems can be solved. We cannot create what we cannot first imagine.


20 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION Social institutions and the individuals of which they are constituted d o not exist outside of or disconnected from society and culture. Despite many American cultural beliefs about the independence and freedom of the individual, we are never completely free from social forces. S ociologi cal research and theory support the noti on s that (a) individual characteristics, actions, motivations, etc., all have important relationships to social institutions and structure s, relationships that can be at least somewhat deterministic i n our life chances and outcomes, and that (b) to underst and individual level actions/choices we must also understand their relationship to the social structure. This reality is not always apparent to many individuals, as is evident in much of the rhetoric concerning particula r institutions. T he educational syst em, for instance, is an institution which y et the field of sociology and other social science disciplines have provided a wealth of studies rendering this assumption highly questionable and problematic. Another such institution is the social welfare system, which despite many motivated individuals seeking social justice, tends to reflect many cul tural assumptions about poverty and inequality Institutions and individuals exist within soc ieties and cultures and thus tend to reflect their hierarchies and assumptions. This does not mean that hegemonic culture is monoli thic and unchanging; t here is certainly considerable resistance at any given historical moment to dominant modes of thought, and history is full of periods of social change. Dominant modes of thought tend to persist, however, and they tend to be mediated and altered in the short term rather than completely repudiated by social institutions.


21 I developed this study to examine a g roup of individuals who are likely highly students. I chose them specifically because, through self selection into their academic major, it would seem like they might be mor e likely to resist and challenge dominant modes of thought concerning poverty and inequality than students pursuing other fields. As stated previously however, no institutions or individuals exist outside of or disconnected from socie ty and culture. This study examine d this supposition and found significant support for the notion that American cultural assumptions play a significant role in influencing the poverty/inequality wor ldviews of social work students. Students in a Bachelors of Social Work (BSW) program are at the intersection of many competing and possibly contradictory concerns and worldviews: their own individual concerns about welfare and social justice (which likely prompted the ir selection of academic major), American cultura l assumptions ab out poverty, inequality, and welfare, the perspectives of the academic social wor k field in a university setting, moving into a career in which th ey will impact individual lives, and the explicit and implicit goals contained within social welfare policy at the federal and state levels and how these are mediated through the goals and institutional culture of an individual soc ial welfare office. How do the beliefs of BSW students (and the degree to which these reflect American cultural assumptions ), their edu cational training, and policy and institutional constraints affect their ideas about pover ty and the poor? Through conversations with BSW students, observations of classroom interactions, as well as document analysis of course materials, I aim ed to provide a rich and nuanced ethnographic account of this intersection. At the conclusion of this project I


22 felt that I had come to a better understanding of how resilient individualistic American cultural assumptions are even in a field that might be traditionally perceived as a challenge to the status quo. Once individualistically oriented American cultural assumptions were mediated through the personal experiences, family upbringing, and college studies of BSW students students tended to espouse a worldview base d on that was slightly different than the dominant form of individualism in the U.S. ; this worldview largely reproduced many of the individualistically oriented American cultural assumptions concerning poverty, inequality, and welfare, although these assumptions were framed in a much more compassionate and somewhat less demeaning manner than might be encountered in dominant American culture. The followin g chapter is a review of relevant theoretical ideas and empirical literat ure that framed the development of this project and contributed to my initial understanding of this topic as well as the methods utilized to conduct this study.


23 CHAPTER 2 THEORETICAL TOOLBOX AND LITERATURE REVIEW proach to the theoretical framework. What I mean by this is that, rather than adopting one particular sociological paradigm or multiple theorists and perspectives th at I think contribute to our understanding of the phenomenon in question. In doing so, I have chosen not to test a particular theory or support a particular perspective, but to examine my research questions with these help ed me to understand what has been done before and they offer ed some insight into important aspects of the social world in question that I may have want ed to examine. These concepts help ed orient the basic framework of the proje ct in a particular direction, yet the toolbox mentality also left the project open to new and unfore seen avenues of inquiry. This was a qualitative study that relied on an inductive ethnographic method, so the work of these theorists and scholars helped or ient the project and define a tentative starting point from which to build this study and help lead to inductive data and conclusions. Of particular relevance to this project were selected ideas, arguments, and theoretical concepts of Antonio Gramsci, Lo uis Althusser, P ierre Bourdieu, Noam Chomsky, and David Brady.


24 Theoretical Toolbox Antonio Gramsci refers to the role of dominant culture in maintaining the status quo and its social hierarchies in a given society through civil society institutions (including families, the educational system the media, the church, etc.). Hegemonic culture presents a particular version of reality, one that serves power and which is diffused throughout society by such civil institutions as schools and media institutions (among others). The perpetuation of hegemonic ideologies through civil society is particularly effective because it comes to be seen as objective truth (ignoring the role of power in the social construc tion of knowledge); thus rather than the less effective method of coercion 1 (force). Maintaining class differences cannot be achieved by force alone, it must be largely achieved through the manipulation of what people think, thus creating justifications of domination that are inte rnalized by all social classes. Gramsci argued that through socialization within myriad institutions, oppressed people internalize ideologies th at maintain and reproduce their own oppression and domination and come to see this domination as natural, inevitable and socially just; in fact, many ideas that function to dominate whole groups of people are hese ideologies may not be completely 1 to have shifted markedly away from the overt use of for ce. Governments cannot coerce their opponents without risking a severe loss of ideological credibility. A successful hegemonic formation will be one in n govern himself without his self 52, with a quote from Gramsci 1971:268).


25 false and may contain some truth 2 but the end result of this mixture of facts and myths is the continued domination of marginalized groups in society. ruling power that asks for consent and yet which cannot give voice to the aspirations of organization and its justifications have to seem natural and like common sense and people have to f eel invested in its legiti macy for social hierarchies to persist. The concept of hegemony refers to intellectual leadership in social life by diffusing one 116). volatile demands of its subalterns to maintain their power (Jones 2006:48). Eagleton notes that: It is preferable on the whole for power to remain conveniently invisible, disseminated throug custom, habit, spontaneous practice. Once power nakedly reveals its hand, it can become an object of political contestation. Dominant power is subtly, pervasively diffused throughout habitual da ily practices, our experience from nursery school to funeral parlour 2007:114 116) se 2 we conception of the world. Simply in order to be ruled, a person must actively participate in a particular


26 defeat oppressive ideologies, we would have to purge them from the minds of the very people who willfully accept their own oppression. Successful hegemonic rule occurs when people govern themselves through their own thoughts, which seem to come from their own logic and also seem completely natural. Jones explains further how the status qu o becomes so natural and desirable in our minds in modern democracies : Why, might we ask, do people accept the leadership of others?. One answer to this is that hegemony is not simply a question of meanings and values; it also takes economic, material and legal political forms. A ruling power that ensures that its subordinates have enough to eat, are in paid employment and have adequate access to healthcare, childcare and holidays has gone a long way towards winning their hearts and minds. Equally, parl iamentary democracies appear to grant subordinate people a good degree of legal political autonomy through granting them various rights and through allowing them to vote, to regularly change their government and to stand for election themselves (Jones 200 6:48) (and his ideas about how society might be changed) is because culture appears to f authority and everyday life. What takes place in our homes, in our leisure activities, or in ones 2006:48). To truly o verhaul the social order people need to be convinced that they are being unjustly controlled; the power of culture to legitimate social hierarchies and maintain the control of the elites is grounded in the fact that it is not seen as controlling people at all. Culture appears organic and disinterested and it is difficult for the average citizen to see who has disproportionate control over culture and how this maintains certain power relationships. ence a blinding


27 conversion to an idea it is often already deeply enmeshed in the structure of their lived Most revolutions, especially those in advanced capitalist they have to be won through the symbolic meaning that we give to our existence through culture. Gramsci practices and institutions which guard against internal disintegration and make Civil society, or (the political parties, the church, the schools, the media, families, etc.) is conn ected to the economy and those in power and reproduces that power, but this is not obvious to the naked eye of the commo n citizen. Our everyday existence is situated in civil society and thus these structures become our everyday life and common sense it becomes increasingly (Jones 2006:32). Ideas and values that develop out of power relationships are thus reproduced in private everyday life and therefore seem co mpletely natural, desirable unchangeable, etc. inter 2006:34) reinforcing economic organization and the interests of the elites; the economy vel assumed to be the primary level Because we learn in school (from respected teachers and professors who appear veloped and orchestrated (and are actually quite problematic), we may not question the social structure even if we find ourselves at the


28 bottom looking up. If we believe, for instance, that poverty is mostly the result of individual failings (as most Ameri cans do), we may not fault the social structure when we find ourselves impoverished; instead, we may ask ourselves what we did to get ourselves into poverty, and what we need to do as individuals to get ourselves out. Combatting poverty, inequality, and ot her social problems becomes a matter of combatting much of our common sense understanding s of the world with ideas that seem alien to us; without combatting this internalized and oppressive common sense, however, we unwittingly reproduce socially unjust so cial hierarchies regardless of our own position on the social ladder. Louis Althusser Louis Althusser made a substantial contribution to the adaptation and expansion of the Marxist conceptualization of ideology, most notably in his book For Marx (1969) Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (1971). In For Marx ( 1969) Althusser defines (images, myths, ideas or concepts, depending on the case) endowed with a historical 232). Althusser would later develop his version of ideology fur ther in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (1971), arguing that ideology (Althusser 1971:162). Althusser believes that we are immersed in ideological environmen ts at all times, from the family to schools to mass media, and are constantly bombarded with ideolog ical ideas and assumptions. These assumptions help us to understand and interpret the world and motivate our actions. W hile it is certainly the


29 case that id eology often functions to legitimate domination and oppression, all people not maint ain with its own ideology, which is the ruling ideology, an external and lucid Dominated groups in society internalize hegemonic ideologies and thus consent to their domination just as the elite and powerful in society internalize ideologies and discourses that legitimate and justify their privileged positions. While all social classes may produce their own class specific ideologies, even these (while qualitatively different in many ways) usually justify dominant ideologies and discourses in some manner as well. This interlocking system of ideologies legitimates and perpetuates inequality and domination, 1990:30). Althusser goes on in For Marx to argue that ideolog ies are unconsciously them (Althusser 1969:69). Because so many ideas and discourses are present in every social setting at all times, we are constantly immersed in an ideological social world, and we never take the time (nor could we) to stop and consider the validity of each idea or set of ideas (there are simply too many, we would be consumed in perpetual contemplation many


30 simply have to pass without evaluation so that we can act and live and interpret the world around us at a desirable speed). A great deal o f ideology goes unquestioned. Althusser usually images and occasionally concepts, but it is above all as stru ctures that they accepted suffered cultural objects that act functionally on men via a process that between people, (Althusser 1969:78). The real conditions of existence, or the physical reality existing on Earth that has yet to be given symbolic meaning, passes throug h and always takes on the symbolic, ideological nature that is attached to it; because of this, we perceive that we are living out that symbolic relationship, not the more basic real world relationship that actually exists see the ideology rather than the real conditions of existence before they are given ideological symbolism) Althusser argues not to say that our perceptions are completely false, but a dist and is changed in some manner because it has to be given meaning to make sense to us


31 Although ideology may seem to some like a purely symbolic phenomenon that exists only in our minds, Althusser argues that id eology has a material existence; ideologies become institutionalized in the everyday practices of institutions to the point where they precede individuals ent ering those institutions and influence them once they enter (Althusser 1971:165 166). We do not enter every institution in our world and construct them from scratch. We may make some changes and alterations, but certain everyday practices, discourses, and take for granted assumptions are institutionalized before we arrived, and strongly influence how we act once we get there, even if we easy to identify the fact that many apparatuses and their practices exist before we do). by material rituals which are themselves defined by the material ideological apparatus from which derive the ideas ideas to be our own, but they existed before we arrived and now that we are here within these institutions (or apparatuses) they govern our actions and perceptions. Althusser argues that ideologi Althusser argues that ideology interpellates individuals (Althusser 1971:170 186) both (a) as subjects, helping them to believe that the y alone are responsible for the production and genesis of their thoughts, beliefs, and actions, and (b) as being o fit into the existing social order (Althusser 1971:181). The idea that individuals exist and can act in complete freedom


32 from social forces and express their individual agency is the very idea of being a subject, which is in itself ideological, and resul hailing the individual (Althusser 1971:173 manner interpellation (Althusser 1971:174). Ideology contains ideas about the nature of subjects, ideas that exist before we are even born. O nce we are born and enter society we are acknowledged as subjects by the ideology of the subject present i n society, and accept that identity and act out o ur lives as if we are subjects. The very idea of subjects and freedom is created through ideology and imposed on individuals upon birth, thus helping us to ignore/misrecognize/fail to see the vast and powerful social force s shaping all aspects of our lives. In fact, to truly understand a particular (such as welfare), we might look no further than the most powerful ideology of them all: that of the subject. Alt husser believes that science holds the key to unlocking the true nature of our physical relationships, which we symbolically misrecognize due to ideology. Althusser believes that ideology is different from science because its practical function is of great er importance than its theoretical function (Althusser 1969:231). I find Althusser incredibly useful in understanding the role of institutions in perpetua ting dominant ideologies, but his differentiation between science ( which supposedly provide account of the world) and ideology ( which does not ) is problematic in many ways Other theorists and scholars have (I believe more accurately) made the argument that


33 ideologies inform knowledge production at all levels 3 including what might be considered strictly scientific knowledge (even if this form of knowledge is less ideological it is still informed as such in some manner by the individuals constructing it as science). Nevertheless, I believe Althusser makes a critical contribution to the understandi ng of the role of institutio ns in maintaining hegemony; I do not believe this particular weakness detracts from some of his other very strong contributions as this particular supposition is not foundational to those other theoretical claims (rather, it is a method through which he wishes to combat ideology, through science). Althusser explores the institutions (or apparatuses) that help to institutionalize the ideologies that maintain the s tatus quo, reproduce the capitalist relations of production, and ensure the consent of the dominated classes to their own domination. There are two types of apparatuses that Althusser is concerned with in this essay: the Repressive State Apparatus (RSA), a n d Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs). The RSA consists of the government, the administration, the army, the police, the courts, the prisons, etc. (Althusser 1971:142 ers by capitalists, enabling owners of (Althusser 1971:137), which is one of the primary methods for maintaining economic domination within society. The state primarily functions by violence and repression (although does not always need to do so and can employ ideological means), and 3 Steven B. Smith articulates this argument further, arguing that detaching science from human interests being humans, researchers cannot choose to be without values and interests.


34 reserves to itself the right to use violence in the interest of maintaining the preferred social order. The ISAs include religious institut ions, the educational system, the family, the legal system (considered both an RSA and an ISA), political parties, trade unions, mass media, and culture (Althusser 1971:143). As the name suggests, ISAs function primarily by ideology (although violence is s ometimes used as a secondary function). The ideology of these different ISAs is unified despite some inconsistencies and (Althusser 1971:146). The ISAs contribute to the reproduction of the capitalist order in many ways: the political system by inculcating the justifications for the methods of g overnance (democratic ideology), mass media by bombarding citizens daily with messages infused with capitalist economic ideol ogies, such as pat riotism, sexism, moralism, etc., the cultural apparatus through similar messages concerning nationalism and sexi sm (think football in the U.S.), etc. (Althusser 1971:154). The ruling class has control over the RSA and ISAs (although th is control of the ISAs is not as strong as the control over the RSA), and cannot hold power for a long period of time without winning hegemony over and inside of the ISAs (Althusser 1971:146). Althusser allows for social change in acknowledging that the do minated classes can occupy positions in the ISAs and create sites of class struggle, develop and utilize counterhegemonic ideologies, and spur some social change. It is just the case that the ruling class usually maintains its hegemonic ideological dominan ce within ISAs despite some brief periods of upheaval.


35 Unlike in pre capitalist societies where the church was the dominant ISA, the educational system (or educational ISA) is the dominant ISA in modern capitalist societies (working hand in hand with the family ISA). While children spend a great deal of time interacting with their families, they also spend a considerable amount of time inside of the school building listening to teachers. This inculcation occurs at a time when children are most vu lnerable a nd some of their life long dispositions are being formed and may harden permanently; the ruling class knows this, and is eager to inculcate this vulnerable audience who are obliged by law to attend. Schools instill both the skills needed by capitalist worke rs and the belief system that reinforces this mode of relationships are perpetuated (Althusser 1971:156). The educational system teaches for the established div The reproduction of labour power requires not only a reproduction of its skills, but also, at the same time, a reproduction of its submission to the rules of the established order. the ruling ideology for the workers, and a reproduction of the ability to manipulate the ruling ideology correctly for the agents of exploitation and repression, so that they, too, will provide for the domination of 133) able to achiev e this and hide the manner in which they perpetuate class domination with remarkable success because our discourse defines the school as a neutral setting,


36 devoid of ideology, where merit rules and the best, brightest, and most highly motivated succeed. Th is is not necessarily because teachers know explicitly that they are tools of the ruling class, but because they too are embedded in the system of ideology and institutionalized ideological practices that every other individual and institution is embedded within: our society, our culture (Althusser 1971:157). Like every other individual in every other institution who is bombarded with and internalizes ideologies (inculc ation of hegemonic ideologies) (Althusser 1971:157). The practices of the school seem as natural as the practices of the church did centuries before. Pierre Bourdieu development o f this project. One very important idea from t his work is concept of symbolic violence (see Bourdieu 1991 and 1998, and Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992 for more detailed explanations of this concept). Symbolic violence refers to a type of violence th at is done to human beings through the manner in which society is organized. Although different than physical violence, symbolic violence is still as powerful (if not more powerful) than physical violence, according to Bourdieu, ve, and (in some instances) more brutal, means of convince people that domination, oppression and inequality are natural, organically/spontaneously formed, inevitable, an d/or justified, instead of the reality which is that they are the result of deliberate human actions. The result of sym bolic violence is that socially orchestrated domination, oppression, and inequality are instead perceived by the population at large (inc luding the oppressed) as the natural result of


37 the actions of the oppressed individuals rather than the structure of society; through symbolic violence, a complex system of power and domination is misrecognized as a largely meritocratic social order where individuals are responsible for their position in the social hierarchy. Bourdieu asserts that a person cannot objectively analyze the world because they have internalized the assumptions and logic of the world in which they live, coming to a strong belief vision of the social world and o f the world. too well, without objectifying distance, takes it for granted, precisely beca use he is caught up in it; he inhabits it like a garment. he feels at home in the 143). Individuals (from all social classes) internalize the categories and rational izations of the world around them that justify and legitimate domination and inequality, categories and rationalizations that benefit those in power. These categories and rationalizations influence how everyone in society interprets the world, and while th ere is certainly some class specific understanding, many of the major explanations of the world (such as Western economics) overlap all social classes and influence their (Bourdieu 1977:190). In the process of internalizing these justifications, social organization becomes perfectly legitimate to dominated individuals, because the social struct ure seems justified by their own internalized logic and beliefs. In this way domination is maintained because we support that domination through our distorted


38 somethi 1992:115). Impoverished individuals in society consent to their own domination, not because they enjoy domination, but because their own common sense understanding of the world legitimates the social structure and justifies their oppression. An impoverished individual in American society may be the victim of massive social forces that shape their expe rience and position in the social structure, yet misrecognize their position as meritocratic and simply the result of personal failings. Inequality that might be otherwise recognized as unjust social organization and the result of imbalances of power is mi srecognized and reproduced from one generation to the next, maintaining an unequal and unjust status quo. Many institutions in society commit symbolic violence and help construct the misrecognized social world. A misrecognized social world is one in which social divisions are not seen as being the result of the influence of power, but seen as the result of some natural, disinterested process. Our educational system is one pertinent example: the manner in which the educational system is organized privileges middle and upper class students over lower class students. Yet we are convinced by schools and myriad other institutions, such as families, churches, media, government, etc., that these institutions and society at large are meritocratic; this belief mask s the fact that, according to Bourdieu, all institutions in society both reflect the larger stratified social order and help to perpetuate it. In fact, almost all social institutions act in this manner, masking oppression and inequality and convincing us t hat our place in the social order


39 is largely earned and based mostly upon our own effort. Bourdieu asserts that, habitus of the dominated and the structure of the relatio n of domination to which they apply: the dominated perceive the dominant through the categories that the relation of Bourdieu argues that the dominant groups in society are able, at least in part, to successfully ensure that dominated groups in society view their domination in terms favorable to the dominant group. Because of this, (while there are certainly class spec ific beliefs and attitudes) there is considerable overlap between all social classes in terms of what they consider and middle class individuals espouse common sense interpretations that justify their own domination. The logic of capitalism and Western economics, for instance, becomes embedded in our culture to the point where its legitimacy is unquestioned, and the manner in which it rationalizes and naturalizes inequality and oppression is unquestioned, even championed, by those in positions of little power in society. Bourdieu does not frame symbolic violence in the same manner that Marx does with the concept of false consciousness, as Bourdieu allows for ample amounts of resistance and inconsistencies across the social order wh ich play out in various fields. The end result, however, is somewhat consistent with Marx: those in positions of power society. The manner in which people interpret the w orld is partially their own, but is also influenced in a significant manner by people who have the power to shape the


40 knowledge of a given culture. Because of this, middle and lower class people may internalize justifications and rationalizations about an unequal social order even to the extent that those explanations might serve the interests of people who have a considerable amount of power over them. As Bourdieu notes, symbolic violence is the and Wacquant 1992:167). A misrecognized social order is the result of countless social institutions committing symbolic violence to help obscure and distort the production, maintenance, and reproduction of inequality and dominati on in society; this study focuses on the one might assume that social work programs and social welfare institutions both reflect the stratified social order and he lp to maintain and perpetuate it. The reason that these institutions are unique is due to the unique manner in which poor individuals interact with them. Social welfare institutions provide help to poor individuals, but also attempt to regulate their behav influence how the poor think about themselves, contributing to their misrecognition of a deeply unequal and opp ressive social order. Throughout much of this project, I will often the manner in which Bourdieu uses the term field is a helpful tool. Summarizing his field forces within which agents occupy positions that statistically determine the positions they take with respect to the field, this position taking being aimed either at conserving or transforming the structure of


41 field of television as an example, Bourdieu asserts that television is al space, a fi It [the field of television] contains people who dominate and people who are dominated. Constant, permanent relationships of inequality operate inside this space, which at the same time becomes a spa ce in which various actors struggle for the transformation or preservation of the field. All the individuals in this universe bring to the competition all the (relative) power at their disposal. It is this power that defines their position in the field, an d as a result, their strategies. (Bourdieu 1998:40 41) imposition of the legitimate vision of the social world. they are the site of internal struggles for th rules that different social actors (who also bring with them into the field their individual d ispositions) follow in competition with one another for power and control using their accumulated capital (cultural, economic, social, and symbolic). The rules in a particular rules, often ignoring that they are socially constructed. In the social welfare field, there are countless social actors, each occupying a particular posi tion and adhering to the rules of that field and strategizing for power and control in an ever high probability that there are many different ideologies present in the field at one time (and within the one institution, or subfield, being studied at a given time the institution being studied is a separate social space within the larger field of social welfare). The


42 argument in this project is not that everybody within this field holds the same beliefs about poverty, but that these ideas exist at different points in the social space of the field, and the ideas that exist more predominantly in positions of power and/or in the social space may matter more for ideological outcomes. So if, for instance, most of the members of this BSW program believe that individuals cause their own poverty through their individual failings, and that belief is strongest in the positions within that social space that affect the ideological outcomes the most, then that particular ideology will matter more in terms of the worldviews which those students leave their program with It may not matter if there is considerable resistance if the ideological culture of the social space they are interacting in is stacked against them. How this works in reality is one of the main goals of this research: what is the ideology at different points in the social space of a BSW program ? What is the overall ideological culture, and what are the dominant political and economic mes sages being received by students? Where are their worldviews coming from? understanding the taken for granted assumptions in a given program or institution (such as a BSW prog concept fundamental beliefs which does not even need to be asserted in the form of an explicit, self by a large group of people within a field and shapes the manner in which we interpret the world; it restricts the manner in which we are able to interpret the world, creating very limited un derstanding based upon narrowly defined preconceived categories which are viewe d as l egitimate. What results is conventional wisdom and unquestioned


43 manner in which we interpret the world very narrowly as to maintain specific perspectives and rule out countless possible alternative perspectives. This is u seful when thinking of the field of social welfare, which incorporates unquestioned beliefs from the larger culture into the culture of social welfare, which also has its own set of beliefs and practices. One important goal of this project is to understand how individual preferences, culture, and federal and state welfare policy are meditated through the doxa of a BSW program. social hierarchy influences our perceptions, attitu des, practice and experiences; the social classes are socialized and inculcated in such manner as to lead them to act out their social class position, helping to perpetuate the class system. Furthermore, it is not only our attitudes and perceptions that are influenced, but our bodies as wel l; we also come to embody our social class positions. People have a significant amount of individual agency, but their actions and perceptions must also be understood by their position in the social hierarchy and how that influences their perspective. Our habitus influences much of the makes possible the free production of all thoughts, perc eptions and actions inherent in


44 If we think of the social structure as geographic space, being positioned at a different point in geographic space presents the viewer with a completely different view of the world; for instance, if two individuals are standing at different points in the same classroom, and are facing in different directions, their perception an d experience will be different and highly dependent on where they are standing in that room and which from which they are taken, since the vision that every agent has of space depends on any contexts (culture, BSW programs, welfare policy, etc.), but individual beliefs are important as well and habitus thus becomes an important concept. Empirical studies reveal that early childhood experiences have a profound and often disproportionate i mpact on long term dispositions, life chances and outcomes something Bourdie u incorporates into his theor etical work Bourdieu argues that a n selection it makes within new i nformation by rejecting information capable of calling into 61). Bourdieu goes on to note that might be frequented, th e habitus tends to protect itself from crises and critical challenges by providing itself with a milieu to which it is as pre adapted as possible, that (Bourdieu 1990b: 60 61). Bourdieu argued that countless social classes existed in a given society based


45 and powers u 1984:114). Although each form of capital is different, they can each be converted into other forms of capital (having a large amount of cultural capital, for instance, can help (Bourdieu 1990a:252), and consists of economic assets, such as wealth and property. Cultural capital consists of both formal competence (such as educational credentials), and informal cultural competence (tastes, habits, knowledge, etc.), w ith the upper class legitimizing their cultural competencies as superior and more worthy of social rewards. These competencies can be employed in different social interactions to gain an advantage (or face disadvantage). Specific types of cultural competen cy are rewarded in society, and our level of cultural competency is inherited from our parents. Social capital refers to social network connections and the opportunities that they afford. In the U.S., many job opportunities are gained through these types o f connections, underscoring the importance of social capital. capital, he theorizes other forms of capital that are also important in understanding society. One such form of ca pital is symbolic capital. Symbolic capital concerns a We can use as an example the question of where we look for experts on matters of economics. When large media institutions are reporting on economic issues, their journalists are not often experts in the field of economics, so they may seek commentary from people who are perceived to be experts, such as economi sts, who possess a large amount of symbolic


46 capital regarding issues of the economy. Their opinions are of course highly subjective and require a large amount of interpretation of data, but by virtue of their symbolic capital they are often given legitimac y on these issues. This is helpful when evaluating the ideological culture of a social institution addressing an economic issue such as poverty. A BSW program is preparing their students to deal with impoverished individuals, and they depend upon the analy ses of experts to help mold the perspectives of their students who will eventually be in the field. During interviews I asked students which expert opinions they respect ed in regards to poverty, and the role of symbo lic capital in this evaluation wa s criti cal. In my later discussion of Noam Chomsky and his criticism of modern economics, it is unclear whether these expert opinions represent objective reality or whether they serve power under the guise of by people who possess symbolic capital (and thus earn the trust of the public and justify otherwise unjustifiable domination). The concept of symbolic capital is very helpful in understanding how inequality is reproduced, highlighting whose opinions get he ard in the different sciences, for instance (such as the disproportionate value of economic insights from economists versus those of sociologists). Bourdieu wrote extensively about the role of education in modern society and argued that the educational s ystem is the principle stratifying force in modern society, contribution made by the educati onal system to the reproduction of the structure of


47 1973:71). The main functions of the school system are to conserve, inculcate, and consecrate the dominate culture in a give n society, and to reproduce and legitimate existing inequality through the maintenance of class relations (although the reproduction and legitimation of the class system is misrecognized as meritocratic and based on the efforts of free individuals). The sc One of the most important forms of capital according to Bourdieu, cultural capital, is both produced and transmitted by educational institutions and this importance is supported by substantial empirical correlations between social class and educational outcom es (and labor market outcomes). Bourdieu argues that the school system, to a large extent, simply perpetuates the existing social order and maintains differences in cultural capital that children inherit from their parents. He argues that the acceptable knowledge, that is types of knowledge and the categories and classifications through which we interpret the world, a re socialized into the minds of children through the school system. While Bourdieu does highlight the role of individual agency in much of his theoretical work, it is clear that many of these categories and classifications are influenced and shaped by thos e in power, and serve their interests. among other things, the economic and social level of the family 1984:105). Here he emphasizes the manner in which s ocial class differences are maintained and perpetua ted by the educational system, a system which is misrecognized as a meritocratic institution. This is done in large part due to the transmission of differential levels of cultural capital from parents to c hildren, and the


48 manner in which schools reward the accumulation of specific types of cultural capital. Bourdieu theorized that educational institutions, like many other institutions in society, reflect the social hierarchy and maintain it, contrary to the American narrative that Bourdieu goes on to expand upon how the educational syst em is misrecognize d as meritocratic, arguing that: [ Educational institutions perpetuate ] the preexisting social order, that is, the gap between pupils endowed with unequal amounts of cultural capital. More precisely, by a series of selection operations, th e system separates holders of inherited cultural capital from those who lack it. Differences of aptitude being inseparable from social differences according to inherited capital, the system thus tends to maintain preexisting social differences. (Bourdieu 1 998:20) modern economics, neoliberalism, and what he believes to be the myth of globalizati on, Bourdieu identifies some of the theories and ideas that justify modern power and domination; he is particularly critical of the field of economic s for providing justification for market capitalism) around the world, es that significant amount of destruction and oppression, according to Bourdieu, by legiti mizing


49 reality or rationalization giving reasons to justify things that are often unj ustifiable has now Bourdieu primary goal of neoliberalism, according to Bourdieu, is to destroy the social welfare safeguards the interests of the dominated, the culturally and economically w negatively associated with people attempting to promote the interests of the social), Bourdieu ical iberal economic theory as ideology rather than science, ideology


50 as of and society have been discovered and nothing is logically left for us to d o but obviously to adhere to them. In contemporary Western societies, such as the U.S., neoliberalism esenting itself as self evident presuppositions of conservative thought of all times and all countri es in economic Neoliberalism has gradually been inculcated in the public mind in Western societies like the U.S., Britain, and France, through the work of intellectuals, journalists, businessmen, and politicians, to the point where its assumptions are taken for granted (Bourdieu 2010:108 glorifies the reign of what are called the financial markets, in other words the return of a kind of radical capitalism, with no other law than that of maximum profi t, an unfettered tyranny of the market and the undisputed rule of the economy and of economic powers, against the gain


51 capitalists implement policies that they have always dreamed of, including: nightwork, weekend work, irregular work hours, and less secure jobs (Bourdieu 2010:112,153). Bourdieu argu Thatcher and Reagan was not a revolution but a restoration of powerful groups in tive consequences of globalization (which capitalists justify through of modernity (technological advances, for instance) that have allowed capitalists to pit workers against each other on a global scale. Globalization and the race to the bottom with wages is not inevitable; it has always been the dream of capitalists, with the implementation being realized through technological advances. Like many of the theorists an d scholars that I discuss, Bourdieu is critical of mass media institutions. The field of journalism, according to Bourdieu, tries to present itself as objective and apart from society, but he maintains that it is influenced by the social order like every o 1998b:73). Those economic and political powers, at the expense of those intent on defending the other news organiz ations deem a story newsworthy, conformity ensues as countless media outlets attempt to gain their share of the economic market.


52 Journalists are also beholden to their bosses, and journalists censor themselves and present a particular view of the world ac cording to what they deem acceptable to themselves enough to realize, without direct decree from thei r bosses, what the boundaries are of acceptable journalism (in terms of which stories to report, how to frame those stories, what acceptable frames of interpretation are, etc.); they are wise enough because of self job. The narrow range of acceptable positions presented in the media hardly represent every possible alternative, but represent the range that is acceptable to those in power (and this very narrow range is falsely celebrated as a free debate of ideas). B particular of thinka ble thought, Bourdieu argues that major media institutions decide what is news and the bounds within which different news items are to be talked about and thought formid


53 Noam Chomsky different institutions (such as government, the media, the educational system, etc.) in influencing discourse and ideologies, as well as in the maintenance of inequality and domination. Through a complex process that Chomsky explores at great length, myriad institutions shape the messages we receive and the things that we think, leading to a 1987:128). Powerful interests do not need to tell people what to think when so many institutions socialize citizens from a very early age to adopt ideas that legitimize those in power; Chomsky not believe and convince themsel ves that it was the right thing to do, which is extremely from which you look at the world. (Barsamian and Chomsky 2001:166). Chomsky argues that business interests in the U.S. control the dominant ideology, and h ave been very successful through propaganda (Chomsky 1994b:41). becomes necessary to rely (Chomsky 1999:44). Chomsky asserts that the powerful classes in all societies exert a


54 disproportionate and illegitimate amount of control over the population, in democratic and nondemocratic societ ies alike the difference is in the methods of control. In modern democratic societies like the U.S., then, what people think must be controlled and manipulated through consent instead of force. Chomsky asserts that in modern ation must be excluded entirely from the economic Whatever limited power the public has in the political arena is overshadowed by their complete submission to the economic decis ions and actions of the elites. Chomsky the U.S., where consent cannot be won most times by force], the consent of the 1999:45). Chomsky goes on to discuss the work of Edward Bernays: the conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic e of the dem Chomsky contends that some systems rule by violence and are more concerned manufacturing consent and are mor e concerned with influencing what people think


55 what violence is to totalitarianism. The techniques have been honed to a fine art, far (Chomsky 1987:136). Chomsky explains this notion further: [ In democrat ic systems those in power must] control not only what people do, but also what they think. Since the state lacks the capacity to ensure obedience by force, thought can lead to action and therefore the threat to order must be excised at the source. It is necessary to establish a framework for possible thought that is constrained within the principles of the state religion. These need not be asserted; it is better that they be presupposed, as the unstated framework for thinkable thought. The critics reinforce this system by tacitly accepting these doctrines, and confining their critique to tactical questions that arise within them. It is because of their notable contribution to thought c ontrol that the critics are tolerated, indeed honored that is, those who play by the rules. (Chomsky 1987:132) This quote concerned the role of the U.S. in international affairs, but the sentiment is ological institutions. By influencing the economic order, this means shaping what we see as legitimate economic domination (the supposed American meritocracy), so that we never question the under to not accept them are effectively excluded. Debate is permitted, even encouraged, as long as


56 rk for Chomsky is highly critical of modern economics and the academic institutions that perpetuate their ideologies, essentially characterizing economics departments in 2002i:252). Chomsky admits that the ideology of modern economics and free markets is people. nobody really pays attention to this stuff when it comes to actual planning is an ideological weapon developed by those in power to le gitimate their authority and justify the oppression of those below them in the social hierarchy. To Chomsky, modern economics is not really a legitimate science or a serious scientific field more than it is a [of modern Western economics] happens shot economics departments are interested in abstract models of how a pure free enterprise economy works you know, generalizations in ten dimensional space of some nonexistent free ideology from practice, because to


57 talk about a free market at this point is something of a joke. Outside of ideologues, the academy and the press, no one thinks that capitalism is a viable system, and nobody has thought that for sixty or seventy years if Discussing the vilification of socialism and planned economies, Chomsky rejects Chomsky 2002g:210). To Chomsky, all of the talk about free markets is an intellectual game as well as a mask for misrecognized power and domination these markets have never existed in reality, only capitalist society; no such system could long survive, for reasons that have been well understood, most clearly economy is a mixture of protectionist, interventionist, fr ee market, and liberal measures business has insisted on a powerful, interventionist state to support its interests, and it ts that: There are lots of planned economies the United States is a planned internationally competitive are the planne d parts, the state subsidized parts like capital intensive agriculture (which has a state guaranteed market as a cushion in case there are excesses); or high technology industry (which is dependent on the Pentagon system); or pharmaceuticals (which is mass ively subsidized by publicly funded research). Those are the parts of the U.S. ec onomy that are functioning well. (Chomsky 2002f:195) He asserts that powerful business interests in the U.S. demand state intervention in the economy to protect their intere sts, both domestically and internationally; only when the state competes with the interests of business do es business protest (Chomsky


58 but nobody actually practices i t in reality: in every modern economy, the taxpayers are made to subsidize th e private corporations, who (Chomsky 2002h:240). Business interests in the U.S. have a love hate relationship with rong state to serve its needs, a state capable of intervening in domestic affairs and the international system; it wants a weak state that Chomsky argues, business interest s have either embraced or rejected state intervention based entirely on how that intervention serves the power of business interests at any the ones that actually serve the population, beaten down, but it also wants a very 1996:34). Chomsky relies on extensive analysis of economic history to detail the heavy role of the state in the economic development of such powerful economies as the U.S. Chomsky answers his own question of how most of Europe and those who escaped its seems clear: by radically violating ap societies always attempted to protect th emselves from market discipline, and the ones that did had the most success in development (Chomsky 1999:34). The history of economic development in the U.S. would have been much different if not for Native


59 American genocide, slavery, massive protectionist economic policies and state intervention in the economy, military protection of energy resources abroad, access to resources abroad, and disruption of economic competition and trade abroad (Chomsky 1999:30 of classical more validity than it had in the early nineteenth century in fact, it has even less. 254). Chomsky goes on to discuss how the assumptions that underpin modern economic hing in these abstract economic models actually works in the real world. the whole enterprise is totally rotten at the core: it has no relation to reality anymore and furthermore, it never a single case on record in history of any country that has developed successfully through adherence to Yet, economically marginalized people in the U.S. are led to belie ve that they must power. Chomsky is highly critical of neoliberalism, which seems to be the dominant


60 rinciples: maximum economic growth, a separation of the economic world f rom the social world, the liber alization of trade and finance, prices set by markets, strict limits on inflation, focus on privatization in as many sectors as possible and as little go vernment interven tion in the economy as possible, considerable limitations on the co st and scope of social services, stability of currencies, and balanced budgets (Chomsky 1999:20). are the masters of the private economy, mainly huge corporations that control much of the international economy and have the means to dominate policy formation as well as the sm are uneven: positive in some places, negative in others, and still mixed in others. In some countries where positive results are reported, those results come in the form of per capita income, which often ignores how per capita income is inflated by disp roportionate wealth at the top despite horrible and deteriorating conditions at the bottom. Chomsky notes two examples, Brazil and Mexico, where neoliberal reform benefited a few at the very top of society while devastating those at the bottom (Chomsky 199 9:26 28). same time that the reforms were hailed due to the successes of a handful of billionaires (Chomsky 1999:27 28). Chomsky notes that while the U.S. eagerly pu shes neoliberal policies abroad, it has also been trying to implement a version of this doctrine domestically:


61 For most of the U.S. population, incomes have stagnated or declined in the fifteen years along with working conditions and job security, continu ing through economic recovery, an unprecedented phenomenon. Inequality has reached levels unknown for seventy years, far beyond other industrial countries. The United States has the highest level of child poverty of any industrial society, followed by the rest of the English speaking world. So the record continues through the familiar list of third world maladies. Meanwhile the business press cannot find adjectives exuberant enough to Profits were growi ng at a staggering rate while payrolls did not keep up much at all. While these extraordinary profits were being accumulated, workforces were being slashed and full time w ork; this work was less secur e and came with fewer benefits (Chomsky 1999:28). Chomsky has written extensive critiques of media institutions, perhaps most notably in the book that he coauthored with Edward S. Herman Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media ( 20 02). Herman and Chomsky argue that, political interests, positions, and agendas of th e most powerful in society (Herman and Chomsky 2002:xi). These powerful groups in societies have specific agendas and principles that they want disseminated through media institutions, which is thinking personnel and worthiness that explain that the interests of those who have ownership a nd control over the media


62 matters, as well as the interest of those who fund media (advertisers); media also serves the interests of powerful people in society who have relationships with media t and explain what it the official slant on the news, and to fix the basic principles and ideologies that are d Chomsky 2002:xi). The authors argue that the same people who control the media also control the basic taken for granted principles and dominant ideologies within a given society. The authors mple and homogenous 2002:xii); they argue, however, that dissenting viewpoints are kept within a very limited range of debate deemed acceptable by those in power, thus giving the illusion that there is wide debate when in fact a very limited portion of the spectrum of possibilities is being represented (intentionally as a tool of propaganda). The end result of this propaganda is not always in the direction that was intended (and i n some cases public opinion varies sharply from elite opinion), but media institutions still have a large role to play in shaping public opinion and often move the debate in ways advantageous to those in power. Herman and Chomsky argue that a major funct ion of mass media institutions is to inculcate the general public with values and beliefs that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society; the media propagandize and shape the dominant ideologies that justify and legitimate the dominant elite (Herman and Chomsky print, marginalize dissent, and allow the government and dominant private interests to


63 (Herman and Chomsky 2002:2). The authors: (1) the size, concentrated ownership, and profit orientation of do minant mass media institutions, (2) advertisi ng as primary sourc e of funding, (3) reliance on so called and approved by those in power, and information from the govern ment and the business community, (4) discipline of the media through communism as a national religion and mechanism of control (Herman and Chomsky 2002:2). All of these filters interact with and reinforce each other. News stories must pass through all of these filters, and what remains is what we the general public ews that passes through the definition of what is newsworthy in the first place, and they explain the basis and Journalists and other members of the mass media establishment have internalized these filters so fully that they do not explicitly acknowledge when they are at work. This allows them to believe they are acting independently and objectively, when in fact what they report and how they report it are heavily influenced by the interests of power. Herman and Chomsky go on to note that, with the fall of the Sov iet Union, the dominant ideological force propagated by media institutions. The push for ever increasing privatization and the rule of the market to be benevolent


64 Chomsky 2002:xviii). Any non allowed when private firms need subsidies, bailouts, and government help in doing and political agendas of the privileged groups that dominate the domestic economy, and news story, the manner in which that the story is framed (including what is reported, what is left out, how the i ssues are manipulated, etc.) leaves out a wide range of alternative explanations in favor of a narrow range of interpretations that tend to serve framework that serves t 2002b:13). Chomsky notes, like many of the other theorists and scholars that I discuss, that imposing belief systems by force is not all that effective in modern societies; Chomsky contends tha West that as you begin to lose the power to control people by force, you have to start to power to coerc e, elites need to have more effective propaganda to control the public in the media and educational institutions which ends up ensuring that dissident perspectives are wee 2002b:13). In this way the interests of the elite are served by media institutions, but this fact is generally misrecognized by the population at large.


65 As a prime example, one manufactured crisis t hat Chomsky discusses is the debate is structured in favor of the elite, the powerful, and the wealthy, and the role of the media in disseminating the supposed limited num ber of choices to the public. When Chomsky discusses the recent manufactured crisis over Social Security, he refers to it powerful opponents of Social Security have been successful i n shaping the debate, convincing most Americans that a serious crisis is present when one does not exist; he once again the effectiveness of a flood of carefully contr ived propaganda amplified by the media in a business run society where institutionalized deceit has been refined to a Social Security, with some minor modifications, can pay promised benefits; the problem is that the total wage income that is taxed to fund the system, which Social Security depends up on, is declining (Barsamian and Chomsky 2001:97). Because of increasing income inequality, and the cap on the amount of earnings that are taxed for Social Security (simultaneously occurring with rapidly exploding he althcare costs), the system


66 as far ahead as (Chomsky 1996:29). P owerful interests have shaped the debate on So cial Security and kept this reality from surfacing however, in effect convincing Americans (falsely) that the choices being discussed ar e the only ones available; in fact there are other (better) e Social Security debate is skewed in the direction of the powerful, so that more often than not the available choices being debated would change Social Security in a manner that benefits powerful interests and the wealthy. This does not mean that Social S ecurity will inevitably be changed at the expense of the middle and lower classes, or that there is nothing that can be done to keep the system running in some manner similar to its current form; what it means is that the debate has been limited in such a manner that benefits those in power. Something can be done to benefit all people in a more effective manner, but the powerful in society have a disproportionately loud voice in the debate and therefore (Chomsky 2006:249). Because Social Security is of little value to the rich and powerful 2006:249).


67 Media institutions propagate the Social Security crisis myth based on the opinions of the experts and politic Herman and Chomsky assert that: seven years ahead if certain c onservative guesses were true and a number of easy corrections were ruled out, served the interests of conservative ideologues anxious to weaken a highly successful government program and a security industry eager to benefit from the partial or full p rivat ization of Social Security. (H erman and Chomsky 2002:xlviii) The very limited debate on this issue, which assumes Social Security is broken and presents one small part of the spectrum of thinkable thoughts on what to do about this erests of the elite, powerful, and wealthy in society. This opinion (that Social Security is broken and needs to be fixed in a very specific manner) is propagated by both experts and media institutions serving and protecting the same elite interests. Chom that control the state and private economy, and it is therefore not very surprising to discover that the y generally act to confine public discussion and understanding to the major corporations who must please advertisers and investors; to take a subversive role and/or threateni ng position relative to those in power would be to lose the support of advertisers and investors (Chomsky 1987b:125). Top management tend to be wealthy powerful, and who have achieved their position, and maintain it, by having


68 ork of interpretations, selection of what counts as interests of the politically and economically powerful in society (Chomsky 1987b:125). Members of media institutions conform internalize the beliefs and attitudes represented in their work. Chomsky argues that major media institut ions are large corporations who sell wealthy and privileged audiences to advertisers. Because of the intended market (advertisers) and the product being sold (wealthy privileged audiences), it is not ects the narrow and biased Chomsky argues that the leading figures in major media institutions share class interests and associations with the privileged sectors of society (politicians, big level people among corporations, to punish media institutions and/or members that stray too far fro m orthodoxies that are acceptable to those in power (Chomsky 1986:94). are socialized to believe that there is a bo unded universe of alternatives on any given issue, extends to matters of politics. Chomsky notes that the political spectrum in the


69 U.S. is very narrow, so that while the left (liberal) and the right (conservative) may appear to be dramatically opposed to each other, the two together represent a very narrow portion of the spectrum of possible political perspectives. Chomsky asserts that, degree, the U.S. is a one party sta te, where the ruling party has two factions that perpetuate this notion that all possible political perspectives are contained within this narrow portion of the true political s pectrum. The end result is that political debate and the resulting policies in the U.S. are limited to a small number of possible outcomes. What are labeled as opinions on the left and on the right by the media, according to ted debate, which reflects the range of needs of private power 2002b:13). Chomsky explains further:


70 So what the media do, in effect, is to take the set of assumptions which expr ess the basic ideas of the propaganda system, whether about the then present a range of debate within that framework so the debate only enhances the strength of the assumptions, ingr minds as the entire possible spectrum of opinion that there is. So you see, such, as it would be in a totalitarian society presuppose d, it provides the framework for debate among the people who are admitted into the mainstream discussion. In fact, the nature of Western systems of indoctrination is typically not understood by dictators, and thereby marginalizes and eliminates authentic and rational critical contribution to the cause by bounding the debate within certain acceptable limits rated, and in fact even honored. (Chomsky 2002b:13) One of the negative effects of the l imited political spectrum in the U.S., and the marginalization of the needs of labor and the poor, is indifference to the political irrelevance of the political system to its half the electorate does not even take the trouble to go to the polls in Presidential not consider themselves to be represented do not go to the polls for elections, and in effect doom themselves to oppressive economic policies; the popular saying goes that often than not) there does not exist an option that would serve the interests of marginalized groups in society (such as the poor), s o that the vote would be


71 meaningless anyway. Whether the poor show up at the polls or not ignores the fact that both outcomes (voting and not voting) result in the same thing: politicians who care little about the poor and will not change the social order to build a more socially just society. terms of meaning. It probably starts at some relatively conscious level and then just gets example, Chomsky discusses the disappearance o subsidies to corporations are discussed, or increased Pentagon spending, it is always rofits for private industry. and left are guilty (Chomsky 1996:121 122). On this and countless other issues, there is little difference between the left and right, and th e terms all but lose their meaning. According to Chomsky, when analyzing political discourse, we must look at the dictionary definitions of terms that are used, and then the other meaning a deeper understanding of our political discourse and how it serves power. One example he uses is the word participate in affairs that affect them the doctrinal meani system in which decisions are made by sectors of the business community and related


72 d nothing more (Chomsky 1986:87). dictionaries as relating to the practice of very limited government intervention in the economy. In actual practice, however, Chomsky notes th system of public subsidy and private profit, with massive government intervention in the criticize Democrats for excessive influence from spec ial interests such as labor, women, etc. What is conveniently left out of this practical definition, however, are the interests of business and the wealthy (Chomsky 1986:89). These interests are often ignored, never explicitly entering the discourse; if po liticians serve the interests of the powerful in society, it is not couched as such, and the fact that they serve those interests is managers of the society, who are fig hting a bitter class war against the general for granted and out of sight. Chomsky expands upon this argument further, stating: transla tion into English, decoding the doublespeak of the media, academic obscure: the effect is to make it impossible to find words to talk about matters of human significance in a cohe rent way. We can then be sure that little will be understood about how our society works and what is happening in the world. (Chomsky 1986:90 91)


73 There are multiple forms in which democratic governments and capitalist economies can take, and the two d o not necessarily have to go together. In the U.S., that is not always assumed to be the case. Capitalism and democracy are often assumed to go hand in hand, and the particular form that the capitalist democracy in the U.S. takes at a given moment is often thought to be the natural and best manifestation (and sometimes given ahistorical character) Americans often think that capitalism can only be organized in one way, the way that it is currently organized in their country (although when you hear the ferve planned capitalism, it is often odd to see this fact ignored). To understand U.S. society, however, we must understand the particular characteristics of how the government and economy work, and why it has taken the particu lar form that it has. ed in a capitalist democracy in which the public is excluded from participation in the basic making in the domestic economy, domestic politics, international affairs, etc., are not dem ocratically controlled. Chomsky expands upon this argument: Unless the wants of investors are satisfied, there is no production, no work, no resources available for welfare, in short, no possibility of survival. the demands of the wealth y those who control investment decisions are satisfied can the population at large hope for a decent existence in their role as servants of private power, who rent themselves to those who own an d manage the private economy. This too is a f actor of fundamental importance. (Chomsky 1987b:116)


74 Chomsky argues that by their very nature, capitalist democracies are at their best only a very limited form of democracy (Chomsky 1987b:117). This projec t is concerned with the extent to which many of the assumptions of the concept is a useful tool in this regard. Chomsky asserts that harmful or undermining revelations about ideological institutions (institutions that are of great use to the powerful in society) will be ignored and/or suppressed (Chomsky 2002b:18), because and the educat perpetuate themselves and are successful because they are effective in limiting and/or eradicating the thin gs that undermine them and cause them to work in a dysfunctional manner. People actually believe the things that they say and write it is n ot that everyone is openly lying it is that society is a complex system that socializes and inculcates people from an early age to think in a manner that perpetuates the system. This does not work perfectly, and periodically you have moments where the status quo breaks down, power is undermined, and some meaningful social change occurs. Typically, however, in the vast ma jority of circumstances, society operates in such a live with cognitive dissonance: only a real cynic can believe one thing and say another. tarian system or a free system, the people who are most useful to


75 want the public to know how they work maybe the people inside them understand how undermine their power. So one should expect institutions to function in such a way as to protect themselves and some of the ways in which they protect themselves are by ct social welfare institutions to avoid perpetuating ideologies that would lead to their dysfunction (at least not for very long and/or not on a large scale). To avoid being dysfunctional, it would logically follow that they serve the interests of the stat e (as well as the elite, powerful, and wealthy). Social welfare policy has explicit and implicit ideologies contained within it. This may be meditated into a different form through the institutional practices and cultures of BSW programs and welfare office so completely as to be oppositional. They still serve power, in whatever form this mediated ideology takes. Chomsky regards academic institutions as ideological institutions which f unction the ideological managers, so they are the ones who feel the most threaten ed by intellectuals is to serve as a kind of secular priesthood, to ensure that the doctrinal faith e


76 graduate s chool, will be tolerated only so long as it continues to perform its institutional they serve the interests of those who fund them, they will continue to receive funds; o nce universities stop serving the interests of those who finance them, the funding will disappear (Chomsky 2002h:233). Chomsky asserts that the educational system is of d and as 237). Chomsky argues that the higher we look in the social hierarchy, the more indoctrinated people become. The poor and marginalized in society understand how power works as well as anyone, but have little control over doing anything about it (this does not mean that they are not victims of ideology and dominant culture, but that it is not as monolithic at the bottom and at least some resistance takes place, even if t hey still largely submit to many of the dominant explanations for oppression like individualism). The most indoctrinated individuals in society are those people in target s of the system of indoctrination but also its practitioners; their self interest dictates that they adopt and believe its doctrines, if they are to be able to fulfill their role ilege, influence,


77 sense within the experience and/or belief system of the privileged in society, which results in discourse that makes little sense to the middle and lower cl asses, but makes perfect intuitive sense to the ruling classes. David Brady significant influence on the development of this project for many reasons, including the manner in which it (a) incorporates ideology as part of its explanation for the existence of poverty, (b) gives attention to the structural factors that influence poverty, and (c) acknowledges that poverty is ultimately a result of deliberate human decisions and actions. Brady thoroughly details his IPRT in his book (2009), Rich Democracies, Poor People: How Politics Explain Poverty principal subject of poverty research. ought to be the forces, processes, agents, institu (Gans 1995:127, in Brady 2009:205). The central question for Brady is: why is poverty so entrenched in some rich democracies, like the U.S., and such a solvable problem 4 i n the riches of the United States, this country also stands out for having the most poverty among the rich democracies. poverty amidst progress continues to be one o f the empirical research and resulting theory that cross national and historical variations in poverty are primarily driven by politics. Brady provides strong empirical and the oretical 4 Brady explains


78 support for the notion that poverty and inequality are not natural, unavoidable phenomena but are the result of human decisions and actions and therefore can be changed. Brady makes the case that poverty is not simply an unfortunate outcome of ind instead: Societies make collective choices about how to divide their resources. These choices are acted upon in the organizations and states that govern the societies, and th en become institutionalized through the welfare state. Where poverty is low, equality has been institutionalized. Where poverty is widespread, as most visibly demonstrated by the United States, there has been a failure to institutionalize equality. In sum, institutionalized power relations theory is my answer to this question of the differences in poverty acro ss affluent Western democracies. (Brady 2009:6) Brady provides empirical support that suggests that his macro level approach 5 explains poverty be tter than the dominant individualist approaches utilized in modern social science (particularly the prevalence of the less explanatory liberal economics across many social science disciplines). Social organization, or the way in which society is organized, explains how resources are distributed. Social organization, such as the nature of resource distribution through markets, can take many forms; some are more equitable than others and many can operate efficiently while still prohibiting considerable levels of inequality. poverty depend upon to whom they are born but where they are born, and the manner in which social organization in that particular national context largely dete rmines their 5 Cross national and historical comparisons at the country level of an alysis from 1969 2002 of Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. (18 total rich democracies some rich democrac ies, such as Japan, were excluded because of inadequate data).


79 poverty risk. By focusing on rich democracies Brady is able to avoid the problematic the countries that he discusses are rich and have the ability to provide a relative level of born into families that predict much of our socioeconomic attainment in life. Yet, even more consequentially, we are born into countries that carry wit h them a probability of rates among rich democracies today, but there is also significant variation in poverty rates within rich democracies historically; countr ies such as Austria, Denmark, Canada, and the United Kingdom, to name a few, have seen significant changes in poverty rates in just the last few decades alone. Not all of this can be attributed to changing economic conditions, and furthermore, changing eco nomic conditions cannot be separated from a While personal characteristics are a good predictor of who will be poor in a particular country, there is considerable variation in levels of poverty cross nati onally and historically; simply focusing on personal characteristics does not explain why those characteristics carry such different consequences depending upon where (and when) ristics neglects why a characteristic is linked to poverty in a social context. Almost no individual characteristic has an unbreakable bond with poverty universally across all mother families, oft en assumed in the U.S. to be naturally and inherently poverty prone, are not disproportionately poor in some affluent democracies; they may be prone to poverty in


80 the U.S., but that fact should raise more questions about the manner in which resources are d mother families. Brady goes on to argue that: Moreover, the extent to which a characteristic is associated with poverty varies dramatically across countries. If certain charact eristics associate with poverty only in some contexts, it tells you at least as much about that context as it does about poverty. Whether and how much an individual characteristic is linked to po verty are questions of politics. (Brady 2009:18) Brady d emonstrated through his empirical analyses that single motherhood is actually not a dominant influence on poverty when utilizing his analytical perspective. Despite quite odd that we spend so much time discussing the choices of groups of people, like single mothers, who have so few choices to pick from. Brady goes on: I f one is r ealistic about the limited choices these poor mothers and their children actually have, the constraints become more obvious, and more obviously the paramount question. Rather than studying the prevalence of single motherhood, and presuming that single moth erhood necessarily must be linked with poverty, we should study why and how welfare states alleviate or fail to alleviate the economic sec urity of single mother families. (Brady 2009:168) Rather than acknowledging this, poverty research in the U.S. tends to focus on the U.S. only (which is highly problematic) and determine which individual characteristics (such as single motherhood) are associated with relative deprivation in this (unique) national context. If a researcher is not looking at a country as a variable, they will not find it as a cause; instead, the social structure in the U.S. is a normative assumption and is taken for granted.


81 The fact that there is so much more poverty in the U.S. compared to many rich developed nations is not an accident but the result of deliberate human decisions about how society is organized. Brady argues that, rather than focusing on whether or not we should be a capitalist economy, we might ask ourselves why so many other countries can choose to be capitalist while also performing efficiently without the high levels of inequality seen in the U.S. There are many varieties of capitalism that perform well economically while also institutionalizing a much higher level of equality; among rich developed nations, then, the U.S. United States stands out for its distinctively, even iconically, high poverty. the United States consistently (Brady 2009:166). Brady notes that: What is striking about the contemporary world is how much poverty varies across countries. Those born into egalitarian countries are much more likely to be economically secure in their youth, sickness, and old age. For the most part, we do not get to choose the probability of poverty we face. our societies contextually shape the odds that an individual in a given country will be poor. (Br ady 2009:3) Countries which decide to distribute their resources more equitably might not only be perceived as more socially just, but also as making conscious decisions to address such poverty and inequality related issues such as crime, incarceration rates, suic ide, health problems, well being of children, etc. Brady notes that: If poverty was lower [in the U.S.], millions more children would have a real chance at the American dream. Conversely, if Europe had poverty levels like the United States, it is not hard to imagine how deeply and irrevocably different life in those countries would be. With this variation in poverty, we are examining some of the most crucial differences between countries that exist in the modern world. (Brady 2009:5)


82 Brady argues that any theory of poverty should be able to explain not only who is at risk of being poor, but why certain levels of poverty exist in the first place regardless of personal characteristics. Theories of poverty should be able to account for the fact that there are considerable variations in levels of poverty and inequality among rich democracies. Instead, the conventional wisdom in poverty research in the U.S. is to only we can pinpoint the characteristics which they do not share, the conventional wisdom that the vast majority of poverty studies explain why one group of people within a countr y are more likely to be poor, or why some individuals are poor while others are not. Thus, conventional poverty research stops short of confronting the enormous cross in The results of his work suggest that his IPRT is a much better predictor of poverty than prevailing theories, such as the widely utilized liberal economics 6 IPRT contains four key components: welfare generosity, Leftist collective political actors (LCPAs), latent coalitions for egalitarianism (LCEs), and institutionalized politics (refer to hi s conceptual model in Figure 2 1 on page 83 ). He argues that his 6 liberal economics, I empirically scrutinized how well it explains poverty in affluent democ racies since the late 1960s. Liberal economics does not provide nearly as effective an explanation of poverty as institutionalized power relations theory. Although economic growth and unemployment do influence poverty, the welfare state is far more inf dispel the notion that increases in welfare spending can ever increase poverty, a common assumption of osity are liberal economics may remain helpful for comparing developing versus developed countries or to understand long term historical change, the model simply fails to explain poverty in contemporary affluent 2009:144).


83 Fig ure 2 1 Theory Source: Brady 2009:14 empirical analysis reveals that poverty rates are lower and equality is greater where there is a generous welfare state, the presence of both L CPAs and LCEs in positions of power and influence, and where all of the previously mentioned characteristics have been institutionalized in the formal political arena (Brady 2009:6). Brady explains: Ideologies and interests manifest in latent coalitions fo r egalitarianism. These latent coalitions influence Leftist collective political actors and welfare generosity, which itself is partly driven by Leftist politics. Leftist politics and welfare generosity shape poverty. Finally, the levels of poverty and wel fare generosity feed back into ideologies and interests. Variations in the power of latent coalitions for egalitarianism, the Leftist politics that are manifestations of these coalitions, and what they are able to enact via the welfare state shape th e amou nt of poverty in society. (Brady 2009:14) Where levels of poverty and inequality are low, equality is institutionalized; by contrast, goes on to explain:


84 When poverty is understood as an individual failing rather than a social or public or national problem, equality is not institutionalized. Where high levels of poverty are perceived by the public and policy makers as normal, unavoidable or inevitable, equality is not institutionalized. In a political environment, where collective political actors never seek to challenge high levels of poverty and fear they lack support in pushing for generous social policies, poverty is institutionalize d. To the extent that high poverty is not even questioned as a major social problem and is perceived as a natural feature of all economies, there has been a failure to politicize poverty. Where Leftist politics are too weak to push for a substantial reduct ion of poverty or where welfare programs are insufficient to address high poverty, inequality has been institutionalized. In sum, how societies collectively define and understand poverty and equality is an apt reflection of the process characterized by ins tituti onalized power relations theory. (Brady 2009:167) The central element of the four listed above, the element that is the primary influence on levels of poverty in a particular country, is welfare state generosity. Brady linear negative relationship between welfare generosity and of the welfare state is the dominant cause of how much poverty exists in affluent policies and programs that distribute economic resources disproportionately to a (Brady 2009:7). The general purpose of the welfare state is to assure that people have a fundamental right to some level of economic security and do not have to solely rely on private markets for important resources. This can be done through progressive ta xation, cash and near cash assistance, publicly funded services, public programs that guarantee some level of economic security, government actions that ensure some level of social inclusion and economic capability, etc. (Brady 2009:7). Countries where equ ality has become institutionalized in the


85 welfare state see lower levels of poverty and inequality; Brady argues that these welfare Brady 2009:8). Welfare states attack poverty in three crucial ways. First, they manage risk (such as that of growing old, becoming a parent, facing a disability, losing a job, etc.) by providing social insurance through publicly mandate and subsidized pro grams. Second, they organize the manner in which economic resources are distributed in an egalitarian direction (and do not rely solely on private markets and instead in many cases interfere in those markets in some manner). Brady cautions against calling this redistribution, as, (Brady 2009:7). Successful welfare states do not simply redistribute resources after the fact, but attempt to manage/organize the initial distribu tion of resources (as efficiently as possible) in a socially just manner. Third, welfare states attempt to perpetuate equality a society accepts state actions and interventions as appropriate and acceptable depend, at least to some degree, upon the culture in which one is raised; we act upon existing policy based upon our needs an d desires, but our needs and desires are also just 7 Thus, social dy 2009:8). 7 This seems to explain why one particular participant, Jana (whom I will discuss lat er in this dissertation), had such vastly different ideas about poverty, inequality, and the role of the state; she was raised in a European country with both (a) a vastly different welfare state than the U.S. and (b) a culture that justified this larger w elfare state.


86 The next two key elements are the presence of LCPAs and LCEs. Organizations and institutions committed to a more equal distribution of important resources (LCPAs) are important for assuring equality; where Leftist politics have been strong his torically, there tends to be more a generous welfare state (such political actors tend to push for a stronger welfare state) and lower levels of poverty and inequality. Brady argues that, d complementary set collective actors have the resources to leverage power over other actors in the national cause 8 are diffuse, unanticipated, and many times accidental 9 groups of diverse people who come together in support of social equality (and welfare state measures that ensure such equality) (Brady 2009:10). These LCEs hold ideologies that consider poverty alleviation and social equality as normative expectations. Many of the actors involved in LCEs do not have interests that are heavily invested in welfare state generosity (they may even be in the upper class) but are ideologically invested in such normative expectations. argues that politics matters most for the issue o f poverty when it occurs in the formal 8 Brady argues that a fundamental cause such as LCPAs should get more attention than proximate causes because even if proximate causes fail, the fundamental cause will find a new away to affect the outcome. 9 The author cites different gro ups that opposed attempts by George W. Bush to privatize Social Security as examples of LCEs. Some of these groups were ideologically invested in the cause while others had direct interests that motivated them. Many of these groups had little in common (an d on other social or political issues may have opposed each other) but came together in this cause.


87 political liberals/progressives, the greatest impact on poverty and inequality comes through actions in the formal political arena that institutionalize equality on a large scale. Brady explains: Formal organizations solve the coordination of groups, multiply the power of otherwise disconnected individuals, have the necessary resources to make a difference, and carry greater legitimacy in the national political arena where welfare policy gets decided. Regarding poverty especially, it is the formal organizations in the formal political arena that end up doing this slow and hard work. (Brady 2009:11) While individuals and dissensus poli tics can have some impact, Brady argues that institutionalized politics simply have a greater and longer lasting impact when it comes to poverty and inequality (equality is not fleeting but institutionalized). There is no power greater than that of the sta te (with its sole power to tax) to organize and manage the distribution of resources in a more socially just manner than might otherwise occur. (Brady 2009:11). The gre atest effect comes from the place where the greatest power lies, and this is why poverty and inequality are lowest where these conditions exist. Brady argues that his much more structurally oriented approach to the study of poverty with IPRT is a vast imp rovement over the individually oriented approach that pervades modern social science (particularly liberal economics); he believes that needs a theory that contrast much attention to collective politics and states, the study of poverty is driven implicitly and explicitly by


88 taken for granted perspective that dominates modern studies of poverty and inequality; scholars tend to use individual level data to compare the poor to the nonpoor, producing research t hat confidentially assumes that all causal explanations of poverty are at the individual level (and many scholars argue that they are largely caused by individual choices). Brady believes that this individually focused research is valuable insofar as it he lps identify who is at risk of being poor and thus how society might be organized to reduce the risk attached to such individual characteristics; it is valuable in helping to decide how to distribute resources more effectively, not for explaining poverty. There are of course major empirical problems with the individualism perspective: not al l poverty causes can be reduced to micro level explanations, individualistic perspectives neglect relations and context 10 and individualist explanations of poverty are not empirically satisfactory relative to other approaches 11 So why is individualism so p opular in the U.S.? Brady believes it is the confluence of American cultural assumptions about poverty and inequality and the preeminence given to liberal economics in the academy. Americans tend to espouse individual level explanations of poverty and ineq uality (poor choices, genetically inherited intellectual deficiencies, poor work ethic, etc.). These beliefs are bolstered by the most prominent social science of all, 10 The single mother example he provides is excellent. 11 For instance, if you follow the extreme individualist assumptions utilized in Herrnstein and Murray (1996) The Bell Curve predicting macro level patterns of poverty, an i ndividualistic perspective is not sufficient as a scientific theory of poverty. After all, explaining and predicting phenomena are the fundamental purpose of scientific inquiry. Furthermore, if scientific explanations cannot predict macro level phenomena, they are severely limited for public policy. Policies are implemented and expected to have effects at the macro


89 economics, which is given the most authority in the public mind to explain poverty and i nequality (and liberal economics is thus adopted by other social sciences as well). This authority given to liberal economics (and its individual level focus) then feeds back on our cultural explanations of poverty and inequality, further strengthening the popularity and normative nature of individualism. devotion to liberal economics. Policy debates about poverty have been too loyal to liberal economic concerns with economic growth free markets, unemployment, and his empirical analyses find that liberal economics do not explain poverty as well as structural theory, which does not explain pover ty as well as institutionalized poverty relations theory; in short, liberal economics is not even the next best alternative to IPRT devotion to liberal economics withi n the U.S. poverty policy and debates, and the economics does not deserve the centrality in policy and debates that it has received given that alternative approaches better exp lain poverty. welfare incentives and disincentives and focus more on developing and bolstering broad based social security programs. He argues that policies should emphasize th e management of risk, the organization of a more egalitarian distribution of resources, and policy debates away from the infatuation with the disincentives for poor i ndividuals and


90 get them focused on broad based programs that guarantee economic security for the effective in the U.S. or in other countries and simply need to be adopted; he a rgues that, than believing that we need some different and revolutionary antipoverty ideas, he follow the model set forth by the Western European countries that have all been more successful First, Brady advocates better unemployment benefits coupled with more universal acces need no additional incentive to find work; the real problem is the absence of well paid nonpoor (as well as negative income taxation for the poor) for (a) a more equitable distribution of resources and (b) a slow down of the escalation and reproduction of wealth to the elites. Third, he supports providing family assistance to all families with children i n all social classes, not just the poor. Fourth, he supports massive investments in public goods for things such as transportation, communication, education, childcare, and elder care, among others. This would not only benefit all social classes but make p ublic many of the private goods which poor families are excluded from. Fifth, he argues that there needs to be a more invigorated Leftist politics in the U.S., particularly the unhindered ability to organize in unions. Such politics might also increase vot er turnout, inculcating in the working class and the poor a legitimate belief that a political party is


91 sincerely invested in their interests (he even suggests making voting day a holiday like many countries have in order to increase such turnout). Brady e nds his book with the following concluding thoughts: collectively take responsibility for ensuring the economic security of its citizens. To accomplish low poverty, it is essential that the welfare state manage risk, organize the distribution of economic resources in an egalitarian way, and institutionalize equality. It is far less important for governments to provide incentives for work, private savings, delayed parenthood, or marr iage. The focus on individualism in poverty research has impoverished our understanding of this persistent social problem. As long as debates about poverty are more about the poor than about the state and society, poverty will continue to haunt the economi c progress of affluent Western democracies. Pover ty is truly a political problem. (Brady 2009:181) Summary At the beginning of this project I developed a list of questions to help make sense of my theoretical t oolbox, questions derived from this toolbox that could meaningfully contribute to my project. These questions framed the development of this project, suggesting important avenues that I needed to investigate. While this was only a starting point and would certainly not determine the inductive data t hat would follow, it allowed me to narrow my focus concerning what I needed to investigate. The social world can be investigated in countless ways; one must determine a broad outline of what to look for or they will see nothing. These theoretical contribut ions helped me to formulate my initial research questions and determine the general initial direction of the study. The theoretical toolbox that I utilized helped me to develop a successful project that examined the correct issues and asked the right ques tions. What are the dominant American cultural assumptions about the causes of poverty and inequality? Are these


92 assumptions popular among the BSW students? If not, how do they explain poverty and inequality? What range of debate exists? Are there ideologi cal inconsistencies? Are there l ogical inconsistencies? Are there coherent systems of logic that explain poverty and inequality? Which complex assumptions are contained in ea ch general supposition? Are the students aware of the suppositions contained in th eir discourse? Are students aware that they are using ideological assumptions? Whose interests are served by dominant culture? Are there signs that dominant thoughts are disproportionately influenced by the elite/wealthy/powerful through moral, political, and/or intellectual leadership? Is MAU an ideological institution as some theorists have suggested, that perpetuates dominant culture and reinforces the status quo? In what ways have ideologies become institutionalized or given a material existence? In wha t ways might MAU reinforce notions of meritocracy, individualism, etc.? How might MAU c onsecrate social differences? What other ideological institutions can be identified (families, churches, mass media, etc.) and what influence do they have? What impact d oes childhood socialization have on the worldviews of the BSW students? In what ways are poverty and inequality knowledge (a) subjective/socially constructed and/or (b) class biased? Does efit them? Are they privileged? W hat role does dominant Western economic logic play in their worldviews? In what ways do ideological assumptions exist before these actors and impact them?


93 Is power misrecognized or made seem disinterested? Are so cial forces rendered invisible? In what ways disconnected from the social structure? Are hierarchies symbolically reproduced or challenged? How do they function/make life easier/help people interpret the world? In what ways are they needed? In w hat ways are natural reality transformed into symbolic reality? What happens in this process? What about the social order is taken for granted (and power and domination misrecognized) as natural, inevitable, justifiable, desirable, etc.? How is it s een as disinterested? How is immersion in American culture an influence? What is How might students resist dominant thought? Change it? Alter it? Mediate it though some filter? Do BSW students feel that they are workin g within the system, outside the system, and what are the implications of this? What approach do they believe is best? Does their BSW program question itself? In what ways are reinforcements of the status quo misrecognized as resistance? Do social work stu dents see the social order and existing inequality as legitimate and/or desirable? In what ways might what is observed here contribute to the notion that poverty is something that exists symbolically in our minds?


94 Literature Review Social welfare policy in the U.S. has always been highly ideological. This is particularly true when examining policies directed towards the poor, whose development and implementation are typically heavily laden with cultural assumptions about the poor and poverty. A strong exa mple of this was the welfare reform movement, debate, and subsequent legislation in the 1990s. Developed under a Republican led U.S. Congress and Democratic President William Jefferson Clinton, this legislation (among other things) created Temporary Assist ance to Needy Families (TANF) to replace Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Politicians responsible for the reform movement, echoing the concerns of the general population, believed welfare recipients l acked acceptable work ethic, were largely unwilling to work, were overly fertile, and disproportionately addicted to drugs, and let these beliefs heavily influence the debate and resulting policy (Seccombe 2011:11). This reform movement helped to redefine poverty in political and intellectual cir triumph of politics over scientific knowl welfare for poverty and compared welfare recipients to wild animals (Seccombe ad sunk so low by the 1990s as to


95 The resulting policy was highly ideological, built on a foundation of many negative class, gender and racial stereotypes (s uch as laziness, dependence, promiscuity and uncontrolled fertility, illegitimacy, addiction, criminality, etc.), influenced by a against welfar :291). M any of the concepts and assumptions based on highly negative assessments of the poor in the U.S. Labels such as it was a deeply political and ideologica Congress was able to enact strict spending reductions and behavioral restrictions while Welfare discourse, both historically identified marriage promotion and two parent families, moving people from welfare to work, ending dependency, and pre venting out of wedlock pregnancies as its core goals. The new legislation that created TANF enacted new five year time limits, work requirements, and required identification of the fathers of children, among other changes. The legislation was based on the assumption that welfare recipients do not want to work and must be forced to do so and stop relying on the government for aid. It also assumes that there is little wrong with the structure of low wage labor in the U.S., only the motivations and choices of low wage laborers (Seccombe 2011:11 13).


96 The PRWORA of 1996 was intended to drastically change the nature of welfare (2001) notes, the poverty experts who helped desi come to accept and accommodate the conservative rhetoric of small government, individual responsibility, market benevolence, and of targeting welfare and welfare recipients rather than the economy and the opportunity stru as Mary Jo Bane, Wendell Primus, and Marion Wright Edelman would resign in protest over the legislation that eventually passed, legislation that Senator Moynihan dubbed welf In this section I will review some of the ideological elements of welfare discourse and policy, most notably related to the notions of individualism, work ethic, dependency, gender, deservedness, and the root cause of pov erty in the U.S. Many scholars argue that the vilification of the poor and the welfare system is e distinction between the poor who deserve help and those who do not dominates our public discourse, politics, and social policy erwhelmingly on the behavior and and characteristics of those who lose out at the econ omic game is an extension of individualistically oriented American cultural logic that endless opportunities exist for all;


97 social scientists choose to study and problematize the personal attributes of those who do not grasp them based on this logic. Mich ael Katz opens his book, The Undeserving Poor, with the following statement: The vocabulary of poverty impoverishes political imagination. For two centuries of American history, considerations of productivity, cost, and eligibility have channeled discourse about need, entitlement, and [social] justice within narrow limits bounded by the market. In every era, a few people have counterposed dignity, community, and equality as standards for policy. But they have remained outsiders, unable to divert the powerfu l currents constraining the possibilities for social thought and public action. These historical preoccupations have shaped and confined ideas about poor people and distributive jus tice in recent American history. (Katz 1989:3) Tracing the history of poverty discourse and policy from the poor laws in England and reform and rea poverty policy has been that it has ignored the root causes of poverty, mainly employment, income distribution, discrimination, and the consequences of public policy. Highlighting the i deological nature of poverty discourse, research, and politics, Katz it emerges as much from a mix of ideology and politics as from the structure of the Katz 1989:5). He argues that the social construction of difference, particularly the manner in which are distinctions that we use without thinking. They have become unexamined components of our public


98 that labels people and creates difference helps to convince people that socially constructed differences actually represent objective reality, sorting people, objects, events, and situations into categories that people treat as real when they are not (Katz 1989:6). These categories isolate and divide one group of people from the rest, and stigmatize that group that ha mistaking socially constructed categories for natural distinctions, we reinforce inequality object ive differences, these socially created divisions reflect convenience, moral judgment, and most of all power. Mainstream poverty discourse, both left and right, has largely ignored th e role of politics and power. Katz argues that those in power in society have a dispropo rtionate impact on the categories that are created and the people who are sorted into those categories, and in this process the perspectives of the powerless are largely ignored. Thus, existing social and economic arrangements and inequalities are reified as natural and socially just. Despite the cultural and social scientific focus on the individual, Katz argues that e a sci entific descriptions of th roughout American history as a Katz expl ains that he titled his book The Undeserving Poor because Americans have always treated the poor as strangers and outsiders that are truly different and unlike middle class Americans in their essential nature They are personally and solely


99 responsible for their poverty, and the solution to their economic deprivation is for them ending American desire to judge people solely by perceived merit, an many studies that suggest this individual view is only partially accurate, Katz argues that a nd are truly undeserving bec ause for one reason or another they have not chosen to join mainstream American society, choosing instead to remain outsiders. Politicians a nd social scientists who attempt to subtly hide this distinction using what is perceived to be sub cultural explanations) (Katz 1989:10). Government resources are finit e, and because of this commonly held societal decision over the distribution of finite resources (Katz 1989). The PRWORA legislation o notes that one perspe ctive that strongly influenced the development of that legislation at seated, and bipartisan opposition to spending more

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100 Work Ethic The TANF legislation of 1996 imposed new work requirements not previously contained in AFDC. Once the state determines that a recipient is able to work they must join the paid labor force, and once the recipient reaches 24 months of aid they must work regardless of ability. Recipient s must work a minimum of 30 hours per week, and postsecondary education is no long er allowed while receiving aid (Seccombe 2011:13). Seccombe (2011) found that most of her participants were not long term welfare users. Most of them wanted to work, were d eeply concerned and/or depressed abo ut their economic circumstances, and were not satisfied with having to rely on government assistance. Seccombe found in her interviews that economic concerns, labor market co nditions, lack of human capital, and the need to care for small children made welfare (Seccombe 2011:188). While welfare may not be desirable to many people, in many cases it is more desirable for some poor families rela tive to the abysmal conditions present in the low wage labor market. Despite claims by conservative welfare reformers, some scholars argue that there are simply not enough good jobs for all welfare recipients who need them (Seccombe 2011:189). Of the jobs that are available, many of them do not provide sufficient wages to eliminate the need for welfare assistance (Seccombe 2011:189). Seccombe found that despite the popular imagery of the welfare queen, most of her respondents wanted to be finished with the welfare system altogether (Seccombe 2011:193). They seek security in their lives, security that cannot be provided by unstable, often temporary jobs with difficult and changing hours, low wages, and few benefits (if any). These jobs are insecure and may b

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101 employer wishes to downsize (and looks to the most vulnerable, low tier positions to downsize first) (Seccombe 2011:193). welfare rather than the incredibly insufficient low wage labor market in the U.S. may tell us more about low wage work in the U.S. than welfare recipients. K aren Seccombe explains this notion : The real problem lies with the structure of low wage work in the United States. Indeed, the welfare system actually works well compared to low wage work. It offers the security that is sought by vulnerable families and provides for their basic needs with food, she lter, clothing, and medical care, even if only at a minimal level. However, poorly paid work within the lower tiers of the service sector does not necessarily provide a basic floor for any of these necessities. Welfare works pretty well, and that is the pr oblem to many critics. It is a government program that provides families the protection that low wage work does not provide. The real way to eliminate the welfare problem is to restructure or enhance jobs in the lowest tiers of our labor market, rather tha n trying to force people off a system that, even with its faults, 2011:194) If poor individuals turn to and depend u pon such a degrading, minimally supportive system, that should tell middle and upper class pol icymakers a great deal about the nature of the alternative, low wage work. Instead the assumption is that turning to welfare is inherently wrong in almost all cases and people who turn to welfare must have problematic personal characteristics. What is th e justification for attaching such low wages low benefit levels, and insecurity to vital jobs in society, such as farmworkers, textile workers, food preparation workers, building and grounds cleaning and maintenance workers, childcare workers, manual labo and that workers in these occupations

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102 wages and provided the health insurance benefits that allow the workers to continue in eccombe 2007:194). She goes on to question how the wealthiest nation in the world cannot afford to pay living wages to all of its workers (Seccombe 2011:195). Emphasizing the structural nature of poverty, Seccombe notes that free market capitalism (despite its elevation to an almost divine status by proponents) cannot always provide good work for all who need it, and the government may need to fulfill this role (Seccombe 2011:195). According to the empirical data, replacing current low wage work with secure decent paying work with benefits (such as health insurance and system to that new system of socially just work (Seccombe 2011:195). The ideological emphasis on indivi dualism in welfare policy assumes that there are enough good jobs for everyone if they simply try hard enough (endless opportunities) ignoring significant structural limitations suggested by empirical research It should come as no surprise then that welf welfare rolls, but not addressing the issue of poverty. While the strong economy of the 1990s masked some of the failures of welfare reform, the 2000s saw increased poverty levels and unemployment rates, while individ uals leaving TANF did not leave poverty in large numbers. Average wages for people leaving welfare are at or near minimum wage, lack benefits such as health insurance, and are often unstable (Seccombe 2011:193). Between 50 to 75 percent of families remain poor after leaving welfare, even two to three years after leaving the system (Blank 2002, cited in Seccombe 2007:130). In one state level study, approximately 90 percent of former recipients lived below the 185 percent poverty threshold (Acs and Loprest 20 04, cited in Seccombe 2007:130).

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103 Another state level study found that former welfare recipients had lower incomes during the year they left the system relative to their incomes prior to leaving (Cancian et. al. 2003, cited in Seccombe 2007:130). Yet anothe r state level study found that, of women insurance or $8.50 without it (Pavetti an d Acs 2001, cited in Seccombe 2007:130). keeping roofs over their heads, and keeping food on their tables. How then can (Seccombe 2011:193). What these studies suggest is that the individualistic nature of welfare reform ignores the structural limitations that must be addressed if welfare is to work, most notably creating enough truly good jobs for all. Welfare policy as sumes that poor people do not and will not work unless coerced and/or properly motivated. This ignores that fact that most poor people do in fact belong Schmitt 2000/2001; Quigley 2003 ; Stanczyk 2009 ). One way this fact may be obscured is because poor individuals who seek welfare are only but a subsection of the poor population. The TANF program, for instance, only serves less than half of the eligible poor population (betw een 45 50 percent) (Fremstad 2003 and Fremstad 2004, cited in the most highly excluded from labor markets)

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104 may be seeking out welfare assistance 12 This may help perpetuate the myths and stereotypes about poverty and work, while reinforcing the individualism framework and ignoring alternative structural explanations for the lack of work. Women, Poverty, and Welfare Another way in which i deological cultural assumptions have pervaded anti poverty policy in the U.S. is the vilification and suspicion of poor women. One such the fertility of poor women Almost policy, policies which prohibit or restrict additional benefits to families for any children born while a mother receives welfare assistance (despite the fact that family caps were not required by the f ederal legislation). While this of course punishes the mother and deprives children of much needed assistance, the intent is to discourage poor mothers from having children while receiving government aid. Vicky Lens (1998) provides a thorough examination o f this phenomenon, highlighting the fact that these measures are designed counter to empirical data. Lens notes that contemporary welfare policies, such is the assumption that welfare mothers are acting irresponsibly and immorally by having children the 12 Most poor individuals cannot work either because of age (too young or old), disabi lity (mental or physical), or illness (mental or physical). A majority of poor families have at least one parent working full time (Stanczyk 2009).

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105 of 1996:392). Conservative commentators lamented th e perceived promiscuity of poor mothers during the 1990s welfare debate, despite a lack of empirical evidence to support their claims (Mills 1996:392). One commentator went as far as to characterize been a core component of anti poverty policy in the U.S. for some time. Lens asserts tracted the attention of the larger society, usually in the form of coercive attempts to limit the number of children The list of government policies aimed at curtailing the fertility of poor women is on programs in the early part of the 20 th century provided benefits Forced and/or coerced sterili zation policies in the 1920s were a proposed practice considered by many s characteristics in the population (Lens 1998:22, citing Radford 1991). When AFDC was instituted in the 1930s, the legislation contained provisions that would deny benefits to women who were in Lens 1998:23). Black women were disproportionately singled out by these provisions; in 1959, for instance, of the 7,000 families denied benefits under this provision because of illegitima welfare worker, 91% were African American (Pivan and Cloward 1993, cited in Lens

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106 which allowed welfare wor kers to visit recipient s (unannounced if they wished) in an policy was supposedly to regulate the home environment and the sexuality of mothers. The list of policies similar to these is long and my discussion of them is short, but the point of much of welfare policy historically has been to control the fertility of poor women, which has typically been viewed as problematic. Fast forward to the past few decades and the trend persists. Welfare policy in the 1980s saw a continued shift in governmental policy towards and public perception of the associated with deviant behavior s moral s, values, and sub culture s (Lens 1998:25). Welfare wa s also being reframed during this time as the cause rather than the answer to these problems (Jenks 1992, cited in Lens 1998:25). This view is epitomized by the work of Charles Murray, who argues that th will create, for poor women, an system as the preferred explanation for p overty, attention was again turned toward the welfare recipients, particularly African gubernatorial campaign in California, also carried these concerns about welfare mothers with him to the national stage in the 1980s. Reagan referenced the fictitious welfare

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107 along with her food stamps and Medicaid, earning a welfare funded income of over $150,000 (NY Times 1976). This concern carried over and intensified in the early 1990s, and resulted in many of the provisions targeting poor women in the PRWORA legislation. n welfare policy is the assumption that not only do poor women have uncontrolled fertility, but that welfare policy encourages this and in many cases makes it worse. Yet many studies suggest little to no connection between welfare and fertility rates (Cutr ight 1973; Winegarden 1974; Presser and Salsberg 1975; Moore and Caldwell 1977; Vining 1983; Bane and Ellwood 1985; Rank welfare is a significant motivation to have ch assertion in one passage in the Contract with America nor offers a similar argument, stating that between welfare and higher single to 1986, benefits fell by over 20% whi le out of wedlock births rose, which raises an single 1988:58, cited in Lens 1998:27). Bane a nd Ellwood (1985) found that there was a weak to nonexistent relationship between states with higher welfare benefits and out of

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108 wedlock births (cited in Lens 1998:27). Moore and Caldwell (1977) reported a negative correlation between higher AFDC benefits and out of wedlock births (cited in Lens 1998:28). Placek and Hendershot (1972) found that women on welfare were more likely to use birth control and less likely to want to have a child (cited in Lens 1998:28). Rank (1989) found fertility rates of welfare recipients to be lower than the rest of the population, and that these rates decreased the longer one received benefits (cited in Lens 1998:28). Prior to the passage of TANF, the average number of children in families on AFDC was 1.9, well below the nation al average (Nahata 2009:384). When the New Jersey Department of Human Services conducted a five year study of 8,500 welfare mothers, the researchers found no difference between the fertility rates of those who received additional benefits upon the birth of a child and those who did not (Lens 1998:30). Furthermore, this same New Jersey study found that 70% of children born while their mothers were in the welfare system had been conceived prior to the family entering the system (Harvard Law Review 1994:2026). studies have shown that higher welfare grants are not correlated with any increase in of 998:30). Family caps are a current example of a long line of welfare policies that are not based on sound empirical data, but subjective moral judgments; in short, it is based on ideology (Lens 1998:33 34). Lens goes further:

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109 The family cap is based on th e deeply flawed premise that welfare mothers will respond to economic incentives and refrain from having children if their public assistance is eliminated or reduced. This assumption has been proven wrong by numerous studies throughout this century. Such s tudies demonstrate that the welfare system itself is not the cause of either single parent families or the increase in out of wedlock births. The family cap is based not only on a flawed theory, but also on a dangerous one. Although directed at the behavio r of welfare mothers, its ultimate target is the child who is unfortunate enough to be born while his or her mother is on welfare. In sum, the family cap is a misguided attempt to mold behavior based on faulty stereotypes of welfare mothers. (Lens 199 8 :33) Harvard Law Review summarizes this position on the policy in the following manner: Family caps will not effectively reduce rising teenage birth rates, nor will they break the cycle of poverty. Moreover, these policies reinforce stereotypes about women, minorities, and poor people. If one weighs the benefits against the harms, one finds that little is gained and that women and ch ildren in poverty are punished. (Harvard Law Review 199 4:2 027) With so little empirical and theoretical support for this policy, it is difficult to render it anything other than an extension of the w idespread, ideologically driven condemnation licy, and public discourse. Welfare policy has been gendered for as long as it has existed Seccombe In a decidedly sexist manner, the push to get women to work ignores the fact that t aking care of children is work. It also ignores the difficulties that a single mother depending on a minim um wage salary has afford ing to work during the day and pay for ch ildcare.

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110 personal hardships that they often did not choose and that are, in an important sense, Access and quality issues plague p oor women as they make decisions concerning childcare. Relatives and/or friends cannot always be relied on to watch children, leaving many poor women to choose from low quality childcare alternatives. Poor women face many childcare challenges: having to le ave the ir children in high crime areas, depen ding upon unqualified strangers, ov er crowded and dirty conditions, scarcity of government subsidized childcare, and high costs (Seccombe 2007:134 1 35). poor mothers was the quality of child care, followed by high costs and low quality, subsidized childcare choices for poor women increases the likelihood that they will be able to participate fully in the paid labor force and depend less on the welfare system (Danziger Ananat, and Browning 2004, Fuller et. al. 2002, and Scott, London, and Hurst 2005, cited in Seccombe 2007:135), yet subsidized positions continue to b e scarce and of very low quality ( Seccombe 2007:135). Less than fifteen percent of children who are in Seccombe 2007:135), with as many as 23 states cutting back eli gibility even further due to budgetary concerns (Seccombe 2007:135). Historically, white Americans have been suspicious of the values of the African American community, and this suspicion manifests itself rather cruelly in the welfare discourse concerning single black mothers. Black women are often assumed to hold deviant values, such as shunning marriage and choosing to have children out of

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111 wedlock. While it is true that black women have lower rates of marriage and higher rates of out of wedlock births th an their white counterparts, deviant values are likely not the best explanation. Based on empirical research, Seccombe (2011) reports that unemployment, underemployment, low wages, and the mismatch of black women to black men in the marriage market (a prod uct of the disproportionate incarceration and death rates black men face ) play a far more significant role in the black community in terms of decisions on whether or not to marry (Seccombe 2011:53 54). In terms of out of wedlock births, Seccombe (2011) rep orts that part of this discrepancy can be explained by educational and socioeconomic inequalities (Seccombe 2011:54). One of the major conservative critiques of anti poverty welfare policy is that it breeds depe ndence on government assistance In the welfare reform movement of the 1990s, dependency concerns were largely behind the new TANF requirement that welfare usage to a maximum of five years. In fact, the issue of dependency took cen ter stage in the debate, ignoring structural labor market constraints time allowance states were allowed to reduce this limit (for e xample, Arkansas reduced it to two years). Some st ates also limited the amount of consecutive months of TANF that a family could receive Nevada, for instance, stipulates that every two year spell in the TANF system must be followed by one year off. What was the basis for this new stipulation? It was hardl y based on empirical evidence, as two thirds of AFDC spells lasted less than two years (Harvard Law Review 1994:2022). Is it possible that it was based on negative stereotypes of poor individuals unwilling to work, while ignoring structural causes of unemp loyment and low

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112 of dependence has been used by advocates of restrictive welfare policies to refer to stereotype of recipients as free loaders is so strong that we assume the system must be reform in the 1990s was much m ore concerned with ending perceived dependency and available oppo rtunities, and that decent jobs, wages, and benefits await them if they are willing to try. This is a common theme in the popular discourse, but has pervaded the academy as well. When Kenneth J. Neubeck and Noel A. Cazenave were seeking funding for their r esearch that resulted in their book Welfare Racism (2001 ), they found that their research agenda did not fit into the frame which foundation grant officers wished welfare research to utilize. Rejecting their request for research funding on racism and welfa re in the U.S., one grant on flawed dependency rhetoric ignores many of the structural issues influencing poor individuals, and gives primacy to the individualism framework. Seccombe challenges be aware of the cons equences of eliminating a valuable safety net without enhancing

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113 2011:200). It is akin to lecturing the losing players in a game of musical chairs that if they were just to try harder, more chairs would magically appear (an example discussed later). Without addressing massive structural limitations to eliminating poverty and thus the need for welfare (such as the lack of good jobs), this policy seems dishonest. The Triumph of In dividualism One important lesson of the welfare reform debate, movement, and legislation of the 1990s was that individual causes of poverty are much more popular with the general public and politicians than structural explanations. Seccombe (2011) asserts review of recent welfare reform legislation shows that we still see poverty as largely a almost entirely on this belief (Seccombe 2007:135). The U.S. public feels strongly that (Seccombe 2011:11, citing Browning 2008, Hancock 2004, and Seccombe 2007). Rank, Yoon, and Hirschl (2003) explain this further: Within the United States, the dominant perspective has been t hat of poverty as an individual failing. From Ben Poor Almanac to the recent welfare reform changes, poverty has been conceptualized primarily as a consequence of individual failings and deficiencies. Indeed, social surveys asking about the causes of poverty have consistently found th at Americans tend to rank individual reasons (such as la ziness, lack of effort, and low ability) as the most important fa ctors related to poverty, while structur al reasons such as unemployment or discrimination are viewed as significantly less important ( Rank, Yoon, and Hirschl 2003:4) The authors argue that this view is reinforced by social scientists who study poverty, with the structure agency tension tilted towards individualism (Rank, Yoon, and Hirschl

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114 2003:5). Admittedly, some scholars still do ver y good work exploring the structural nature of poverty; Rank and his colleagues highlight the work of Ryan (1971), Katz (1989), Gans (1995), Massey (1996) and Feagin (2000) in particular. The trend in the social sciences in general (in such disciplines as economics and to a somewhat lesser extent sociology), however, is to determine which individual attributes are correlated with economic deprivation, an approach which assumes that everyone can be economically successful if they just have the right combina tion of human capital characteristics (educational credentials, specific skills and demonstrable work experience, etc.). This ignores the available opportunities and the social forces that influence who will be able to grasp the best opportunities. Rank, Yoon, and Hirschl (2003) use three lines of evidence to refute the individual The first line of evidence is the inability of the U.S. labor market to provide enough decent pa ying jobs for all families to avoid poverty or near poverty. By utilizing Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) data, the authors found that between 9.4, 15.3 and 22.0 percent of full time jobs do not pay above poverty wages (depending upon wh ich poverty threshold one uses, the 100, 125, or 150 percent threshold ), and between 14.9, 21.4 and 28.0 percent of part time workers are in jobs that do not pay above poverty wages (depending on the poverty threshold used) (Rank, Yoon, and Hirschl 2003:1 2). The second line of evidence Rank and his colleagues use is the ineffectiveness of the U.S. social safety net to reduce poverty, particularly in comparison to other developed nations ( a point I discuss later ) The third line of evidence is the systemic

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115 nature of U.S. poverty, highlighted by the empirical evidence that shows that the majority of the U.S. population will experience poverty during their adult lifetimes (between 58.5, 68.0 and 76.0 percent, whether one uses the 100, 125, or 150 percent thr eshold) (Rank, Yoon, and Hirschl 2003:20). The authors use these three lines of evidence to argue that, while human capital characteristics may explain who experiences poverty, it does not explain why poverty exists. The popularity of the idea that pover ty is an individual failing, not a structural failing, helps to explain how anti poverty policy is shaped. This view has long been an lfare, not poverty, is the demon that policymakers need to exorcise. Instead of confronting the multi faceted problem of (Harvard Law Review 1994:2013). Mills notes that the welfare reform movement of the 1990s was rooted in neoco nservative critiques of welfare Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) rather than focused on economic structural reform" (Mills 1996:391). Mills argues that: The neoconservative critique of welfare argues that welfare is too liberal rather than that wages are too low, that subsidized child care is an unjust transfer of resources rather than that affordable day care is too scarce, and that medical assistance is a crutch rather than that access to health care in the open market is too restricted an d expensive. (Mills 1996:394) Contract with America, AFDC mothers, not the welfare state or the structure of the U.S. economy, are to blame for the expansion of the AFDC

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116 Mills goes on to quote the Contract with America, w hich explicitly highlights this individual centered poverty perspective: dependency? The Great Society has had the unintended consequence of snaring millions of Americans into the wel fare trap. Government programs designed to give a helping hand to the neediest of Americans have instead bred illegitimacy, crime, illiteracy, and more poverty. Our Contract with America will change this destructive social behavior by requiring welfare rec ipients to take personal responsibil ity for the decisions they make. (Gingrich et. al. 199 4:65, cited in Mills 1996:391) In the U.S. capitalism has become somewhat of a religion, and any shortcomings are often either ignored or downplayed. One such prob lem is the problem of producing enough jobs for all who need them, and livable wages for all who need them. It is often assumed that individuals are responsible for either (a) not being able to find a job, or (b) not being able to secure a job with a livab le wage. Ignored in this perspective is the possibility that capitalism cannot provide enough well paying jobs for everyone who needs them as those who are more materially successful and the rest of society assigns them a low economic system has an endless supply of good jobs at a decent wage, a logical extension of this line of reasoning would find fault with individuals who fail to capitalize on these opportunities. Rank, Yoon, and Hirschl (2003) lament the sole focus on indi viduals in poverty scholarship, asserting that: By focusing upon individual attributes as the cause of poverty, social scien tists have largely missed the underlying dynamic of American impoverishment. Poverty researchers have in effect focused on who loses out at the economic game, rather than addressing the fact that the game prod uces losers in the first place. (Rank, Yoon, a n d Hirschl 2003:5)

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117 This structural vulnerability perspective posits that we must address the scarcity of jobs, and of the jobs that are available, determine whether or not they offer a livable wage. Only then can we begin to pretend that individuals alone are responsible for their actions (although availability is only one component, we would also need to address the occupy those positions ). The authors use the example of a game of musical chairs (Rank, Yoo n, and Hirschl 2003:22): in this game, there are fewer chairs tha n there are participants. I t could logically be argued that the fastest, most athletic, and most cunning individuals will be more likely win in this game. We may even be able to empirically s upport (quite strongly perhaps) that those who tried the hardest and had the highest skill level won the game and secured a chair. This only explains how individuals get filtered into rewarding positions, however, and nothing about what might have happened if all of the participants had a high level of skill. There would still be a shortage of chairs every time regardless of the personal characteristics of the individuals involved in the game and thus our statistically significant study would fall short be cause it did not acknowledge the rigid structural constraints inherent in the game. The example used by Rank and his colleagues is a good one. Wright and Rogers (2011) offer an example that takes the musical chairs concept one step further. In the game o f musical chairs mentioned earlier, the participants know going into the game and while playing the game that there is a shortage of chairs. Furthermore, they know the actual number of missing chairs. In real life, however, we do not always know the existe nce, and certainly not the exact nature, of the m ismatch between people and jobs; of these jobs, we also do not know the percentage of available jobs that pay a livable

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118 wage. This fact further complicates the structural nature of poverty. Wright and Rogers professor who decides to use a grading curve to calculate final grades. The students ar e graded not on some absolute scale that measures how much they have learned, but simply how they have performed relative to each other. Before the class begins, the how many students did that level of work for that matter; it simply matt ers that they were the top ten students relative to the rest of the class (example in Wright and Rogers education result in poverty still depends upon the rule of the game thr ough which jobs are created and income is distributed. Under alternative rules of the game. jobs could begin to deal with the many important needs that are not adequately met through the o assert that, a good education; it reflects a social failure in the creation of sufficient jobs to provide an adequate standard of living for all people regardles (Wright and Rogers 2011:224). In response to what in his view has been the dominant focus on individualism throughout American history in poverty discourse, academic scholarship, politics, and social policy, Katz argues that all of these arenas of debate have focused almost

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119 1989:236). Katz argues that we must see poverty as a social product that is the result of political economy (Katz 1989:7). An important part of this is that as societies have developed the ability to generate surpluses, poverty then becomes an issue of how to distribute those surpluses. He believes individualism has dominated American history because (a) the cul ture of capitalism measures people by their wealth and condemns those without it, and (b) the language of politics in America has made it difficult to accurately articulate the causes and solutions to the problem of poverty, redefining or misrecognizing is sues of power and distribution as personal, cultural, and moral rather than structural (Katz 1989:7 8). The manner in which we talk about and address poverty has ignored 1989:8). Classifying poor people in ways that serve the interests of the powerful in U.S. society provide s people with a familiar target for displacing their anger, fears, and f rustrations, and legitimize s n and immune from the values, beliefs, and ideologies of public discourse, reinforces the individual perspective. Katz (1989) argues that social scientists in the U.S. mystify the origins of poverty and obscure the politics of poverty (Katz 1989:237) Katz argues that the impulse to transform the cause of poverty from being rooted in politics and resources and

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120 level characteristics like motivation to work (Katz 1989:238). Ideology in Action: Welfare Stigma The class, gender, and racial ideologies that dem onize the poor and welfare recipients combine to create a palpable stigma of which virtually all Americans are aware. In fact, it would be difficult to find an American not aware of negative jokes about the poor and welfare recipients, the nature of which many Americans would likely agree. Many welfare recipients report feeling ashamed and stigmatized by the fact that they must turn to welfare (Rank 1994, Jarrett 1996, Deparle 2004, Hays 2003, and Seccombe and Hoffman 2007, cited in Seccombe 2011:49), a fac t that keeps many families from even applying for aid (Roe 2009 and Yaniv 1997, cited in Seccombe 2011:51) and is based on deeply rooted cultural assumptions about our eco nomic system and the notion that we live in a meritocracy. If a person does not succeed economically our cultural assumptions tell us that they are largely to blame. It is of course no surprise that the general public view s welfare recipients negatively gi ven our laziness emerged again and again in her interviews, highlighting the strength of the individualism perspective in the public consciousness (Seccombe 2011:50). Recip ients report ed being looked down upon in everyday settings, being judged from everything from their parenting to unfairly receiving hard earned tax dollars of others to sitting around all day milking the system (Seccombe 2011:50). Most middle and upper class Americans likely feel secure in the fact that they can go to the grocery

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121 middle and upper classes do not receive government subsidies in one form or another, but b ecause (a) their government aid is not openly on display in public settings and (b) it is not a form of government aid that is discredited and despised by the population at large. When CEOs of large corporations go to the grocery store, they are not likely to be and wealthfare spending outpaces anti poverty spending by a ratio of roughly 4 to 1. This is not a discredited and despised form of government aid, at least not on the level of welfare for the poor, and it is not publicly on display in countless everyday public settings. The spending habits of corporate welfare and wealthfare recipients, for the most part, are not available for regular middle and upper class citi zens to monitor and evaluate in everyday settings. Our cultural beliefs about meritocracy are strong. Because of this, it should be no surprise that institutions, which are made up of people, can collectively hold negative views of welfare recipients. Afte r all, people who make up institutions have been socialized in our culture and accept dominant cultural beliefs to some extent. In this sense, institutions that are widely reported to hold negative views of welfare recipients, such as the mass media and we lfare institutions in particular, are simply reflecting the views of the people who constitute these institutions and the culture they are embedded and is deeply rooted i The largely negative images of welfare recipients are held by average citizens and perpetuated by the mass media, images that depict lazy, unmotivated, dependent welfare recipients. Seccombe notes tha t the stereotype of the welfare recipi ent one

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122 with a large family, who is dependent on government aid for many years, who lives in an urban setting, and who has deviant values is actually the exception, not the norm (Seccombe 2011:49). Yet this exception i s what becomes salient in the popular imagination, becomes the dominant welfare family stereotype What is myth and what is movement of the 1990s sought to punish poor adults the real victims may have been the children; most welfare recipients (2/3) are children under the age of 18 (Seccombe Americans consist of 37% of welfare recipients (38% white, 20% His panic/Latino). Out of control fertility is of course a subjective concept, but 50% of welfare families have one child, 27% have two children, 13% have three, and only 8% have four or more (Seccombe 2011:15). Furthermore, Rank (1989) has found empirical evi rates are lower than the rest of the population, and that these rates decrease the longer one receives benefits. In 1994, prior to the PRWORA Act of 1996, the median spell on welfare was 22.8 months, a number that h ad been falling since the 1980s (Seccombe 2011:16 17). One unfortunate function of mass media is that it helps to perpetuate negative exceptions, the mainstream media ha ve portrayed the issue of welfare in terms and 2009:384). Despite the fact that claims about the fertility of poor women are often problematic ideological, and only loosely based on empirical evidence (if rooted in evidence at all), mass media institutions have helped perpetuate negative stereotypes

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123 ssing structural issues such as the supply of jobs, wage levels, access and quality of childcare, and racial discrimination, 009:384). In his social work college textbook, which is used by colleges and universities to introduce aspiring social workers to their field, Zastrow makes the claim that most social the views of rugged welfare posits that: social welfare programs are proper and legi timate facets of modern society, recipients are entitled to the assistance and sho uld not be stigmatized, and that their difficulties are rooted in the social structure, not the individual, mostly due to causes outside of their control (Zastrow 2010:6 7). The focus here is improving the social structure, not fixing or demeaning the indi vidual. The opposing view, the residual view, is largely rejected by social workers (according to Zastrow). The residual view contends that self sufficiency is available to all individuals except when their own actions prevent it, and that the free market can provide for everybody willing to work for their own success (Zastrow 2010:6); the individual is largely to blame for their own failure to achieve success in a society that has virtually endless opportunities for those who are willing to grasp them. As that is, clients are to blame for their predicaments because of personal inadequacies, ill advised activities, 6).

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124 tend to hold the institutional view) seem to contradict some qualitative studies where many welfare recipients report being stigmatized, frustrated, and demoralized by social workers and social welfare institution s (Seccombe 2011; Handler and Hasenfeld 2007) the very workers and institutions that Zastrow claims do not believe in an ideology that would reinforce such a the syste m indicate that many of the workers employed the residual view that Zastrow claims they reject. In her book So You Think I Drive a Cadillac? Karen Seccombe details the results of interviews ( conducted in 1995 as well as from 2002 2003) with 684 females f rom Florida and Oregon who were either currently receiving welfare assistance or had recently left the welfare system. Seccombe notes that recipients routinely felt conte reported that social worker s had contempt for their clients and demeaned recipients, saying hurtful things and attempting to make recipients feel bad about themselves for needing assistance. Respondents re ported being talked down to being treated as problems, receiving little respe ct, and having to be ultra sensitive to the needs, beliefs, and moods of social workers in order not to anger them and risk losing their aid. Amy, being on welfare an d being involved in the system. You are treated as though you are the scum of the earth. A unpleasant experi

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125 What accounts for this di screpancy? Could it be that the beliefs of the field as a whole do not translate to every social welfare institution? Possibly. There also may be a difference in ideology between social workers who study social work at a university and those who do not. Th ere also may be a burn out factor, where lived experience in the field erodes idealistic notions about poverty. It is also highly likely that a discrepancy exists between the ideals that social workers espouse and what they do in practice. Social workers d o not exist outside of society, they are socialized within our culture and are at least somewhat beholden to its assumptions. While the norms and values of social work programs and welfare offices may mediate cultural assumptions, it is likely, given the e vidence, that many of the negative as sumptions about the poor remain in the minds of these workers. The Racialization of Welfare The presence in the U.S. of n egative perceptions and distrust of African Americans in economic need has been well document ed (Gilens 1999, Wilson 1996 and [welfare] is that negative perceptions and stereotypes about Africa n Americans have caused the perceptions of welfare have become entangled with negative p erceptions of African Americans. The intersection of these images causes people to have a negative, visceral reaction to the word that brings all of these images to the forefront. If a hypothetical person believes that (a) African Americans by nature have problematic personal and/or

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126 intersection of thes e beliefs creates a pow erful racially conjures a mixture of these loaded presuppositions (which together may have an exponential ly negative effect there are not a whole lot of words in the U.S. that can generate such visceral, vitriolic responses fro m people In fact, it Neubeck and Cazenave explore this issue in We lfare Racism (2001): For decades now, we along with millions of other people in the United States have been exposed to racist comments and images about those who receive welfare. The racialization of welfare has reached the point where politicians can now exploit racial animus to promote their political ambitions and goals simply by speaking the word welfare. The ease with which political elites abolished the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program the primary safety net protecting poverty stric ken mothers and children would have been impossible had not many politicians, along with policy analysts and the mass media, spent decades elites relied upon often subtle racist stereo types about welfare and its recipients to escalate ant ipathy toward public assistance. (v, vii) There is a persistent welfare stereotype in the U.S. that associates poverty and welfare use with the African American population, despite the fact that Africa n Americans comprise less than a quarter of the poor population and about a third of welfare recipients (U.S. Census 2009; Seccombe 2011:51). African Americans, as a group, are disproportionately represented among the poor; the reasons for this are complex related to historical and institutionalized racism and the manner in which economic and social resources are distributed in society. In a country where the individual ism framework holds such sway in the court of public opinion, the historical

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127 and structu ral forces that have led to such disproportionate economic marginalization in the African American community are misrecognized as individual and sub cultural Americans be cause they are increasingly weary of social programs, they believe that racism has declined, and they see blacks as failing to expend the effort needed to Neubeck and Cazenave argue that the 20 th centu ry U.S. political landscape is littered with figures who have forged, obscured, and exploited the link between the African American community, poverty, and welfare; the list of politicians include such men as Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, an d Bill Clinton, to name a few chiselers, generations of welfare dependency, and children having children were commonplace in 1990s discussions of the need for welfare reform, 7). The authors argue that the political influence on racial ide ologies has been aided and abetted by social science research, much of which has heralded the end of racism ological culture of the African American community, and the explanation put forth The Bell Curve regarding the (supposed) genetically inherited cognitive deficiencies of African Americans. The work of politici ans and academics has played a substantial part in the result that African American mothers are being blamed for many social problems

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128 and have been views about welfare recipients vary depending on the race o f the recipient and are much more negative when the recipient is black, and the cultural conflation of race with poverty and welfare has meant that all welfare recipients now receive the negative judgments once reserved for black recipients. Rather than vi ewing poverty as an inherent feature of our social, political, and economic organization as a society exacerbated by both historical and institutionalized racism, it is viewed by many as a Neubeck and Cazenave argue that beyond the political and academic influence on racial attitudes in the U.S., we must look to the larger society to truly understand welfare racism. The racial attitudes of politicians and academics in the U.S. have been a reflection of the larg belong to the same culture and share many of the same cultural assumptions. Rather than drawing a causal arrow from politicians and academics to the arrow mig ht go in both directions (culture influences the perspectives of politicians, who then feed back into that culture and exacerbate its assumptions). Americans are not generally opposed to welfare, they are opposed to welfare for African Americans, and this reflects historical and contemporary racist attitudes and the institutionalization of on black oppression has historically been the basis for racial classification and for white racial hegemony in the United history of racial discrimination, racial exclusion, and racist stereotyping by white Americans not only had a heavy influence on the popular discourse about African

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129 Am ericans but on the development of social policies directed towards the poor. White hegemony and racial stratification in the U.S. is inextricably embedded in our culture, influencing all social institutions, including academic institutions (both in educati on and research) and the government. Martin Gilens argues that white Americans who are hostile towards welfare tend to hold stereotypical beliefs about African Americans, particularly concerning their work ethic. He shares similar sentiments to Neubeck and Cazenave, arguing that Americans expresses a desire for more government effort, and higher levels of spending, for almost every aspect of the welfare state. Year after year, surveys show that most Americans think the government is not doing enough (or not spending enough) for 1999:2). Gilens argues that individualism is a strong ideology in the U.S., but that Americans consistently believe in most aspects of the welfare state as a fail safe when individual efforts fail. Americans believe that welfare is necessary and desirable, but only as long as it goes to those who are truly deserving. Because many white Americans (a) believe that welfare is largely going to African Americans, and (b) believe that African Americans as a group deviate from mainstream society in important ways (such as work ethic), they negatively view the welfare system as it is currently beliefs about blacks especially their judgments about the causes of ra cial inequality

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130 old stereotype of blacks as lazy remains credible for large Gilens argues that the racial ideologies of whites, and that these ideologies are exacerbated by mass media overrepresentation s of blacks in stories about poverty. Like many scholars, Gilens argues that social i nstitutions, and the people who inhabit them, are subject to the cultural assumptions of society at large. Because of this, it should be of little surprise that members of mass media institutions are subject to the r acial ideologies of the culture in which they were born, raised, socialized, and currently live and interact within. ster eotypes, which operate as an unconscious influence on the content of the news they hegemonic ideas exist in our society, it would be nave to assume that most people in most institutions operate outside of their own culture. Members of the mass media grapple with the same cultural assumptions and logic as other Americans, despite self selection of political liberals into the profession. Gilens minimizes the impact of individualism on welfare attitudes, citing racia l attitudes as the main culprit, while I interpret his data slightly differently. I believe that stance on welfare. While Americans may favor the principles of the we lfare state, their belief that economic success or failure is largely the result of effort may help explain their beliefs about African Americans, coupled with negati ve racial attitudes that exist. Americans can simultaneously support the welfare state for individuals who fail while

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131 still believing it is individuals and not systems that fail. My understanding of American economic life; Americans, in my view, support the welfare state i n spite of the ir belief in meritocracy because they believe in the social safety net for m oral and compassionate reasons. While it is true that Americans favor a safety net, that does not indicate that they believe poverty is the result of structural imbal ances; one can hold an individual level view of poverty while still being morally opposed to the government standing by while people ent says nothing about structural imbalance, it how they got there individualistic judgment of the pl ight or a poor person) In a country where people believe economic standing is largely a result of individual effort, it is not difficult to see why the continued disproportionate representation of African Americans among the poor would be seen as an indiv idual or sub cultural failing by many Americans; coupled with already negative attitudes towards African Americans as a group and the overrepresentation of blacks in poverty related stories in the media, negative views of the welfare system are a logical (a lthough highly problematic) result. In relying on the deserving/undeserving poor rhetoric to base their attitudes, we see how Americans fail The ideology of individua lism combines with racial ideologies resulting in vitriolic welfare rejection of government support for the poor, but rather to a strong demand that welfare

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132 recipient (Gilens 1999:5). I would argue that most Americans misrecognize structural disadvantage as a lack of personal responsibility, and in doing so, strongly support the individua list ideology. A lack of human capital might be seen as an unwillingness to seek education, rather than structured inequality in society and its institutions, including schools. A lack of employment may be seen as a lack of work ethic, rather than a lack o f jobs. Gilens downplays the role of individualism in promoting his racial ideology explanation, but I think this is a mistake. I believe that the individualist ideology itself makes it difficult for Americans to identify structural constraints, and that w e must combine this misrecognition with negative racial ideologies to truly understand social welfare where individual effort fails, but largely fail to see where this is the case, rise economically and limit the impact of their individual effort. If white Americans have a negative view of African Americans, this is at least partly due to the disproportionate representation of African Americans in poverty and how this intersects with the American belief that most people in poverty are there because of something that they did. Common Poverty Perspectives Karen Seccombe suggest s that there are generally four perspectives employed to understand what causes poverty: individualism, C ulture of P overty, social structuralism, and fatalism (Seccombe 2007:88). In this study of social work students, I explored individualism, Culture of P ov erty, and social structuralism (although I will discuss all four).

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133 Individualism focuses on the responsibility of each person for their own socioeconomic status based upon their own personal characteristics, choices/actions, motivations, hard work and e ffort /merit (Seccombe 2007:88 94). Seccombe argues (Seccombe 2007:93). Seccombe main tains that this has been the dominant U.S. response to poverty throughout its history (Seccombe 2007:89); it is also a very popular explanation for poverty among the public, with approximately half of the public believing that the biggest cause of poverty is the poor themselves (Seccombe 2007:91). This framework asserts that opportunities for ad vancement and social mobility are open to anyone who is willing to work hard to obtain it. This perspective is promoted by the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation, which asserts that: rom the effects of behavioral poverty, meaning the breakdown in the values and conduct that leads to the formation of healthy families, stable personalities, and self sufficiency. This includes eroded work ethic and dependency, lack of educational aspirati ons and achievement, inability or unwillingness to criminal activ ity, and drug and alcohol abuse. (Seccombe 2007:89) Supporters of the individualistic explanation of poverty cite defic iencies in the proper values, work ethic, and aspirations of the poor as the primary cause of their plight (Seccombe 2007:89). Adults with these deficiencies become poor parents, thus passing on their impoverishment to their children (Seccombe 2007:89).

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134 S ocial structuralism is concerned with the role and influence of social institutions, organizations, groups, statuses, roles, values, and norms in determining the opportunities available to people in our culture (Seccombe 2007:94 98). Proponents of social s tructuralism argue that social organization and the manner in which social institutions are structured largely determine resource distribution. This perspective structure the economy, federal labor regulations, and the social safety net all play a role in influencing who experiences poverty and what that experience will look like. Culture of Po verty arguments hinge on the belief that the poor respond to restricted opportunity by developing a unique subculture of attitudes, values, and beliefs (Seccombe 2007:98 102). These beliefs do not necessarily cause poverty (but can) but certainly reproduce it from generation to generation Proponents of this perspective argue that d poverty to exist in society. once established, life in poverty tends to produce cultural ideas that promote be 69). The distinctive patterns of behavior and belief, notably fatalistic acceptance of being poor and an inabi perspective blends features of [individualism and social structuralism]. It suggests that a subcultur al set of values, traits, and expectations have developed as a direct result of the structural constraints associated with living in isolated pockets of poverty. People in

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135 poverty are said to live in a subculture with a weak family structure and present ti me 2007:98). The supposed flawed values displayed by impoverished adults are then transmitted to children, perpetuating a cycle of poverty across multiple generations. Osc ar Lewis, who developed the idea of the Culture of Poverty, asserted that: Once it [the Culture of Poverty] comes into existence it tends to perpetuate itself from generation to generation because of its effect on the children. By the time slum children a re age six or seven they have usually absorbed the basic values and attitudes of their subculture and are not psychologically geared to take full advantage of changing conditions or increased opportunities wh ich may occur in their lifetime. (Lewi s 1966:xli ii xlv) (Seccombe 2007:101); the latter view posits that a subculture of values doe s indeed (Seccombe 2007:101) The sub the result of a process by which the poor pragmatically winnow what works from what 2007:101). h and poverty to quirks of birth, chance, luck, human nature, illness, or other forces over which rather a result of random events outside of our control (Seccombe 2007: 102 ). In The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, Herrnstein and Murray

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136 argue that intellectual inferiority is genetic, causes poverty, and is passed down intergenerationally (Herrnstein and Murray 1994), an example of the fatalis t perspective. Bad luck and poor health are further examples of fatalistic causes of poverty (Seccombe 2007:103). What are Ideolog ies/Worldviews? Considering the frequent use of the term s in this study, it is helpful to define what I mean by the term eology because that is how it is most frequently used in the theoretical scholarship I have cited, but I do use both. Ideology has been conceptualized from many different theoretical perspectives, many of which are contradictory; to make matters worse, there is a colloquial meaning of ideology which strips it of any truly meaningful analytical purpose. I will briefly discuss some common conceptualizations while attempting to provide a working definition fo r this study. Throughout this project I loosely refer to both ideology and worldview; this is not a deductive study, so I am using these two terms interchangeably in one general definition as a sensitizing concept rather than a strictly defined variable to be tested. These concepts were used in the development of the project to provide a general framework for understanding and direction for the project. In his boo k, Ideology: An Introduction ( 2007), Terry Eagleton asks, in a world racked by ideological conflict, the very notion of ideology has evaporated without a trace from the writings of postmodern ism and post 2007:xx) Eagleton argues that, other from time to time fo r gods or vermin is ideology and it is these ideologies that influence many of our actions and beliefs, the way we live, the meaning we give to the social world, and what people sometimes will die for (Eagleton 2007:xxii) The problem

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137 is that a variety o f theorists have conceptualized ideology is a variety of ways; even some of the theorists that I have mentioned in this proposal have contradictory definitions. Here I will attempt to synthesize the many definitions that exist into a practical definition t o utilize in this study. In constructing my own practical definition, I will minimize and/or eliminate aspects of existing theoretical definitions that I deem problematic, while emphasizing aspects that I deem useful. By identifyin g poverty causation fram eworks/perspectives as ideologies, I am not assuming that objective truth exists about the true cause of poverty in the U.S. One substantial criticism of the concept of ideology is that by labeling something an ideology the researcher is therefore assuming the researcher explanation. The definition of ideology used in this project does not assume that any one ideology fully explains poverty, and untrue any one ideology may be. In fact, there may be partial truths in all of the ideologies espoused by respondents (or complete truth, or no truth whatsoever that judgment will not be made in this project, if it could be made at all). The degree and/or existence of truth is not under investigation here, only which particular ideology the participants in this study espouse and why I am not identifying what I believe to be adherence to or deviation from truth, only whose version of the truth is being given primacy. By identifying which ideology a particular participant espouses we can then identify (a) whose interests are served by that ideology, (b) the effect that the belief in that ideology has on the person espousing it, as well as people which that person may influence, and (c) the overall effect of widespread acceptance of particular ideologies by

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138 groups of people, particularly people in positions of power in the institution in question and society at larg e. There does not need to be complete societal acceptance of individualism/meritocracy for this individual blaming ideology to affect poor people; when poor people begin to suffer is when people in positions of power believe this ideology. The ideology of individualism is one that finds the root of cause of poverty almost exclusively in the personal characteristics choices, and/or actions of poor people. As stated above, this study makes no judgment about whether or not the individualist ic ideology is corr ect or not, only whose interests it serves. It is clear that the individualist ic ideology does not serve the interests of the poor, but of those people in positions of ot her things an inquiry into the ways in which people may come to invest in their own (social workers) espouse individualist ic and/or sub cultural explanations for poverty w hile Eagleton notes that, lings to There are many different definitions of ideology. The following is my practical definition of ideology (with the help of the work of Terry Eagleton 2007):

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139 Ideologies are sets of ide as which are the result of the process of production of meanings, signs and values in social life which help social actors interpret and give meaning to their world and are the basis for much of an indi socially de termined wa (Eagleton 2007:138) which can operate to distort our perceptions and/or communication Ideologies may be specific to one group in society or may social position, although this is not always the case. Ideologies give symbolic meaning to physical relationships, and then are often perceived as or are converted back into natural reality. This symbolic meaning is the basis from which individuals live out their relationship to t he social hierarchy. Ideologies typically contribute to social cohesion, but can also contribute to group conflict. Dominant ideologies typically legitimate the status quo.

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140 CHAPTER 3 METHODS Research Questions Generally speaking, there are three poverty f rameworks in the existing scholarly literature: individualism, culture of poverty, and social structuralism. Some studies rely heavily on one perspective to explain poverty, while others use some combination of the three perspectives. While many sociologis ts seem to acknowledge the social structural framework more than many other social science disciplines, the individualist ic framework is still heavily utilized even within our discipline. The pe rsistence of poverty in the U.S. is a fiercely co ntested and o ngoing debate; all three perspectives seem to have varyin g degrees of empirical support, and all three have strengths and weaknesses Outside of the academy, however, certain perspectives dominate the public discourse and take a much more prominent place i n the public mind than social structuralism. Individualism is the most prominent perspective both in public discourse and in public policy debates and approaches (Seccombe 2007:90), while the Culture of P overty perspective is also popular (and both perspec tives are more popular than social structuralism in popular discourse and policy formation) Regardless of the empirical support (or lack thereof) for these two perspectives, their popularity is persistent. Throughout U.S. history, the individual istic pers p ective in particular has informed much of public discourse and government action (Seccombe 2007:90). Most U.S. citizens are socialized in a culture that accepts these individual istic and Culture of Poverty understandings of the world. People are socialized first in families and local communities, so these common sense understandings influence their worldview s long

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141 before they enter university social work programs and/or social welfare institutions. Thi s collective worldview may then be subject to influence by the institutional culture s and experience s of studying at the university and working in soci al welfare institutions. If these institutional culture s rejected the individual istic and Culture of Pove rty explanations, one might expect social sligh tly, to incorporate more structural ly oriented explanations. What some studies suggest, however, is that the institutional culture s of these academic and social welf are institutions may actually reinforce and do very little to challenge the individual istic and Culture of Poverty explanations of poverty (Secc ombe 2011). This study sought to determine the dominant ideological perspective (pertaining to poverty and inequ ality) the dominance of this perspective. The following research questions guided this project : 1. What is (if any) the dominant ideological perspective in the MAU social wo rk program pertaining to the root cause of poverty and inequality in the U.S.? a. If counter hegemonic ideologies exist, what are they? i. How marginalized are they? ii. How many different perspectives are there? b. Is dominant culture reinforced, challenged, or med iated in some manner? c. If there i s a dominant ideology how st rong is it? i. What components, arguments, justifications, etc., make up this ideology? d. In what ways, if any, is the dominant ideology institutionalized in the program ? e. What ideologies do individual students espouse, and do they feel their i. If not, how do they know they are a minority voice? ii. Are they stigmatized, reprimanded, mocked, etc ? f. poverty and inequality? 2. Where do these ideologies come from /what factors seem to contribute to how BSW students conceptualize poverty, inequality, and welfare? a. How do the students justi fy their particular ideologies?

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142 i. Is it empirical research and theory uti lized in their program ? ii. American c ultural explanations? iii. Some other factor or factors? 3. Does the dominant culture in this program promote the institutional view of social welfare, as some social work scholars claim or the residual view ? a. Do the students feel that the current era of welfare reform addresses poverty more realistically and effectively, or has it made it more difficult to do their work? The Ethnographic Method I employ ed the ethnographic method to help answer the research questions posed in thi s study. The ethnographic method tends to include some combination of the following elements all of which were components of this study (adapted from Esterberg 2002:60 and Berg 2009:190 194): a researcher immersed in the research setting for an extended p eriod of time; p ossible participation in the daily activities under scrutiny; d irect, firsthand observation of the inter actions in the research setting; d escription and interpretation of social expres sions between people and groups; a ttempting to see the w orld from perspectives and recognizing the presence of multi ple realities and perspectives; a ttention to extensive, detailed field notes; f ormal and informal interviews with participants ; d ata analysis based on field notes, interview transc ri pts, and gathered documents; and a written report that includes stories and extended narratives. soc ial behavior as well as the cultural understandings and underlying thought processes participants in an ethnographic study

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143 participants; participants are often said to perform the role of teacher and the ethnographer the role of student (Murchison 2010:16). Why Ethnography? The ethnographic method w as chosen for a variety of reasons. This method helps researchers examine research questions that are best answered by studying people in action and attaining information that can only be gathered through firsthand research. It also helps to explore resear ch questions that are hard to answer using experiments or statistical data (Murchison 2010:4). The ideological culture of a social work program is such a research question. Observing the participants in action is important, because I am not simply interest ed in what they think, which may be garnered from large scale data sets, but the influence of what they think on social interaction, and the context specific cultures of individual programs. Large scale data sets may tell us what the average social work st udent thinks, but it cannot tell us how that may change depending on the particular program and people involved, differences between ideal beliefs and actual action as well as the nuances of firsthand experience that are no t captured by statistics. Large scale statistical data, and statistical data in general, cannot explore the research question s that I posed in this manner. By interviewing these students, observing some of their classes and lectures as well as formal and i nformal discussions, and analyzing the materials they are exposed to in their courses (textbooks, articles, handouts, etc.), a much more nuanc ed and complex narrative emerge d than would have been available by other methods ( qualitative methods were pa rticu larly more useful than quantitative

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144 For similar reasons, surveys were rejected as a research instrument in favor of ethnography. The reason is that I want ed to both hear what the social work students say is their poverty ideology, and then see how that ideology influenced their interactions. to experience events, behaviors, interactions, and conversations that are the manifestations of society and culture in he poverty perspective that BSW students report ed believing was an ideal, one that they did not adhere to i n practice. According to When developing a qualitative project one often asks: a re there di screpancies between what the participants say in interviews and what they say and do in everyday life ? This was a concern in this study that proved to be prescient. I was also concerned that the categories which also proved correct. One major strength of ethnography, and a significant reason for its use in this study, is its ability to uncover these nuances It also offered me the ability to explore classroom interactions, and see the influence of dominant poverty frameworks on lectures, course material, class discussions, etc. The ethnographic method can help illuminate discrepancies between macro level statistical claims and actual micro level actions. Culture s and societies students as whole do not tell us about regional or institutional variation, or the existence of both hegemonic and counter hegemonic ideologies within these ins titutions. The fact that, on average, social work students may feel one way tells us very little about local

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145 variations and counter hegemonic perspectives. Mid Atlantic University, for instance, is located in and draws students from one of the richest regi ons in the nation, an important p rogram specific characteristic. Ethnography is a useful tool when first hand experience will answer the research question better than any other research method (Esterberg 2002:59), and is particularly useful when quantitati ve approaches are inadequate in providing this level of nuance and understanding. Data Collection Data was collected in three ways: formal and informal interviews with MAU BSW students currently enrolled in the program direct observation /fieldwork (mos tly in classes and informal non classroom activities such as hanging out at the student center ), and d ocument analysis of selected academic materials used in classes (such as textboo ks, journal articles, handouts, etc.). Object of study/unit of a nalysis T he object of stu dy/unit of analysis was the undergraduate social work (BSW) program at Mid Atlantic University (fictional name given to real institution) located on the East Coast of the United States. I was granted access by the undergraduate coordinator of the MAU BSW program and this study was approved by the Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) of both the University of Florida and Mid Atlantic University. Access and r ecruitment ant study was the undergraduate coordinator in the BSW program at MAU, who granted me full access to the program; this person allowed me to approach any student and seek t heir permission for an interview, as well as approach any professor an ask to recruit

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146 interview participants and /or perform fieldwork in their classes. No professor or student was bound to participate in the study, I was only given permission to ask them t o voluntarily participate. There was no extra credit or other form of reward given and the undergraduate coordinator made it clear to everyone involved that their participation was completely voluntary and based o n their own personal decisions. All student s involved in formal or informal interviews gave their consent by signing an IRB approved informed consent document. Observations/f ieldwork The fieldwork took place from July 2012 until February 2013 All possible necessary interactions were observed focu sing mainly on classroom interactions and informal interactions (such as when more than one BSW student would hang out at the student center together to discuss the program) The main sou rce of data from fieldwork came from attending classes and listening to what professors and studen ts said about poverty and inequality in these classes. Detailed and descriptive field notes were taken during observation s as well as after I left the field. I always kept a bound notebook with me while in the field, writing d own any observations in the moment that I thought were important. I wrote down anything that struck me as even marginally important, always remembering this information is fleeting, and comes and goes in an instant. Writing it down in the moment assures that you are able to catch something that may last for a very short period of time but is important to the project (and the importance may not become apparent until long a fter you have left the field, which highlights the critical importance of catching it when it occurs). There were many times towards the end of this project, in the more

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147 intensive data analysis phase, that I made an empirical or theoretical connection that was not apparent to me while I was in the field; without detailed data, these connections would not have been possible and the project would have suffered considerably. Writing obs ervations down in the moment sometimes seem ed odd to participants at first, but they typically became accustomed to my use of field notes while in the field and seemed to have notice d it less the longer I was in the field (and I became much better at being less obvious) I tried to collect data as unobtrusively and quietly as pos sible, as not to disturb the participants alter their behavior, or make them feel under inspection. I acknowledge that in qualitative research the researcher affects the environment and it is s omewhat large undergraduate classroom s this problem was minimized to some extent ed back of the class. The professor s typically acknowledge d that I was there the first couple of classes, but after a period of a few classes the y stopped and the students and seemed to affect them less over time). Completion of observation no tes was not always possible while in the field each day, and because o f this I needed to make additional notes once I left the field and went home When this wa s necessary, the notes were complet ed as soon as possible to phenomenon, and it and immediate note taking can (Murchison 2010:70 71). Because everything could not be written down in the moment and there was not always tim e to write down all of the details whi le in the moment,

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148 writing field notes once I left the field for the day was critical. This was done immediately after exiting the field, because the ethnographic every day spent in the field had sufficient additional time planned afterwards for a dditional field note construction. Strict attention was paid to being as descriptive and detailed as possible with field notes. The research process is long, and many sets of notes had to be revisited long after the memories of the observations they detail ed had faded. It is essential that when you revisit notes of an observation you hardly remember witne ssing, that these notes should give sufficient detail and description so that your analysis is as accurate as possible. Keeping this in mind help ed to convey the results in a mea ningful and engaging way and drive home the central arguments of the analysis Murchison notes researcher or participant as nearly as possible and in documenting the complexity of human lives. Details are the components of society and cultur 2010:71). Being sufficiently detailed help ed to ensure that I was documenting the entire record, not just collecting data of too narrow a focus that may have miss ed important emergent issues not previously considered or nuances not previously known. Ethnography is a journey, and plenty of room was given for the data to emerge and present itself to me, rather than thinking that I was simply I need ed to write down as much as possible even if something di d not strike me as critical in the moment.

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149 One important aspect of participant observation is the manner in which it both explores existing research questions while also suggesting others. One of the best ways to begin the research process is to simply g et out into the field and start observing. Once the researcher is in the research setting, all sorts of new information is confronted, helping to answer the research questions that are guiding the project while suggesting new directions and questions that can enhance the project. Murchison notes the once in the field, the researcher quickly becomes aware of things they were not before, and identifies things they need to learn (Murchison 2010:41). This project was guided in significant ways by emergent data that suggested new directions, and I am glad I let the The fieldwork portion of this project relied upon weekly visits to the campus and classroom, and I attempted to conduct an on campus observation at least once a week during the fieldwork phase (sometimes more, sometimes less) Throughout the research process, the fieldwork was not conducted passive ly and did not simply consist of s a critical e lement, and observations were p lanned and purposeful, observing anything and everything that may have helped to explain the ideological culture of this program (Murchison 2010:42). Through careful planning and focuse d execution, the fieldwork help ed me develop an analytical picture of t his cult ural space (Murchison 2010:42). The long period of fieldwork helped me to paint a complex picture of this cultural space. The ethnographic process is a difficult and subjective one, with many choices to be made about what one should actually docu ment. In the field I paid close attention to any si tuation or conversation that had the potential to reveal value judgments by the

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150 students and professors that suggest ed the ideologies they use to interpret poverty and inequality (such as individual istic subcultural, or structural ideo logies/frameworks). I also paid close attention to make sure that I was not simply affirming whatever biases I had going into the project. I look ed to document the entire ethnographic picture, includi ng evidence that (a) comp licated the analysis, (b) disproved previously held assu mptions or hypotheses, (c) moved the project in different directions than anticipated, etc. I was simultaneously focused on the initial research questions guiding the project as well as the possibilit y of new, emergent research questions and directions (Murchison 2010:76 interesting at the time, eve (Murchison 2010:77). This research project wa s guided by both the original research design as well as emergent research questions that result ed from immersion in the field. Interviews The interview port ion of this project proved to provide the most valuable and most informative data The formal and informal interviews were an opportunity to gain insider knowledge, learn what students and professors thought about poverty and poor people, exp and examine their opinion s of the institutional culture of the MAU BSW program I focused heavily on being an research process; in fact, the l ine between conversing, interviewing, and observing was not always c lear, as the research process proved to be messy and interactions and conversations often present ed themselves rapidly and unexpectedly. Informal conversations and brief

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151 garnered insights, but formal interviews were necessary and proved to provide the bulk of the analysis in this project. As is customary with ethnographies, the definition of what constitutes an n a neutral setting as well as informal interviews and conversations with people whenever possible while in the field. In formal and formal interviews were both critical components of this ethnographic project. Informal inte rviews and conversations were con ducted on site when necessary and/or appropriate, while formal interviews were conducted in a private location where no other students or professors were present and where the answers were between me the student, and the audio recorder The goal of these interviews wa s to gain an honest account of the ideological culture of the BSW program at MAU which would have be en difficult if participants knew that their answers w e re being judged by other students, persons of authority, etc. It is preferable to condu ct the interview in a private location free of distractions that is comfortable for both the ethnographer and the participant These interviews were mostly conducted in private group study rooms in one of the multiple libraries at MAU, but were sometimes c onducted at off campus private locations; one such interview even took place at the kitchen table of one participant. Informal interviews and conversations w e re an opportunity to gain a more realistic depiction of the culture in question. Formal intervie ws provide d much needed information, but sometimes contain ed idealized versions of what the participants really felt. Murchison notes that depending solely on formal interviews can sometimes lead the or society, but [they] will not be

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152 society that is, society and culture in action which we all know can often differ hison 2010:104). Using multiple sources of provide a counterpoint to these idealized versions, and the comparison can often produce interesting questions as the ethnogr apher attempts to account for and explain Even though the presence of the researcher always carries the risk of influencing what happens, and participants are never comp letely unfiltered and constantly frame their responses in desired ways, this multiple source approach helps the ethnographer as privatel y but also hearing what they said in class and around other students, a more complete picture emerge d written pe rmission on the UF and MAU informed consent forms, the interviews were rec orded using a digital recorder. I transcribed these interviews generally word for word and then erased them from the digital recorder once transcription was completed (informal interviews did not always present opportunities for recording, at whi ch point manual jottings were used) I sometimes wrote some brief notes during the interview s noting body language or other aspects of the interview not caught by the digital reco rder. Recording the interviews wa s critical for ensuring the accuracy of the quotes used in the final report; these quotes significantly enhance d the analysis and provi de d r ich, engaging narratives to support my conclusions The digital recorder was be placed as inconspicuously as possible in the room but in recordable range of the discussion, as to appear innocuous, and to not interfere with or a lter the

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153 r esponses. Most times I just set it on the side of the table so it was never really in view of me or the participant but recorded successfully. Combining this tactic with a neutral and nonthreatening interview environment helped the participants to feel com fortable and open during the interview s In my research plan I allow ed for 5 10 hours of transcription time for each hour of inter view (Murchison 2010:74), and I transcribe d the interviews myself (in reality I needed about 3 hours per interview for transcr iption). I always transcribe d the interviews as soon as possible after the conclusion of each interview so that I could environment and The formal interviews were semistructured; this interview structure allowed for the initial exploration of issues that were foundational to the project but also allowed for new areas of inquiry to eme rge and previously unconsidered information to surface While I knew the general framework of the project when it began, there were important details within that framework that needed to be directed by the emergent data (one example is the important ways i n which personal experience shaped the ideologies of the BSW students, something I did not know before the project began and focused more heavily on during interviews once the project gained steam). This interview structure allow ed participants some freedo m to direct the conversation and to express themselves in an open, uninhibited, and unco nstrained manner. It also allowed them to speak in their own words and not be forced into preconceived categories or tho ught processes Most interviews were 50 70 minut es in length with some lasting up to 90 minutes During the in itial interview, participants were asked for their contact informatio n

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154 and permission to conduct follow up interview s I hope d to obtain sufficient data in the first interview, but in a few cas e s this did not happen and a fo llow up interview was required (this was particularly true for the first participants, some of whom I had to go back and talk to in order to address emergent questions that were not apparent to me to ask when we first spoke i n the beginning of the project ). Both for mal and informal interviews were conducted in a loose, conversational manner. I did not present myself as a person of authority, but as a fellow participant in the research process who was enthusiastic about the insight s of the various participants It is often stated that participants in ethnographic studies are as much or as we are letting data and themes emerge organically in the settings we observe and constructing the ethnographic record with this emergent data. This loose, personal, a nd collective approach lent itself to more comfort on the part of the participants and I believe more honest responses as a consequence. Inte rview s ample and sampling m ethod The interview sample consist ed of MAU und ergraduate social work students still enrolled in the program I initially sought 30 interviews under the assumption that I would exhaust the emergent codes and themes at that point. I planned to conduct more interviews if codes and themes were still emerging once I arrived at 30, or less if I exhausted the codes and themes before reaching 30 interviews. Once I reached 20 interviews it was clear th at no new codes were emerging from th e data. I continued just to be certain and when I reached 25 interviews I di d not seek any more interviews as I felt comfortable that no new codes or themes were emerging

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155 I utilize d convenience sampling with students choosing to join the project once th ey became aware of it. Students were initially recruited during classes; multiple professors allowed me to speak in their classes to describe my project and encourage students to participate. Students mostly joined the project through this method, but I al so gained some par ticipants through word of mouth (they heard from a friend or colleague about my presentation and wished to join). Interview s chedule The interview schedule contain ed a list of questions related to the research questions, and these questi ons were as open ende d as possible so that the data wa s less reflect ive of my research agenda or bias and more reflective of the honest perspectives of the participants These wer e semi structured interviews, designed to always strive to strike a balance b etween appropriately addressing research questions while not closing off unforeseen directions; I want ed to address all topics of interest Murchison 2010:10 7). The interview schedule was structured in a conversational manner, helping the participants to feel comfortable and allowing their responses to come easily. Interview questions were designed so that they would provoke interesting storie s, rich narratives, and lengthy explanations (Murchison 2010:107). I made myself sufficiently familiar with t he interview guide so that it was less of a script that I had to consult co nstantly, but a guide that I could look at occasiona lly to make sure the interview wa s progressing sufficiently; again, the goal wa s to stimulate a friendly conversation, not a stiff, impersonal interview. With each interview I became more and more familiar with the interview schedule so that by the end of the project I

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156 barely needed to refer to it except at the end of the interview to make sure I had touched on every question. The interviews start ed with easy questions as well as questions that allow ed the participants to talk about themselves. One such question was rought you to the e intended to make the participants feel comfortable and make it easy for them to beginning talking openly The questions that allow participants to talk about themselves wer e based on the premise that people like to talk about themselves, and often go into great detail when asked to do so; because the beginning of the interview can often dictate the entire course of the interview, eliciting easy, long responses from the very beginni ng can set the tone for rich, detailed narratives to flow later on in the interview when tougher questions are the interview from the outset, and that pattern should inc lude room for the interviewee to provide lengthy explanations and interpretations if at all possible. Asking questions that encourage the interviewee to tell a story can be a great way to establish this sort of pattern and to create a congenial interview e What was interesting, suggesting the importance of the emergent nature of qualitative research design, is that the questions about their lives actually became highly important in the final analysis. Some of the following tips (f rom Murchison 2010:109 110) were considered when dev eloping this interview schedule: a sk as many open ended questions as possible to allow for rich emergent data, avoid simple questions, a void leading questions that suggest an answer to avoid influ encing answers and to gain the most honest

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157 perspective of the participant ( even if that perspective is out of the ordinary or unforeseen), a sk follow up questions to furthe r expand upon important points, d ouble check or clarify a nswers ( especi ally concerni ng critical topics), and p ose some hypothetical questions to explore thought processes and/or see if certain thoughts or behaviors might apply in different circumstances. With all of these tips and guidelines in mind, I constructed the following interview schedule : Demographic questions: o Age gender, race/ethnicity, marital status, children, religiosity Ask about family, too o Where do you live? Have you always lived there? Explain motivation for moves o Total household income now. Perceived social class ov er time, family SES history Political philosophy? Party affiliation? Your family? What brought you to the study of social work? What year are you in the program? Which population or populations would you like to work with? o Where do you want to work when y ou graduate? Have any of your life experiences shaped your desire to pursue social work? o What about your family ? Other influences? Can you tell me a little bit about your internships and other social work related experiences? o What lessons have you learned from them? Do you follow the news? o Where do you get your news? o Other non news sources which inform your views on poverty/inequality? Why do you think poverty and inequality exist in the U.S.? o Where does this opinion come from? Rank the Indivi dualism, Culture of Poverty, and Structuralism perspectives from 1 to 3 (1 is most agree with make sure to thoroughly explain each perspective) Do most social work students agree with your po verty /inequality answers? o Your professors? Your course materials? o Most MAU students? Most Americans? Do you agree philosophically with welfare? Would you ever turn to welfare in a time of substantial need? o Would it hurt your pride? Would you be aware of an y possible stigma? Have you ever been to a welfare office?

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158 Policies: do you support or not support each, and explain your answer: o Drug testing Also ask about testing for non poverty targeted welfare o Fertility limiting policies (such as family caps) o Work r equirements Do you believe the U.S. is a meritocracy? Please explain your reasoning (give them a thorough explanation of what meritocracy means) Data Analysis Even though I will now discuss data analysis separately from data collection, the data analysi s and data coll ection stages of the project were not two completely separat e phases, as data analysis commence d while data collection wa s still ongoing. Qualitative studies in general produce a large amount of data, and ethnography is no exception. Startin g the data analysis d uring the data collection phase help ed to establish preliminary themes and findings, while also organizing the data and keeping it manageable. Analyzing along the way allow ed for a more flexible research plan; emergent data presented p reviously unforeseen research questions and avenues, and analyzing along the way allowed the project to be altered to address these issues. Initial data analysis also helped to tweak and revise the original research questions and the original research desi gn, and brought a sharper focus to the succeeding direction of the project. If I had wait ed to anal yze data until the very end, I would have miss ed these kinds of opportunities ; this would have lead to a weaker project and weaker/incomplete findings that d id not properly address the original research questions (Murchison 2010:116 120) and did not explain the research topic as well and as thoroughly as I might have been able to collected in a co ntinual fashion as the project proceeds will allow you to begin to see connections, test analytical ideas, and identify gaps in the ethnographic record that you ped

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159 periodically to be sure that the research questions match ed the project direction at that moment consider ed if changes need ed to be made to the fieldwork/interview balance, evaluate d possible perspectives that wer e missing from the project, and generally assess ed whe ther the overall research plan wa s sound and achieving the desired goals of the project. It was not until after a few interviews that I discovered the heavily influential ways in which life experiences had shaped the BSW students worldviews and paths to social work, and I paid closer attention to that in future interviews (and also went back to previous participants to expand upon this influence). I also noticed after a short period of time that the interviews were providing the most crucial data while the fiel dwork was not producing very valuable data, an d altered my focus accordingly. There were also a few different points in the research process where I reached out for suggestions from my dissertation chair and from participants to help guide the project fo rw ard (Murchison 2010:121 122). Themes, categories, and c odes The data analysis process moves the researcher from raw field observations and interview transcripts to identifying a number of stories) ab (Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw 1995:142). The first step is to read and reread the field notes and transcripts, focusi ng on elaborating and refining earlier insights. As themes, categories, patterns, new questions, and key moments emerge, the next step is to inductively code the ethnographic record using these emergent concepts (not existing theoretical propositions or pr e established categories). In the data analysis process I consider ed all data (interview transcripts field observations, documents) as one single

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160 ethnographic record, and use d the same emergent themes, categories, and codes (discovered during open coding) to code this record sentence by sentence (during focused coding). The initial stage of open coding is a time for intensive line by line reading of the short phrase that captures and signals what is going on in a piece of data in a way that When a suf ficien t amount of the ethnographic record had been read to the point where no new codes w e re being generated, I proceed ed to the next stage of focused coding. categories to provid Fretz, a nd Shaw 1995:143). Memos were used throughout this process to elucidate and link broader themes, categories, arguments, and key moments across the ethnographic record. This is simila r to the constant comparative method used in grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss 1967; Charmaz 2006), which emphasizes connections across the entire ethnographic record. The final step was the emergent theoretical i mplications linking this to the existing literature, considering the overall implications of the findings, and writing the final report. Du ring the coding process, I ask ed some of the following questions (from Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw 1995:146). What are people doing and/or wha t are they trying to accomplish? How do they do this and what specific strategies do they employ? How do these participants discuss and understand what is happening? What do

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161 participants see as significan t? What assumptions do th ey reveal in their responses? Why did I include specific information and events in the field notes? These questions help ed to un cover processes, focus on what wa s happening, and help ed to assure that the codes wer e analytically sharp and were connected as c losely and accurately as possible to the data (Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw 1995:147). Although I ke p t copies of each set of field notes and transcripts in their original forms in a (digit al) folder on my laptop, I also start ed pulling field notes and transcr ipts apart (in new files) to match different pieces of data with preliminary themes and categories. One method that I really liked employing and helped me stay organized was to copy and paste important quotes and information from different participants und er categorical and thematic umbrellas to which they match in files specifically created for those categories/ themes This wa s the very beginning of what would eventually be the final report, and h elped me to develop some early drafts while still collecting data. Compiling quotes from multiple interviews that reflect recurring them es and emergent categories laid the groundwork for the more focused analysis later in the project. I was able to develop whole polished sections of the dissertation in separate fil es in this manner and slowly patch ed these files together into one coherent final report. Writing during the research process is particularly useful when you want to remember key events and moments and record them accurately and in great detail. Import ant events and interviews, as well as unexpected occurrences, are critical parts of the ethnographic record and should be documented fully and accurately (Murchison 2010:1 24). To assure that this happened writing early drafts, or just the portions that pe rtain ed to these important events, went a long way towards producing a more

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162 valuable final report; they strengthen ed the analysis, bolster ed my main argument s, and hopefully made reading the final report more enjoyable for the audience. Preliminary devel opment of categories and themes le d to much more focused analysis and coding as the d ata collection process concluded At this point I bega n a p (Murchison 2010:174). At this point key questions, themes, cate gories, moments, and events had been identified and a more concrete analytical framework began to emerge (Murchison 2010:174). This wa s alway s an inductive process, with all findings, analyses, and emergent theoretical implications rooted in the dat a (Murchison 2010:175). It started to become clear wh ich codes wer e most useful, and whic h major themes and categories wer e most important and shoul d be the focus of the final analysis. Themes and categories that had a substantial amount of supporting data, show ed consi stent patterns in the record, wer e critical to the found ation of the analysis, and/or wer e particularly meaningful for participants we re given em phasis. Themes and categories were also important if they wer e connected in important and insightful ways to other emergent themes and categories (Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw 1995:157 158). Throughout the advanced data analysis process I continua lly revisited l ists of previously develope d categories, themes, and codes, assessed them for their continual relevance, and made revisions and additions be to produce a final list of themes that you can use to organ ize, search, and analyze 010:176). At this point it also start ed to become apparent which themes and categories would become good dissertation sections and

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163 chapters (Murchison 2010:176). As t he analytical framework deve loped I paid close attention not only to themes and categories but also to the connections between them and the larger implications of the research findings. With the final list of themes, categories, and codes that emerged inducti vely during open codin g, I conduct ed focused coding on the complete ethnographic record of interview transcripts and fieldnotes. This was done by rereading the ethnographic record and highlighting each piece of informati on that represented a theme, category, or code. I would th en cut and past e pieces of data that matched categories and themes into their appropriate files (while maintaining the original data untouched). Occasionally I would share some of the coding decisions I was making with my dissertation chair to make sure I was (Murchison 2010:181). My dissertation chair gave me some helpful feedback concerning whether the codes made analytical sense and if they accurately reflect ed what we believe d was happen ing This help ed bolster the validity and reliability of the analysis and help ed strengthen the (inherently constructed) findings. Ethnography is inherently subjective, but that does not mean that just any interpretation is most valuable. This a fresh eye at various points in the research process help ed me remain focused and analytically sharp. Not all information gleaned from the raw data match ed the codes developed. of random or reflect idiosyncrasies, while they can also suggest multiple perspectives, conflict and debate, and context specific variation (Murchison 2010:181). The sam e

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164 people may act differently in different settings, and while this might appear to be a contradiction, it may actually suggest an important context specific process that produces variation. Participants inter valuable insight to the project (Murchison 2010:181). There were many contradictions and perspectives in the data, and I made sure to document and attempt to explain this in my final analysis. From data to t heory As t he analytical framework developed I bega n tying categories and themes to existing literature and sociological theory. As disc ussed previously, this project wa s not designed to test theory or represent a single theo retical paradigm. This project wa s various social theorists contribute to our un derstanding of this phenomenon. I constantly compared my findings to existing scholarship, however, to no te commonalities and differences; I was both making sure that I was not imposing an existing interpretive lens on the data as well as making sure that I had an explanation for why the findings reflected and/or rejected existing sociological assumptions. It is not inherently right or wrong to confirm or reject existing assumptions, but it is the obligation of the scholar to explain how these findings fit into the existing scholarship. etz, and Shaw 1995:144). The design and implementation of the research project wa s informed by existing empirical studies and sociological theory, but the findings emerge d inductively from the data. The dedu ctive approach was at the forefront during the de sign stage. What to look for and why are necessarily informed by the large amount of previous re search and theorizing. Once data c ollection and data analysis commenced,

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165 the process became absolutely inductive letting the data speak to me and direct the co nstruction of the ethnographic record. The finished product should always work from the data to theory, not the reverse, and at that point it can be situated in the existing literature (Murchison 2010:190). Writing the Final Report The goa l of the final w ritten product wa s to present the findings, provide rich participant and research narratives that highlight ed and support ed those findings, discuss their meaning and importance, and situate them in the existing field. etailed ethnographic storytelling with compelling analysis that addresses key research questions as well as practical and validity of the analysis and engages the reader. The hourglass model was loosely followed when writing the final report. The op ening and closing sections cover ed a broad area of questions and topics, whil e the middle of the report narrowly focus ed on the most important themes and categories. In th e ope ning section, the project wa s introduced, the existing literature was dis cussed, and the project was situated in existing empirical and theoretical work. In the middl e of the report, the focus beca me very narrow and emphasize d the most signi ficant themes a nd categories that resulted from this project. Analytically supportive, rich, and entertaining narratives were woven around these central topics to provide the core thrust of the findings. In the closing section the focus widen ed again, discussing big pict ure implications, emergent t heoretical implications and links to the larger field. The final report is a thematic narrative containing chapters based on the handful of core themes that were developed during the data analysis process. Within thes e

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166 chapter s, these themes are discussed and significant portions of the ethnographic record are presented to bolster and illustrate the analysis (including field observations and a significant number of quotes from interviews). Another function of presenting portion s of the ethnographic record is so that the final product reads more like a rather than a stiff journal article or quantitative paper. A major strength of the ethnographic method is that it often produce s vibrant, rich, and entertaining accounts of field experiences, while remaining analytically Fretz, and selecting, explicating, sequencing, and editing fieldnote excerpts in order to build up a series of thematically organized units of excerpt and analytic com Fretz, and Shaw 1995:170). Hopefully the large number of quotes that I used provided substantial support for my main arguments, gave key insights into the minds and thought processes of the BSW students at MAU, and engaged the reader; th at was certainly the intent. The final report was written for an academic audience with an assumed sociological background. This is important because this is a dissertation project intended to fulfill the remaining requirements for my sociology Ph.D at the University of Florida and satisfy the academic and departmental standards of the committee members. Many ethnographic projects are undertaken with the intention of eventually adapting the manuscript into book form. I do intend to adapt this project in to a book or multiple journal articles once I have successfully defended it in front of my committee at

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167 which point some of the language and organization may change in order to be more accessible to non academics (spending less time on explaining methods, for instance, is appropriate in a manuscript intended for public consumption, but problematic in a dissertation). The final report for my dissertat ion committee, however, was constructed according to departmental and commi ttee specific standards, and is a cademic in tone and focus. Role of the Ethnographer The e thnographic method places the researcher into the ve ry settings they are observing and utilizes them as a primary research instrument (Murchison 2010:13). Rather than collecting evidence through s urveys or large scale statistical aggregation, the ethnographer is literally using their own five senses as the primary means of collecting information (Murchison 2010:13). The researcher observes interactions, events, and behaviors, listens to people talk and conducts interviews, observes and analyzes social settings, all the while selectively seeing and recording what they interpret to be important information (Murchison 2010:14). The researcher is continuously i nterpreting their surroundings, determining what is important from everything they are seeing what is actually happening in front of them, and what all of that means; this is an inherently interpretive and subjective process. While I could not see everything in the field, I attempted to document e verything so that later in the process I would not close off possible important analytical avenues. At multiple points in the data analysis process I discovered things once I left the field that were important to the project; I would never have had this da ta if I had chosen to ignore it because I did not deem it important at the time.

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168 Objectivity As mentioned previously, o ne important method in attempting to reduce researcher bias and selectivity is to record as much about an o bservation as possible, con structing extensive and descriptive notes in and out of the field. As I have stated before, ethnography is an inherently selective and subjective proces s, and because of this bias, subjectivity, and selectivity are difficult to eliminate from the process. Many qualitative researchers argue that this is an inherent problem in all scientific research, and the goal should be to faithfully represent the perspectives that you are studying rather than make any sort of truth claims. In order to help reduce these p otenti ally problematic aspects of the ethnographic met hod as much as possible, I record ed everything that I possibly could even details that may have seem ed mundane or nonessential to the research question at first. The personal histories of the BSW stude nts seemed, quite frankly, to be a bit boring to listen to at first; what I really wanted to talk about was poverty and inequality! Boy was I seriously mistaken; this ended up being one of the most vital parts of the final analysis, not simply a conversat i on starter for the interviews. I am glad that I took notes v igorously in the field, as well as after leaving the field for th e day. After leaving the field and reading and rereading my notes ( and applying intense analy sis to the large volume of data), insi ghts emerge d that were not previously considered. In this way I was able to catch things that I may have missed had I been too selective in looking for something too specific in the field. Murchison determine which pieces of 2010:15). This is why it was so important to record as much as possible, as prese nt time bias and selectivity sometimes make it very difficult to recall importan t overlooked

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169 details later. For instance, a project may take unforeseen turns, but previously collected data was constructed in such a narrow manner as to eliminate the possibility of analyzing these newly important research questions and insights. This attention to extensive and descriptive note t aking of all possible data help ed explain things in a way I did not always anticipate and uncover ed new research directions and questions not known a t the beginning of the project. I did my best to faithfully repres ent the social reality that I observed and the perspectives of the participants while acknowledging that all social scientific research is an interpretive, constructed process. Throu ghout the research process I attempt ed to be as re flexive as possible in identifying how personal pre judices and my own worldview influenced the research process. Whenever possible, data was shared with my dissertation chair (without any identifying information) in orde r to verify that observations wer e b eing interpreted as objectively as possible. W hile qualitative methodology was used and it is generally assumed that the qualitative researcher plays a critical role in interpreting what is being observed, I was constantly vigilant in attempting to remove as much of my personal bias as possible. The objective of this was not to arrive at truth claims; I simply attempt ed to minimize (as much as possible) the preconceived categories and assumpt ions that the observed reality wa s filtered through i n the researc h process, while acknowledging the inherent nature of qualitative methods. Validity and Replicability As the research process moved along, I was constantly comparing what I was finding back to the established literature in t he field. In this manner, I co mpare d what I was finding to what other resear chers had found in similar studies. Was I finding s omething similar or different? The idea wa s not to set out with the specific goal of

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170 trying to find exactly what had been found before, nor to find something c ompletely different, but to identify why similarities and/or differences exist ed between my project results and the existing literature. If there wa s a discrepancy between what I was finding and what previous researchers found, that would present important questions that could enhance the project and inform the results and analysis. Discrepancies can be a bad thing, signaling that your research design is flawed and needs strengthening. Discrepancies can also be a very good thing, meaning that something new has emerged or an alternate explanation has been uncovered, or deeper nuance has been provided to previous findings. Comparing the findings during and after the research was finished help ed to strengthen the research, fo cusing on where the research had bee n in the past and where it needed to go in the future. It was also important to conduct this comparison as soon as possible during the research process, to both focus and direct the research appropriately. Another me thod of checking for validity was to s hare my research results with my dissertation committee (both during and after completion of data collection, throughout the raw ethnographic data that they have collect strengthen the analysis (Murchison 2010:15). My dissertation committee has multiple skilled and accomplish ed qualitative researchers well versed in the methodology that was utilized S haring the findings at various po ints in the research process with my dissertation chair allowed a new set of eyes to analyze the data in ways that me as the immersed researcher may have be en unable to do effectively My committee chair would often ask me specific questions such as: Hav e you considered this? Why did you

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171 make this analytic al decision here? I noticed you overlooked this detail, could that h ave been important? As the principal research er I was so close to the process and immersed in such a large amount of data, and because of this having a new set of eyes brought a fresh perspective to the analysis The considerable tal ents of my dissertation committee wer e too valuable to go un utilized throughou t the research process and help ed strength en the validity of the analysis. I r ealize as a qualitative researcher that my interpretive and constructivist role in both collecting (constructing) and analyzing data make replicability and validity difficult. I generally consider these concepts to belong to the realm of quantitative resea rch, and find that they are even problematic in that realm in many ways My concern wa s n ot to produce a study that could be replicated because my analytic approach and unique observations cannot be replicated. My goal was to interpret and construct the ob served reality and perspectives as faithfully and critically as possible, while doing all that I could to avoid imposing preconceived categories and notions on the data collection and data analysis process es Replicability in this context is largely imposs ible and not a stated goal. Validity in this context wa s not used in the same manner as quantitative research, and simply refers to the process of mitigating my own influence as a researcher on the data. Ethics and Confidentiality and primary ethical responsibility is to their participants (Murchison 2010:32). Even though 100% confidentiality is hard to guarantee, all possible precautions should be taken to striv e for maximum confidentiality. Participants interviewed were given inf ormed consent forms consistent with the IRB policies of both UF and MAU and their anonymity and confi dentiality were strictly guar ded by the

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172 principal researcher All data from observations, interviews and document analysis was compiled on the principal drive in Microsoft Word format. Both the personal comput er and backup hard drive were stored in a secure location to which only the pri ncipal investigator had access. Identifying information was on ly available to the principle researcher during the study on one master list of respondents (with their real name matched to the fictional name used in the study). After completion of data collection an d writing, that master list was erased and now identi fying information for all participants from MAU no longer exists in any form. This will hopefully make it very very difficult for anyone reading the final report in the future to identify pe ople, places, and institutions. I changed the name of anything th at could possibly identify participants, including the school name (which I simply state is located on the East Coast of the U.S.). Confidentiality of illicit or illegal behavior was not a problem, as all of the data was either (a) an observation of legal, public interactions, or (b) discussions of completely legal topics, events, memories, etc. Before the project commenced I attempted to determine all of the ways in which this project could possibly impact the participants in a negative manner The one po tential negative impact that I identified was the perception of the social work field in general If it wa s determined that social work programs are demeaning to poor people this could reflect poorly on the field and its members The goal of this research wa s not to demonize or chastise the field of social work The intention of this project was to present an honest assessment of the ideological culture of a social work program and to suggest the possible positive and negative consequences of this cult ure for knowledge production and the treatment and perceptions of poor people (through the

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1 73 worldview s and actions of future social workers) Throughout the entire process and in the final report, utmost attention was paid to representing all participants hone stly and with dignity, and simply to have the report serve as a means for deeper understanding of this particular culture and advocating for the dig nified treatment of all people. The implications of my findings are about the impact of individualistically oriented American culture in general, and any possible negative impacts should not be felt by the social work field (and certainly will not be felt by the participants who cannot be identified). The structural, institutional focus of this project is inten ded to help understand how institutions can be improved, and is not focused on any one individual. I a ttempt ed to provide an honest, accurate, nonjudgmental account of what I observe d Any data produced in this project wa s subjec t to my interpretation, and it wa s my duty to be as record that can be used against the people that were generous enough to serve as 2010:79). This can of course b e difficult, especially since it was found that social work students hold some particularly negative and judgmental views of the poor in this coun try. The goal of this research wa s not to rebuke anyone, but help us understand the consequences of deeply held worldviews in the social work field, for the benefit of employees and clients alike. The implications, like I mentioned previously, are really concerned with the impact of the larger U.S. culture in general on all people in all fields and how even people in as social work can help reproduce social hierarchies. Deception and m isinformation were not used at any point in the research process. A brief and c lear summary of the project was developed before hand in the

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174 instance that students and/or professors wish ed to know why I was there. While I kept this description somewhat vague as not to prime the respondents to answer questions in specific ways or alter their behavior, I did not misrepresent my projec t or purpose (Murchiso n 2010:93). If anything, I always remain ed somewhat vague so that they understood the core principles and goals of my research but wer e not influenced to answ answers). Research Dates I completed most of the work on my dissertation proposal during the summer and fall of 2011 and s uccessfully d efen d ed the proposal on March 30, 2012. It was after the proposal defense that I was given permission to begin my study. I g ain ed access to the MAU social work program through my gatekeeper ( the BSW un dergraduate coordinator at MAU) in l ate spring 2012. I b egan i nitial data collection in July 2012. While continuing data collection I began preliminary data a nalysis in August 2012. The project began winding down as I b eg an writing dissertation chapter draft s in January 2013. I completely exited the field in February 2013. In early spring 2013 I b ega n providing chapter dra fts t o my committee for revision. After the revision pro cess concluded I was given permission by my committee chair to proceed to the final defense. I s uccessfully d efend ed my final dissertation on July 15, 2013. This was the final step in the completion of the sociology Ph.D. program at the University of Flori da and I graduated at the end of the summer 2013 term.

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175 CHAPTER 4 : SOCIAL WORK AS A PERSONAL PROFESSION The social work students in this study feel very strongly that social work is a personal profession, a career path whic h people pursue for deeply personal reasons. It entrance into the field of social work had less to do with their ideas about economic issues or social problems and much more to do with something that they needed to satisfy within themselves. The data in the ethnographic record (field observations, formal and informal interviews, and document analysis) suggests that the worldviews that BSW students bring with them into the prog ram largely persist, although they are altered somewhat, throughout their college years. The students reported that childhood socialization and experiences heavily influenced their worldviews and decisions to pursue social work. An overwhelming majority of participants had at least one or two salient experiences from their early lives that heavily shaped their current beliefs and social work educational path. Strong patterns in the ethnographic record suggest the following conclusions: personal beliefs, chi ldhood socialization, and childhood experiences led students to social work, the type of personal experience they had influenced which population they wanted to work with, and whether they held structural, culture of poverty, or individualistic poverty and inequality worldviews was associated more significantly with their pre BSW program worldviews than their college studies. The gr aphic represe ntation in Figure 4 1 (on page 177 ) represents the dominant th to social work started long before they ever chose social work as their major. Most of the students had either all or some combination of the following desires/interests before choosing social work: a

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176 desire to change the world, a desire to help people who had experienced similar people, and a desire to major in a discipline that did not require a substantial amount of empirical research and/or study of academic th eories. Most of the students, in their not looking to become a social worker but at some point discovered the BSW program and how it fulfilled their individual desires and interests). While individual level, culture of poverty, and structural level explanations of poverty and inequality were discussed in their program, there was not a significant theoretical element to the program; this allowed students to rely more heav ily on their pre BSW poverty and inequality explanations while selectively incorporating some elements of what they learned into these worldviews (thus helping to maintain many of their individualistically oriented explanations of poverty and inequality). Therefore, the worldviews that they left the program with seemed to be largely the worldviews that they arrived with, altered somewhat to include their selectively incorporated program elements. Students who entered the program more individualistically or iented tended to leave the program with more structurally oriented worldviews but still dominated by individualism; it was this group of students who changed the most and seemed to critically analyze their firmly held assumptions most seriously. Students w ho entered the program more structurally oriented (but still dominated by individualism) tended to leave critically analyzing their individualistic beliefs; thus th ey selectively incorporated certain program elements while leaving much of their worldviews unexamined. The end result

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177 Figure 4 1 Program and Resulting Impact on Poverty /Inequality Worldvi ews

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178 seemed to be that while eventual BSW graduates may have less individualistic poverty and inequality worldviews than the average American, their worldviews were still dominated by individualism. This suggests that, at least for these students, the following seem to matter more than their college studies: personal beliefs, childhood socialization, childhood experiences, American cultural assumptions, and pre existing worldviews. While it might be suggested that a heavier focus on research and theory might create more self reflection, the data here suggests that many of the students would not have self selected into the BSW program had this been the case. For the students who still would have pursued the program nonetheless, it is unclear how this wou ld have affected them. For people like me who are indecisive about what they wa nt to major in it is kind of a nice made conversations with Karen, it became clear that she did not think social work required any particular framework of understanding social problems or background in res earch or theory, it was simply a place for people to go if they wanted to help people. Marena provided an example of why people might come to social work to deal with their own past rather than have a deep understanding of social problems: I think a lot o f social work students go into social work because they've had similar experiences [to the populations they will serve] and I think a lot of people who want to work with homelessness have had some kind of event in their life where they have been homeless o r know somebody who' s going through homelessness.

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179 because they were in some way dealing with things that had happened to them in their own lives. The typical path to soc ial work for my participants was one in which they sought to deal with and/or resolve something that had happened to them in their lives; their views about social problems were a much smaller piece of this puzzle and, as I will discuss in the next chapter, these views largely reinforced many American cultural assumptions about individualism and poverty. Jana commented on this notion and the fact that because the field is so diverse, people with vastly different backgrounds and reasons for entering social w ork can find a Social work is so diverse. You can work in homeless populations or you can work in a closed psychiatric ward So you can do anything, you know? There are always the people that want to help the kids, people who think, e the ones who want to help the poor black community, or all these systematically marginalized communities, help them. Then there is the other part, which I probably fall more in, that just wants to do more at the clinical side of social work, work with me ntal illness, mental or physical disabilities, and things like that. So I think there are two camps. And there is a third one that does more social change, wants to be in advocacy programs, things like that. and there are the people that have had perso nal experience who are deeply moved by this and want to fix the system to help those children or help the domestic violence or the poverty issues. I think social work is a very personal profession, it needs a lot from a person because you have to give up a lot of yourself. It depends so much on the person in the social work field. What their background is, and what their needs and wants are, where their interests are, and their needs and what they want with their own lives. he ethnographic record. These experiences and the beliefs that students brought with them into the program were very influential in how

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180 they interpreted social problems; in fact, they were much more influential than what they learned in college. Most of th e students actually reported that they explicitly and actively chose social work to avoid having to deal in any great detail with the theoretical and empirical foundations of the study of social problems. Because of this, most of my participants relied on personal opinions rather than their studies, and these opinions reflected American cultural assumptions about individuals and how they relate to the social structure. There was no clear indication that, overall, students had internalized much of the struc turally and systems oriented instruction that they had received in their BSW studies. Instead, it seemed that the incredible diversity in background and experience Social sci entists have long been aware of the importance of childhood socialization and experiences in heavily influencing who we will be as adults, and this seemed clearly on display in this study. Some of the students, like Jennifer, seemed aware of this notion: W e are all so different in our program, we come from a million different backgrounds, cultures, just everything is completely different. Also, the program is probably 90% female and like 10% male. Being in these classes, especially my two policy classes, we have had so many different areas that we were able to choose topics from for like papers or projects or policy briefings. It is interesting because everybody picks different things. There are not too many that pick the same topic, so everybody has differe nt beliefs and opinions about everything. While there is no discernible pattern, according to Jennifer, about what people will be interested in and what their beliefs and opinions will be about social problems, there were certainly patterns that emerged i n the data: students brought their beliefs with them into the BSW program, those beliefs seemed to trump the teachings of the BSW

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181 program, and individualistic American culture seemed to have a strong influence on these beliefs. On the surface this is not a remarkable observation; we all have specific instances in our past that we can point to as influencing our present beliefs and circumstances. What was remarkable was how this impacted them currently. Personal experience seemed to matter more than any oth er factor in how they viewed economic issues. Rather than their studies being a socialization agent that drastically altered particular, self selected aspects of what they le arned in the BSW program into their existing worldview. The overwhelming impression I gained from the data was that existing worldviews were more important than their socialization in the BSW program, and that what they learned either enhanced or slightly altered their existing worldview; but their existing worldview remained largely intact with some slight modifications. What they learned in the program was incorporated into their existing worldview, but for the vast majority of students it did not drastic ally change their worldview, just altered it somewhat. American cultural assumptions and personal experience combined to shape beliefs more than any other factor. For the more individualistic minded students this meant that most of them remained pretty ind ividualistically oriented and rejected much of what they learned, but did incorporate it somewhat into their existing worldview. For the more structurally oriented students this often meant that they felt that their beliefs were validated in some vague for m, as most could not articulate clearly just what the theoretical or empirical assumptions were of the courses that they had taken. The more politically liberal and/or structurally oriented students tended to use self selected pieces

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182 of what they had learn ed in the program as support for their existing worldview without much theoretical or empirical foundation. It should be noted that despite students being either politically conservative or liberal, the overwhelming majority espoused individualistic econom ic views of some kind. Because most of the participants were either born in the U.S. or had been in the U.S. long enough to reflect American cultural assumptions in their own thinking, participants who had been in the U.S. for a significant amount of time tended to repeat many popular American economic narratives more than international students. International students tended to have very much more structurally oriented economic beliefs based upon their different cultural backgrounds and experiences (althou gh some international students held structural beliefs about their own country while accepting the individualistic narratives about the U.S.). There was also an incredible amount of self selection. For instance, one participant had family experience with military related PTSD. Because of this she pursued social work and only wanted to work with military personnel and their families. Many students reported this self selection: pursuing social work as a means to deal with a narrow issue that they were intere sted in while showing little to no interest for other populations. This seemed to help explain why so many of the students seemed to have noticeably underdeveloped ideas about economic issues such as inequality and poverty. It seemed that because of this t hey would fall back on cultural/personal beliefs and experiences to explain such things. Many of the students who reported self selection seemed to be picking and choosing which courses and internships they would take that matched their interests and virtu ally ignoring the rest. This does not mean that they could completely avoid discussions of inequality and poverty altogether, as this

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183 was still a part of required coursework (particularly in their introductory courses). For the most part, however, they wer e able to largely avoid it and deal with it in a very limited manner when needed (such as memorizing what is needed for a test). For many students this meant not internalizing this material to the level of belief and changing their worldview, but learning for a test and leaving their worldview largely intact. When I asked the social work students why they wanted to go into social work, their responses largely fell into two categories (and respondents typically gave both reasons in their responses): wanting to change the world from a young age, and wanting to help people based upon their own life experiences. a family that was very financially comfortable and this led her to believe that everybody was as comfortable as her. It was only when she started working in the thrift stores that her father owned that she realized that there were many people in the world who did not enjoy such comforts: I grew up in an upper middle class white family, and when I was young I was sheltered from a lot of things. My father took a job as the manager of a few thrift stores. They do a lot of community service type work with food pantries and thrift stores and homeless shelters and all sorts of things l ike that. So he took that job, and through that I got my first job, working at the thrift stores with him. So I think that is what kind of led me in this direction. Working there, my sheltered world was kind of shattered I thought everybody was as comforta ble as I was. But working in those stores, and seeing people that could barely afford five dollar pants, that was a real wake up call for me, thinking that these people were not getting the help that they need. I think that is kind of where me goi ng into s ocial work stems from. Amanda reported not being particularly interested in the theoretical or empirical implications of the issues facing the populations that social workers served; for her, it was more her shock that people led lives that were so differ ent from hers and her desire

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184 but it certainly helps to explain why she might have an underdeveloped understanding of the scholarly tradition behi nd many of the social problems that she will be dealing with. Jennifer also showed very little interest or knowledge of the scholarship behind the social problems she faced, and instead was focused on working with children. Her experiences babysitting and working as a counselor at a summer camp when she was younger had a strong impact on her desire to go into a helping profession and work with children: I have always enjoyed working with children, playing games with them, working with them. I feel like I ca n connect with kids for some reason. Sometimes I feel like I can connect with children more than adults. I started babysitting when I was ten years old, and I went to a summer camp in my hometown from when I was in preschool. I was a counselor in training when I was younger and I have been a counselor there for the past seven years. I go home during breaks and duri ng the summer and I work there. nothing that ensures t hat they will not be fantastic social workers. But because neither Amanda nor Jennifer show much knowledge of or interest in the possible reasons behind social problems, they rely more on personal belief and past life experiences than their BSW studies to interpret and explain the world in which they live. This helps to understand their individualistically oriented explanations of economic issues as well as the stories of so many other social work students, stories that reveal the heavy influence of individ ualistic American culture on belief and practice. There is a critical piece missing, it seems, in the path to social work. An overwhelming majority of the students have always wanted to help people since they were young and have an emotional attachment to something that happened in their

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185 that once they get to the BSW program, they do not internalize much of what they learn there in terms of the complex causes of socia l problems. This does not seem to be completely as result of an institutional failing of their BSW program they are provided with a basic foundation to help them better understand the complexity of these issues through their coursework. This foundation is very basic, however, and any complex understanding of social problems seems to depend upon the students individually taking the initiative to learn more in some manner. Those who do not rely more heavily on their own worldviews. In an odd twist, most of t he students actually seem to understand the complexities of their own particular hardships and people experiencing similar hardships, while simplifying other social problems. Instead of internalizing the complex nature of the social problems that they lear n in their program they seem to pick and choose bits and pieces of what they learn to integrate into their worldview and/or justify existing beliefs, but still rely mostly on their already formed attitudes and beliefs which in large part reflect American c ultural assumptions about individualism, meritocracy, and the relationship between individuals and the social structure (in the next chapter, when I discuss the impact of the program, this becomes even clearer when the students use their personal beliefs t o interpret their internship experiences).

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186 Personal Experience and Social Work Natalia was born in an eastern European country along with her brother. When she was three years old, for reasons unbeknownst to her, she was placed in an or phanage with her brother (an infant at the time ). They remained in the orphanage until Natalia was five years old, at which point her and her brother were adopted by a white, strict Catholic conservative U.S. family and brought to the U.S. Natalia has stru ggled with the meaning of her adoption for her whole life, something she grapples with on a daily basis today. Because of her own experience with adoption, Natalia feels a very strong urge to help people through the kinds of crises that she faced growing u p: A lot of what shaped me and who I am is my adoption. There are a lot of aspects that I can look upon and say okay this is why I want to do this, this is why I want to be a social worker, this is why I want to help people. I never ever really told this s tory of my adoption to people until I got older. Part of that is to protect myself, and just to let myself heal before I reopen the wound I guess. You know, I want to close the wound a little bit before trying to talk to somebody else about it. But my adop tion kind of made me realize that there are probably people out there that have either similar stories or worse stories than I do. And I just kind of want to give back I g uess. Another reason that Natalia feels that she struggles with her own past is beca use her adoptive parents have been so reluctant to talk about the adoption when she was years of sadness and confusion for Natalia. She says that despite her inner des ires, her parents never really explored the option of talking about the adoption with her, forcing her to internalize a lot of the pain and confusion that she felt. Natalia feels like if she had been able to deal with her pain when she was younger, it woul d not have stuck with her so long. Now that she is older and that pain still exists, she feels like she has to deal

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187 with it on her own. She feels like part of what might help her will be helping other people who faced the same things she faced, leading her to want to work with children. Natalia As if the shock of her adoption was not enough to cause problems for Natalia, her adoptive family held values significantly different than her own. Her new family was very politically and socially conservative as well as strongly Catholic; Natalia does not consider herself conservative or religious, let alone Catholic. Despite this, her adoptive family felt strongly about raising her Cat holic and desired for her to become as attached to the faith as they were; they had Natalia and her brother baptized as soon as they n between her and her adoptive parents (who she considers her parents), particularly her mother. Natalia chafed at the Catholic belief that she had to be submissive to her parents and strictly follow their rules, particularly since she did not believe that her adoptive parents were the best models to give such ultimate adoptive parents push her around and force their beliefs onto her for much of her childhood. When she grew older she resented being taking advantage of in such a fragile state and resisted this imposition of values she rejected. Once she started is because she rejecte d values that were so important to her mother:

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188 many of the things that they believe. When I denounced myself, I definitely let it be known [laughter]. I told them how I felt and th ey gave me the option of once I was 18 to be free to make decisions as far as what I believe, yet when I told them they were very controlling and hesitant to let me denounce myself. It was a little tense. I told my [adoptive] mom first, and I thought she t d. They were very disappointed. She describes her remember, and believes that her strained relationship with both of her adoptive parents was impacted by her adoption: I never felt a very strong bond with my parents, like a loving bond. And p art of that was my adoption. Since I already had a loss of attachment I attachment at all. Once I grew up, I guess I could be considered the wild servative parents I was wild. And I was the eldest so of course I got blamed with everything. The biggest issue was that I always felt that because of my adoption and how I took my adoption, it was very hard for me to adapt. Looking back on it, it took me was in the eighth grade. So it took a long time. A lot of it was the adoption, and I wished I had hash ed out when I was five. Violence Experiences Sarah was born into a mi ddle class family in an Asian country Her father was an accountant for the local fishermen in the countryside where she lived and her mother worked in the home raising the children and maintaining the home. Her father was consistently physically abusive towards her mother as well as unfaithful. Her mother, father, four older sisters, and older bro ther all remained in their home country when she left for the U.S. and rema in there today. On why she left home, Sarah in [Asia]

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189 claims that she came here to study, it was clear that she had some significant issues with her parents that both drove here to the U.S. and impacted her decision to pursue social work. She said she always felt like an outsider because she did not agree with Confucianism, particular ly how it made children subservient, bemoaning the fact that, home for the U.S. when she was 25 and lived with a friend until she met the man she would soon marry. That ma rriage lasted only a year, and she married again less than a year after she divorced her first husband. It was clear from her answers that her experiences in her home country heavily impacted her desire to leave, make a new life as quickly as possible in t he U.S., and to pursue social work. She had been a self descr and the U.S., partying and drinking, until she was pregnant with her first child. At that point she became very religious (converted to Christianity) and sto pped partying and drinking. Like so many of my participants, she pursued social work because of her own experiences. Her cultural heritage and difficult home life were the two biggest influences that she cited. Because of her life experiences in her home country she wants to work with people from her country in her social work career, saying, my own people, like Asian people. probably family issues. because that was one of These problems w ere largely in the form of domestic abuse. Living in her home country she not only observed gender inequality and abuse in her culture, but in her own home. Seeing this abuse in her own family, neighborhood families, and the larger society seems to only em phasize her resentment towards her

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190 subservient position to elders; it was these elders who she was supposedly supposed to respect and obey who she believed were severely hypocritical in terms of the religious convictions that they espoused and their real l ife actions: support from family, in dysfunctional relationships. I always felt bad for choice, if I go back to scho ol, I might go study social work and help those and not in a sense that when to me, when you are beating your w ife as a social norm. I thi nk it was a cultural thing, and on top of his temperament he had a really hot temper. My mom always worked there was a lot of tension going on raising six kids, not easy. On top of that, he was fooling around with a lot of women. It was a mess growing up. se looking after all you Despite claims to the co ntrary, it seemed that there were many more reasons for Sarah to leave her country than simply to go to an American college. She was clearly struggling to deal with her stressful home environment where domestic violence and infidelity were routine. Sarah d escribed one particularly troublesome incident with her mother that she and her siblings witnessed:

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191 I still remember one of this incident my mom took out these pills, have all when he got upset, but it would be really bad when it happened. He would drink too, it was bad. It was j ust pots flying, rice cookers flying everywhere. It was so weird, but it was so normal. You could hear our neighbor next was kind of normal. As a child, I just always wanted to be so independent. people, are telling you what to do, always felt resentment inside. Always my mom was making excuse when Daddy was yelling. I know there was a fine line when my dad w as yelling at my mom. She was always making excuses. I could see she was tiptoeing around the house to make sure that. I hated it, I really hated it. So I wanted to get out of my house so bad. As soon as I was done with my high school, I just left. And I think because my mom, I want to help wome n, too. Sarah said that a further influence on her decision to pursue social work was that her sister followed the same path as her mother in terms of marrying an abusive man (twice): need to help these women. They need to cut that legacy. My sister went through an abusive marriage once, and then she got divorced, and then second husband was as bad as the first one My family has impacted me me who Like so many participants, Sarah seemed to view social work as a means to heal the wounds of her past: I did some w ork with anger management for physical offenders [abusers]. I thought, maybe this will help me heal the past. And when I started volunteering there, looking at all those people, I w ready

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192 Sarah believes that these experiences from her past, however, painful, have led her to social work and will help her to be a better social worker than somebody who has not had similar experi ences: I can be a good social worker because I know from my experience, I think I overcame a lot of issues. Seeing my mom as a woman and what she lt times. I can bring a lot of help and love to those people. Allison was born in the U.S. to a single mot her, originally from Central America She never lived or had any contact with her biological father. Her mother was in l ove with her father when they were together, but felt like he never reciprocated that love in any substantial manner. He showed interest at first, then led her on. Once he found out she was pregnant, he left for another woman: Not having my biological fath er was a major issue. I think that always s own daughter. I guess I kind of resented my mom, too, in a way for my dad not being in my life. He had owed a lot of back child support. He tried to contact me a couple of times, well I mean not really house every once in a while for my mom anyway. I think he called like maybe five times between ages 16 and 18. I never really felt like he had a place in my life. She was raised by he r mother for most of her life, except when she lived with her mother and stepfather (at the time) from ages 6 to 15. Before the marriage to her stepfather, her mother was teetering between the working class and poverty, having to move herself and her child ren in with her sister and her husband. She was a lonely child, and her loneliness was made worse by the fact that she could not have any substantial interactions with her brother who was much older, had mental disabilities,

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193 and was hearing impaired. She a lso had problems making friends, particularly when she was uprooted by moving to another state after the divorce of her mother and stepfather her freshman year in high school. Allison wants to go into social work because of these experiences she had in her childhood. She wants to help people in a way that she felt I think I always liked the idea of having a profession where you help orkers, and they were actually negative. So I feel like I could try to be somebody that would help somebody. I felt like in my case, they could have done a lot more and been more helpful. When I was moving and I was going through a lot of stuff at that tim e, I needed somebody to help, and I would like to help people who are in the position I was in. I guess everything just my childhood in itself. Right now at my agency, they work a lot with mothers well, not all of them are single mothers, but some of them are single mothers and they come from low income backgrounds. I see a lot of similarities between how I grew up and how some people are growing up. So I guess that i n itself makes me want to help. ng to different neighborhoods, schools, and states, and the issues with her mother all really took a toll on her. She did not attend high school very frequently and her grades suffered considerably. She spent a lot of time on her own taking care of herself and her brother while her mother worked. Every once in a while her troubles would get to be too much for her and she would run away: and I was acting out a lot. My mother would t ry to get help from social workers. She was trying to get help. There were times where I just would days. There were some issues there between my mom and me. I guess I felt like she have. Even after she left my stepfather I still felt resentment towards her, it sort o f spilled over.

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194 Her mother sought help for her from social workers, but her experience was largely negative. She felt that they were insensitive and stereotyped her as just another context specific analysis and action: things from my point of view, they were know. I felt lik figure out what they did wrong, or because I feel like most of it was if they would have approached me differently, or talked to me differently, I could have actually benefitted a lot from th eir help, now that I look at it. At child, rather than looking at my specific issues. ildhood, frequent moves, and family issues all influenced her desire to help people in similar situations to her own. In social work she sees a profession that not only can aid this population, but do so in a manner much more helpful than the ineffective a id she received when she was a child. Continuing in our conversation about her childhood, Allison discussed how she feels that she contributed to the divorce between her mother and stepfather: We [her and her stepfather] kind of never really had a good re lationship, and I would say I was kind of the cause of the divorce, partly. I have a brother who is 35, he is 12 years older than me. He has a mental disability us, and I know fo r a fact that he cheated on my mom. There were just a lot of issues. She kind of, I guess, she was kind of distancing herself from him, but at the same time there was a lot of conflicts between me and him. stood up for him. You know, issues like that. So them divorcing, it was a lot to do with me because I was not getting along with him, but I feel like she was going to do it eventually. I think I just sped up the process. I told her about the cheating, I m ean it was real obvious. There was proof.

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195 stepfather, and her problems with him only exacerbated her childhood issues. This would be made worse later by their divorce and a move to a different state and high school. Many of the participants revealed ways in which their personal experiences shaped their beliefs and career choices. Some of them were shaped in predictable ways, others unpredictable. For Allison, her childhood experi ences with a single mother and the associated difficulties her family faced led her to reject the idea of the U.S. as a meritocracy; in fact, she was one of the few participants to reject the meritocratic narrative, despite so many of the participants havi ng similar childhood struggles: jobs, and some people do try to go to school, but it is not as easy as it familie s and things like that. Terra When Terra was four years old her parents divorced, sending her mother and her into poverty. As a child Terra dealt not only with this economic insecurity, but also led her to social work in the first place:

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196 s always been an alcoholic, but her disease got much worse over time. She would drink heavily and then at stopped living with her. Because of her my grandmother had me to speak to a licensed clinical social worker she knew through a lawyer friend. It was when I was 15 or 16 and I was very inspired by her. My mother was using [drugs] and drinking very, very heavily. So I decided to live with just my dad. And my grandmother wanted to me nd ties but I was very mad, I started to really like her, and she was a social worker. I really was inspi red by her, and as I got to learn more about the actual different fields you could go into, I liked it even more. That was my junior or senior year in high school and that wa s it, I was set on social work. Terra remembers being terrified as a child, somet hing that still haunts her to this day. She was so scared and cognizant of the threat of removal from her home that she would literally hide in fear that the authorities were going to come to take her away: I mean I was very scared many times. When I was y ounger, I think there was domestic violence with a boyfriend along with the drugs and alcohol. I mean what if she had gotten hurt? I was scared that I was going to be ken away or whatever, s o I hid. On top of her strained relationship with her mom, Terra describes her father as an is some significant lingering pain: Our relationship now is kind of like talk like maybe once ev ery month, which is pretty bad. Terra felt that children needed better advocates to deal with the kinds of situa tions that she dealt with as a child, fueling her desire to be such an advocate and pursue social work:

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197 need advocates. Otherwise who is going to look out for them? And I think th because I kind of would hope that someone had helped me when I was younger, so hopefully I can be of help to children who ar e suffering. Terra went on to reflect upon her past and its influence on her today: I either want to work with substance a buse, children, foster care or adoption, something working with families and children. I think my passion really is substance abuse and working with families and children of addict ion and treatment and recovery, even more than working with about and inte rested in, and I definitely am. Terra had an interesting reflection on why she chose to go into social work She clearly identified that her past played a huge role in her wanting to pursue social work, but she social workers wanting to help people who had similar circumstances to their own was necessarily a great thing: Sometimes things or with social workers want to go into social work, because of they have to really get through all of the experiences they had in their life so transfer that to their clients. Noreen: Child of the 1960s Noreen grew up in a working class household. She calls her parents her father was a truck driver and her mother was a secretary. Her father and his social network had significantly racist views towards African Amer icans in particular; this environment of racism had a big impact on Noreen, who developed an oppositional worldview in response. As an adult she has moved from the working class to the upper middle class. Her husband works for a foreign embassy and they ar e financially comfortable enough for her, now in her 50s, to go back to college to study most recently they

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198 spent three years in Africa where she participated in international relief work. N oreen is a white woman of European descent who was born in the U.S. While she was in college she converted to Islam she showed up for our formal interview in traditional Muslim female headwear and an Obama/Biden campaign t shirt. She talked a bit about her early life and her path to social work: revolutions and the hippies and the revolutionaries and the civil rights my mid teens, so that had a huge impact on me. In addition to that, my parents were from a very different generation. And my father, in particular, was an absolute racist, and we used to butt heads since I can remember, since I was little. Boy, it was ugl might have been like one black family or something. And so I was butting heads with my father and everyone in our little social world. And my mom, on the other hand, although she was part of that generation and in many she needed to stand up against it. But she would not let us, you know, how she disapproved. For example, the N word, okay. My father used it just routinely and every other deroga tory term for every other kind of person that exists on Earth. But if I were to repeat it my mom would be wor ld, in their network of friends, they all thought the same and were from the same generation. And so that, okay, in conjunction with the whole social thing that happened when I was a teenager. I can recall earlier than that like when I was in elementary sc hool having this sense that what essentially it boils down to my ancestors did to the native people when they arrived here was just wrong. Before I knew anything about oppression and prejudice and racism, I knew right from wrong and I applied that just on maybe, it was just knowing at a very young age somehow the so rt of right and wrong kind of thing, but it may have just been that confluence of experiences growing up that I just found myself pa ssionate about social justice.

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199 to h My relationship with my mom was much more complicated and much more of that sort of love hate, okay, because I saw her a s weak. I saw her as weak and I hated her for it and I resented it and it really. But at the same time she was kind and gentle and supportive. It is complicated like I life that I was able to look back and go wow, she was in fact the most powerful, strongest person I have ever known for her to be able to sort of endure what she endured, you know, and hold our family together, you know? She was definitely stronger than I ever gave h er credit for, you know. To make matters at home worse, Noreen face significant bullying at school. She al justice to shape her worldview in powerful way. her long to sense that even law enforcement had problematic social justice issues: Actually, at one point in my life, in m y 20s, I actually thought I would go into law enforcement. I did a correspondence course. I became friendly, if you could say that, with police officers. At the time, they were policemen. And, again, found a system that I had no choice but to reject. You k now them do start out and they try to be, but the system, the structure, the whole absolute power breeds absolute corruption kind of thing. You know so I said, okay, When I asked her about th ese experiences and how they might have influenced her path to social work, she identified some further experiences that she believes played a big role. The first was a YWCA where she helped victims of domestic abuse. She would

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200 operate a hotline for victim s of rape and abuse, and these experiences helped her to confirm her desire to work in a helping profession. Working at the YWCA gave her a people improve their circumsta experience had a significant impact on her desire to work in a helping profession, but another experience working as a caseworker in a private social service agency that led her directly to the BSW program. She remembers an experience with one particular client that really changed her life and career trajectory. Although she was deliberately vague with me about what actually happened to the client (she did not seem comfortable giving me too many details and I respected this and did not push any further), she revealed that she worked for three years with this client to achieve some sort of important goal related to a crisis the client had faced. After three years of hard work to achieve the goal of helping thi s woman and her family, she ran into significant problems with the state agency that they were working in conjunction with: So part of the who deal was going up against the [state agency]. As far as it from the rooftops, from restoring her dignity. I thought they were there to help people, but based on my experience, I would have to say they were there to find ways to deny services. was money or who knows why, but that resentment and that frustration nd to this day I working against the interests of this person who wa s absolutely, positively needy. al justice seemed to interact with what she saw as institutional failings of institutions designed to help people. She desired to be an agent of change, somebody with the

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201 correct motivations and an eye for where improvements were needed. For Noreen and man y other participants, this created an obvious path to social work. Noreen went on to talk about personal experience she had had with welfare stigma. Noreen had personal experience with the welfare system from when she was younger and was able to see first hand the public judgment that often comes along with welfare use: When I was first married, we were students. So in terms of income and stuff, we just had a scholarship. So I got WIC. I went to the grocery store if they still do it that way. But exactly welfare, you know? I mean, this is a nutritional program for low attitude and just the fact that she even brought it up, she definitely tried to degrade me and make me feel like I was somehow taking welfare like I wa her upbringing in a bigoted household and the perceived failed response to that bigotry by people close to her, such as her mother. She brought that sense of social justice and failed response with her into adulthood, only to find disappointment with our s ocietal response to many social problems and injustices. This link between beliefs and experiences in both childhood and adulthood was clear and unmistakably a salient part

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202 social work and his worldview were influenced by his childhood in Asia and journey to the U.S. through being adopted. Peter experienced some pretty drastic changes in social class along the way: I was born and grew up in [Asia] so I started off in a low, low class, like poor. Like stereotypical, work on a farm kind of thing, no electricity. When I was four I stopped living with my grandparents on the countryside, went to live in the city with my aunt and uncle and moved up in class a bit. And that was pret ty much lower middle class. And then I got adopted, so I came to the U.S. Then we went from middle class to upper mi ddle class. social class, households, and family mem particular is filled with devastating twists and turns: gave me up I had to go from group homes to teen shelters. all different facilities. So I was finally placed in foster care after age twelve and was extended family, my adopted aunt and uncles and grandparents, I still keep in contact with them. I was with the first foster family for about four or five years. I was pretty happy at first. But I had like seven brothers, and I ou should be some interaction. I mean I still want to have that interaction. They had a lot of kids and my social worker thought that it would benefit me a little better, because of the conflict of being abandoned by my adopted parents, to move into a different household with not as many children so I can get the [eighteen]. And I still keep in contact, I consider them my immediate family. I go see my mom [from second foster family] eve ry week, I consider her my mom. much so that he considers the woman who watched after him his mo ther:

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203 I call her [his most recent foster mother] mom, I feel like she is my mother. asy to talk to her. Like whenever I have a lot of conflicts in my mind, we sit down and we bounce ideas back and forth. It really helps because she can take that, she can be the motherly role but then s he can also do the other roles. Peter hinted that his original adoptive mother and father might have been dealing with infertility issues and turned to adoption as an alternative only to eventually get pregnant once the process had begun, thus losing interest in Peter at some point. He was vague in his answe r, likely due to the discomfort of conveying such a story to me 13 : and they came to get me, she was pregnan t with one. So I have always decided t o adopt and then had one. I asked him whether he was happy in his initial adoptive household. He claimed he was not unhappy, but he could not hav e given a more emotionless or unconvincing response when describing his adoptive family: on my back, food in my stomach. But I guess the emotional support, I d f that. chose social work as a career. In one of our conversations, he recounted this particularly heartbreaking story: 13 In both my informal interviews in the field and my semi structured formal interviews with my participants I tried to probe further where appropriate. I did not push too hard, however, when the participant asked me not to or when the participant was visibly uncomfortable discussing something deeply personal. In these situations I attempted to paint the most det ailed ethnographic picture while also respecting the rights and humanity of my participants.

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204 When my [adoptive] parents gave me up, it was a bi g ordeal. They hired a never figured out why, but I was old enough to comprehend the concept in court they got placed in a lot of, like I said, group homes and shelters. And those a juvenile detention center, it is supposed to help children. So one of the things they had was that on the weekends if you behave, you get to go home for the weekend and spend time with your family. I never got that. And at the age where I could comprehe nd the situation, it got really rough. Because people got letters went above and beyond what I expected as a s ocial worker. There were take you out to comfortable enough to build a relationship. Half the time we would walk around the mall and I would vent. I think that was really helpful for me, because from that point I became very aware of how my feelings and my might have had supp ressed negativity and emotions. Although he originally wanted to be a teacher, his childhood and teenage experiences and the influence of his mom, a social worker, led him to the BSW program: I originally wanted to be a teacher, but after everything I went through I wanted to have a bigger impact than just one year. I talked to my mom standard, you know, this is just a eight to five where would I be? So I chose social work. I think part of it is I want to give back what was given to me. I personally feel that if it got to the situation where I had to have that heart to heart with a child, I can say, more real than for the sake of just

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205 Pe ter still clearly feels the pain of his experience, and his disappointment with his original adoptive family is shared by the relatives of that family: relatives in [New England] not the fa mily but the extended family. They care about me and still stay in contact with me because they are so try not to look too deep into it. Even the extended family, Sometimes I think about it, sometim es I try not to think about it. I asked Peter to talk to me a little bit about the impact that the BSW program had on his worldview, but he was clear in his response that his worldview was developed long ow that it experiences and time in the military are really the influences that shape his current worldview. The notion that his life had more of an impact on his worldview than his studies was underscored dramatically when he discussed what he perceived to be the root cause of poverty:

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206 just not jobs that you like or that pay enough according to you. Everyo ne have to work multiple jobs. But the bottom line is, if you have a job at better than no job. When I was growing up in [Asia] if you converted the currency, people could make $2.50 an hour screen TV. Most of them We went to the local market every day, morning, evening, and we bought food and we cooked it fresh. We had no centralized heating. I remember as a kid my job was to go downstairs and pick up pieces of coal. I think people the best. I think people take that a little too far. I guess in the social work strive for better, but I think people take what they have for granted. They book from when you were a kid, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie People th it. They have to have more. comfort that he eventually f ound came from his second adoptive mother who cared enough to change his life. Rather than instilling a more collective mentality in Peter, however, his upbringing seemed to ingrain in him the idea that we are all on our own (because for much of his life h e felt like he was). This is of course understandable: however, might have been that Peter realized the importance of support outside of oneself (such as the support his adoptive mother provided); this realization could have cultivated a sense of the importance of the collective, and a rejection of individual centered beliefs. Instead, Peter was highly individualistically oriented in most of what he said during our conver sations:

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207 my parents at all. I moved out when I started community college and had my own apartment. I work ed three jobs to try to pay for everything and that [U.S. Armed Forces] so I could pay for of my military training. And sometimes I hear people talk about stuff in class and it realistic, objective point of view. And I think in life in general. There are certain things I do agree on. We have to take care of children. Single mothers with children are always going to have harder times than a single male. But as far as I guess views on the overal l had enough experience to deal with that. I ran away from group homes all have been through those things, like working in a company, you were the lowest of the low and then you go through the ranks, you get promoted, by the time you reach management position, you are the best at everything because y The last thing that we talked about in terms of life experience was how this impacted the population that Peter desired to work with. Originally from Asia and a veteran of the U.S. Armed F orces, Peter (like many BSW students who want to work with populations similar to themselves) wan ts to work with similar populations of people when he graduates: about the culture. I think having that und erstanding, and not to sound sh, if you were to go over to [an Asian] as much as they would tell me.

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208 nt pattern in the ethnographic record, one of personal heartache that led him to a profession that he believes deals with that experience in a useful manner. Mental Health Experiences Ashley is from a politically conservative religious family an d says she shares her share similar religious and political values, worldviews, and beliefs: I definitely look for somebody who is [the same religion] and shares my bel iefs in dating and marriage. I typically meet boyfriends through church activities. It is important to me and my family. I think my family trusts my judgment now to date the right people. Along the way [growing up] they gave me hints and made it pretty cle ar that is what they wanted. Ashley and her family are very religious and very involved in the church. They attend a weekly three hour church service as well as weekly meetings and bible study. She week are spent outside of service activity groups. class when she was born but was quickly upwardly mobile into the upper class. Because believes everyone can be wealthy and successful if they try as hard as her family. Ashley initially came to social work because of her own mental health issues she was diagnosed with anorexia and major depressive disord er when she was eleven years old. She says she chose social work because she wanted to help people dealing with similar issues. Discussing her personal battles with her mental health, Ashley says, obvious and considerable weight

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209 encouraged her parents to seek treatment for the anorexia, and in treatment they were surprised by the major depressive disorder diagnosis. Her ex periences with mental health professionals were mixed. She has been hospitalized a total of four times, and It was the inpatient care in the hospitals, however, that really troubled her and led her to believe that the system needed changing. Ashley conveyed to me through our conversations that it was her personal struggles and the failure of the mental health s ystem to respond effectively to these struggles that both pushed her to social work and gave her the particular focus (mental health) that she chose. She remembers these experiences with the hospitals well: Those experiences in the hospitals have been alar ming. Especially one time when I was out in [the hospital] the professionals were very rude, and just that depression after that. My desire to get into mental health is definitely connected to that, to provide empathy. There are so many problems with the system. I went into social work as a way to add ress some of these things wit h the mental health population. A short period of time after Ashley went off to a religious college (far away from her family) her mental health issues surfaced again, at which point she transferred to secular MAU to be closer to home: I went [to the other college] when I was 18 and had some problems there not academic or religious but mental health issues. So I came home to receive treatment and after that I decided I wanted to stick closer to hom e. It was a long way from home

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210 Ashley is very cognizant of how her both her mental health issues and the negative experiences she had in mental health facilities impacted her path to social work. She also has an aunt who is a social worker, a contributing factor to her career decisio n: The biggest thing that led me to social work I think is my experience with mental health. I have spent over a decade of my life in mental health treatment, from when I was eleven to when I was twenty. It was pretty intense and I realized how important i t is to have caring and empathetic people out there. I realized how often people go misunderstood because there isn't an educated or empathetic worker out there. Another influence is my aunt, she is a social worker who works in the foster care system. Gett ing to know her and her background has really influenced me wanting to be a social work er. Ashley states that her mental health issues and experiences determined why she wanted to go into social work, and her aunt showed her exactly how she could help tha t population: I think the biggest factor was definitely the mental health institutions. But I think that once I realized that mental health has its holes, at least the dream job, and so I kind of looked into that and realized that was where I wanted to go. My experience helped me decide who I wanted to help, but seeing her kinda showed me how I can help. European Cultur al Heritage Jana is originally from a European country with vastly different cultural ideas about economic issues and the role of government in addressing these issues. She argued that her views were different from a lot of Americans and even fellow BSW students because of her upbringing in a very different cultur e with vastly different views about social welfare, inequality, and poverty. Jana was the most structurally oriented student that I spoke to, and she was genuinely shocked about American individualistically oriented views towards social welfare and economi c issues. She believes many of her views are different not only because her home country has a more

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211 expansive social welfare system, but she grew up in a family where her father was a member of a socialist political party. Structurally oriented explanation s for economic home country. She said the same thing about their more expansive social welfare system, something that was not questioned and was considered something of a necessity in her country. Jana was very aware of how this upbringing gave her a very different and much more structurally oriented view on economic issues than many Americans. Jana was unique in this study for her structurally dominated views, one of the only students who did not espouse individualistically dominated views. She argues that social workers are trained not to look at individuals by themselves, but individuals within social structures: As a social worker I am not just looking at the person, I am looking at the person because that person is in like a spider web, right? It is like the center of the spider web and it touches all these different things within his or her environment. Which, if you have an issue you cannot just fix the person you ac tually have to fix all of the threads that connect that person. My family and I are doing very well, we are upper middle class. My kids are doing very well because of this benefit of being in this socioeconomic strata. I am doing well in life. I want for e verybody to do well in life. So I think in social work you can really kind of give back and help out. It is interesting that Jana frames social work in this manner, because her perception is different than so many other students that I spoke with. While I was interviewing Jana I to realize how the knowledge gained in the social wor k program was highly dependent on what students selectively incorporated into their existing worldviews.

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212 I asked Jana if she was always interested in helping people, even when she was a child, and she immediately cited her upbringing in Europe: I am from Europe, and my father is a big socialist. He is a party leader in the Socialist party and so we were always pro union, pro social welfare, and I think it is so sad in the United States that people here think that poor people don't deserve social welfare. I think these are the people that we need to take the most care of. The rich people can take care of themselves, it is really the poor people who cannot without our help. I just don't understand this meanness against poor people. It is not like they want to be poor. And so I think that is another big push for me, I just think that this country really needs as many voices for the poor people as possible. Not voices from the poor, they need to be voices from people who are not poor. This sounds really kind of bourgeois, sometimes my voice is heard more than somebody who is poor who is asking for it. But that carries more weight. And I am more than happy to do it. I mean, this whole healthca re thing, I don't get what the problem is. You want people not to go to the emergency room to rack up emergency room bills right, but you don't want to help them out in any way to avoid that. I am shocked. It has a lot to do with my upbringing and seeing i t from a different perspective, too. Coming from a country that has a huge social welfare network. Growing up in Europe gave her a completely different perspective on socialism as well. in contemporary welfare system as simply a socially just way to take care of structural failings:

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213 A lot of people here [in the U.S.] don't know what the word social ism means. I think they just see something that benefits all, and automatically they call it communism even though that would be more socialism. It's even more profound for me. I am a military spouse, we have Tricare [Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniform Services]. It is the military's healthcare system. it is universal healthcare for us. We don't ever have to pay a dime for anything. so I know what it feels like to have that peace of mind, to just know that if I am sick I can just go to the doctor. everybody deserves to have. Everybody should be able to take a sick kid to the doctor and have the doctor make the kid better without being called an abuser of the system or a freeloader or whatever. I just get very irate themselves social democrats. It is not the socialist thing that we think of when we think of Russia. I think it is a democracy built on social welfare and social well being. The U.S. has some of the same things to some extent, some to a lesse r extent, it is just different. esting take on the 2012 U.S. Presidential argued that we all use the social welfare system but are only vitriolic towards people we view as undeserving; of all the people that use some form of social welfare, we pick and use and which ones to vilify based upon our own positive or negative views o f those people and the reason they need welfare in the first place. She got excited and animated when she steered the conversation towards the rhetoric of the presidential campaign, saying:

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214 How dare they tell other people that they're freeloaders. It is n ever a choice to be poor and be a freeloader. I'm pretty sure if you ask any person who is poor and on public assistance, if you ask them if they would rather have a job or stand in line at the food bank, they would say the job. I hear people always saying have these five weeks of vacation. We are paying 47% in taxes, but we have the universal healthcare, we have the excellent school system s, we have 4,000 square summer. With our healthcare system, that system has worked since the Second World War and nobody complains it is just understood that that is part of your expenses, you pay for healthcare. Here in the U.S., when somebody tries to raise the idea that you have to do something, they Obama whe n he just t alks about changing healthcare. After arriving in the U.S. to go to college, Jana met her husband, a member of the U.S. Armed F orces. Because of his job they have lived all of the U.S. and overseas, and these experiences have shaped the populat ions that she would like to serve. She and her family have lived in she has done a lo t of volunteer work, which has only fueled her desire to give back to people in need. Olivia Awakening Olivia grew up in a politically conservative family with a father who was a history teacher. She says that some of the biggest influences in her life a things from a liberal Olivia considers herself and her family deeply religious and states that her religion is

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215 very important to her and has a significant influence on h er worldview. Olivia and her family attend church services weekly (by herself when she is at school and with her family when she is not at school). Her mom is a worship leader, helping to lead service and prayers, and her dad works in the church treasury a s the financial manager. Her brother is a worship leader as well, and her grandparents attend church with them every week as well as watch religious services on television. When Olivia is away from home and on campus at MAU she is involved with weekly camp us based church activities (young life activities and bible study, among other activities). She also does daily devotions and keeps a daily prayer journal. ions, and her experiences in high school. The population she wanted to work with refugees. Maybe things like the International Justice Mission, the United Nations, I a high school project in question was on the topic of the Holocaust, and it really awakened a sense of social justice in her as it related to genocide and refugees. She said that after the Holocaust peo ple vowed to never let something of that nature happen again, yet she realized that it indeed does happen today in different parts of the world. She talked about her influences:

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216 I am interested in refugees and the elderly. As a child I always loved histor y. The U.S. Civil War and World War II were like my two favorite topics. I was also constantly reading about the Holocaust. Then in high school I ended up doing a paper on Darfur and it was like this huge wake up call for me, I didn't realize we were still basically letting genocides happen. So that is kind of where my passion for refugees comes from. I live in an environment where I can't even fathom such things. On election worried th at on my way out somebody will shoot me if I voted the wrong people. I think it is awful that governments are out there killing their people. So I want to work with refugees fr om genocidal situations. As far as my interest in the elderly, my mom is a caregiver for the elderly. I am actually doing a research project on this right now. I know that it is not the there is this mindset that once you put them in a nursing home you are done. I have seen how that has affected a lot of her elderly, they have really great stories. My mom worked with somebody who knew Grace Kelly in New York. That's such a cool story and nobody really appreciates that, we all have this idea that the elderly are incompetent, and everybody gets so mad when they drive behind an elderly person. You know, like they drive so slow. I went to [Asia] this summer and did a research project on the e lderly in [a particular Asian country] and they are so revered there. So that is kind of why I am interested in that population. I think they are very underappreciated. er into social work. She says that she knew she wanted to help people from a very young that she realized she could personally make a difference. She was particularly influenced by

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217 My That is where I learned that I love cultures. My parents have also been very involved in shaping all of this. My dad is a history teacher, so I am sure that is where my love of histo ry came from. I was an odd child, too. They fostered it, I showed interest in it, and then they fostered it. We would go to Gettysburg and all of those places when I was younger. I just loved history. I was convinced that I was going to be an Egyptologist. I a nd Gettysburg and Williamsburg. Olivia also did a lot or volunteer work with her church when sh e was growing up, particularly in the summers where she volunteered at youth camps. This further enhanced her desire to help people with faith as the foundation Nancy Firsthand Experience with Children by her desire from an early age to help people, her love of working with children, and the family problems that she help people my entire life. I've always been very int says she has always been good with children and wanted to find a major that would just love kids and that was a big factor in becom dating her boyfriend and was troubled by what she saw with his family that things started to really take shape for her:

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218 I guess it solidified last summer when I started dating my boyfriend. He comes from a very dysfunctional family. His older brother is 30 and lives at home with his two sons. He [the older brother] is very emotionally abusive towards them they were taken away from their mother, who is a cocaine addict and currently in prison. The father had some substance abuse problems too, it is just a messy situation. I feel so bad for the boys the oldest one has PTSD and ADHD and is having so many problems. His father is very d istant towards him and favors his younger brother. Seeing how this poor child is going to have difficulty the rest of his life because he got unlucky and got some really crappy parents, that was kind of like the motivator I guess t o change majors to social work. involved helping with military personnel and their families. I do a lot now with deployed soldiers I am part of an organization where we send them care packages and le tters and stuff. Service has always been a huge part of my life. Wanting to help people as a career really was it really solidified my desire to work with children. I originally w anted to do nonprofit stuff, so social work just seemed like the closest thing to that. I feel rea lly good about my decision now. Nancy brought her desire to work with kids with her to college, and this desire was only strengthened by what she learned abo ut early childhood development: I mean going into college I thought a lot of the same things I do now and really cared about and wanted to work with children, college has just strengthened that. I guess, especially recently taking all of these psychology a nd social work classes and the emphasis they put on the first five years of your life and how important those are. I mean the first five years of your life are really going to determine how the rest your life is going to work out. If you don't get the care that you need and the interaction and nurturing that you need then you are going to have developmental problems, social problems, emotional problems. It is just so important, those first five years, especially to just get them on the right track. I mean t hey cannot do it for thems elves, they're pretty helpless. Nancy told me a particularly touching story about working at a grocery store when she was younger and trying her best to help a woman using food stamps:

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219 I used to work at a grocery store and I wou ld have to ring up people with food stamps and WIC and that was always tough. I had one woman who came through my line and she could not afford her groceries and she started crying. I felt so bad because she had to put like half of her stuff back. She didn 't have money or the stamps to pay for it. She kept saying, She was crying, she was mortified, I felt horrible, so bad for her. Luckily it customers, it was just me and my coworkers. We all tried to help her out. We told her not to worry about putting the other groceries back, we would take care of it. We helped her get her stuff into the cart and we helped her get it to the car. I guess we were just trying to end the situation as quickly as possible because it was uncomfortable for everybody. She was obviously really upset. It was really, really awkward. Nancy had another awkward experience with welfare this time watching some college frien ds openly ridicule welfare recipients while a friend of hers who had experience with welfare sat silently by: I remember I had a friend in college whose family was on food stamps and one night we just got into this big political discussion a couple of peo ple and me. Some people were really vicious in their views about welfare. They didn't know his family was on food stamps. He kind of quietly said to heard him. He felt like shit. T here were his friends totally bashing his family, not knowing that he is sitting right there feeling this way, his family in this situation. He was just quiet, he did not get visibly upset but you could tell it was not fun fo r him to hear and he was upset. population that she wanted to work with once she was there. Like so many of the students that I spoke with, pursuing social welfare does not guarantee any particular worldview ; what these students shared was a desire to help people based upon their own personal experiences, but how they helped them and the theoretical underpinnings of that help were separate issues.

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220 Marena Domestic Violence Experiences Marena experienced dom estic violence on many occasions during her childhood and teenage years. It began when Marena was young and her father would physically to physically abuse her mother. Because of this Marena had to deal with a social worker, an experience that left a positive lasting impression on her. She did not know it before she met the social worker in high school, but ever since that experience she decided she would go into social work herself: I had a personal experience in high school where a social worker helped our family with domestic violence between my mom and my stepfather. I loved the social worker, I thought she was amazing and she really helped us a lot. I think I was 1 6 and then ever since I have wanted to be a social worker. I had no idea I wanted to go into social work before, but this changed all that. I wanted to be a nurse when I was in middle school and stuff and then I switched to wanting to be a social worker af ter that whole abusive thing happened. Pretty much from then on, all throughout high school, I knew I wanted to be a social worker. Marena cites this domestic abuse as the single greatest factor influencing her path to social work. She felt that she was s experiences and would like to help people in similar situations. She believes this help is critical, especially since she felt there was not somebody there for her in times that she needed somebody most:

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221 The do mestic abuse in my own family was the biggest thing [that led me to social work]. My parents would fight and go at it a lot, we had a lot of family problems. So I felt like it really damaged me for a while and that is why I wanted to help kids mostly. I wi sh there would have been somebody there for me to help me through my problems and everything. So I guess those personal experiences really shaped me wanting to go into social work. I mean the volunteer stuff was important, but the biggest influence was the domestic violence in my own family. That started when I was born with my parents and then my mom and her ex husband. And when I was 16 my experience with the social worker, I really, really admired her. I remember she helped my mom and I a lot. I remember I started crying during one of the court hearings and she took me and she was so kind to me and really helped me through it. It really helped me put why I was there into perspective and what I needed to do there. The social worker was just really sweet I feel like throughout the whole thing my mom was really stressed and everything was really stressful, and it was just good to have that one person who was talking you through it and telling you what was going on. Just her patience was amazing to me. Marena like so many BSW students, always had a desire to help people. Her personal experiences with domestic abuse were what led her to want to help children and people in similar situations; knowing she wanted to help people and who she wanted to help, her exp erience with one particular social worker showed her the avenue to achieve these goals: Ever since I was a little kid I've wanted to help people and I think that definitely led into my decision to go into social work. I remember my mom always telling me wh en I was little, because my dad was a diplomat [abroad], and my mother would go and do like a lot of charity work and stuff wherever he was stationed. She did a lot of volunteering in [a Central American country] and stuff like that I thought it was really fascinating I just wanted to help people. The stories she would tell of how she helps people building homes and stuff like that. My mother pretty much volunteered for anything an d for anybody that needed help. dy, coming to social work due to a desire to help people and a particularly memorable personal experience. To underscore this even further, Marena tells me that before she knew she wanted to go into social work she

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222 wanted to pursue autism therapy because h er cousin is autistic. This is just one of many stories of self selection that fill the ethnographic record. Story immigrant, seeing firsthand the struggles that immigrants face, and her experiences dealing with and helping fellow immigrants. She has always wanted to help people as a profession, and these experiences shaped how she would achieve that goal: I have always been open to helping anyone, I know that is something that social work students say, that they want to help people. But it is true, I have always been helpful to others, very considerate to help other people in need. I have always been there for everyone that I know. When I was back in [her home cou ntry in South America] think I always wanted to work with people but not until I came here to the US did I do something about it. I think because I was an immigrant, being an immigrant is very difficult. You don't have resources, you need a lot of help fro m others, especially with English. I think that is probably why I chose social work. I saw firsthand how this population was affected. I think that has had a pretty stro ng influence on me, definitely. she both wants to help i mmigrants because of the struggles they face, but also wants to see some behavior, which she perceives to be troubling, addressed. During our discussion of welfare fertility policies, such as family caps, she explained where her opinions came from: I would have to agree with them [family caps]. Maybe because I have been exposed to many of my friends back home when I was younger who had children when they were very young and they were receiving welfare assistance. But also this has to be with the cultural as pect of it. This one immigrant woman I know, she lives in a two bedroom apartment with ten other people and she is planning to have more kids while she is struggling. Kids are very demanding. Even myself, I think right now I am not ready to have kids becau se I want to be more financially stable. Definitely I would agree with that [family caps]. In general I would agree with those policies. I think it would be good for most programs, not just TANF but food stamps and other programs. In general this is a good policy.

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223 What was interesting about this conversation about family caps was that not once did Isabel mention anything about the structural limitations that immigrants face, why this family had to live with ten other people, etc. Instead, the conversation focused solely on she came to social work and who she wanted to work with, but how she viewed their problems as well. Never once did she mention her studies and how the y might theorize why these social problems exist; social work for her is a very personal profession, both in terms of motivation to pursue social work and the lens through which she interprets her experiences there. Karen comes from a milit ary family, and while an overwhelming majority of social work students self select into social work and areas of social work that relate to their she graduates: I want to right now. I just want to get my MSW, work with vet now. Karen was very direct and to the point that she had very little interest beyond working with veterans. I explored this a little bit further with her, interested in why she was so hyper focused:

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224 just recently found out he h as PTSD. I wanted to be in social work, and seeing what my brother has gone through motivated me to choose vets. I am from a military family. My brother was in Iraq for several tours, and he was in the Air Force. He got pretty bad PTSD. Through him and my father and my other brother, they were all military as well my father was in the Navy, I think he was in the Gulf War. I feel like there are a lot of kind of want to go in and h elp those problems because I feel like there ppreciation for those problems. As I mentioned before, most of the BSW students self selected like Karen. Her case was particularly exemplary because of its extremely narrow focus. I asked Karen t o really push herself and think of any other populations that she could possibly consider personalized her profession in a substantial manner. While it is clear that having so many military personnel in her family had a substantial influence on her career path, there were other life experiences that shaped her desire to help people. I asked her if any other life experiences shaped her journey, and while she had to dig deep, s he did reflect on some other experiences: I was always kind of bothered by now I am not saying my mom is a horrible person, but she never really donated a dollar to people, like little stuff like a dollar here or there to cancer research or whatever. When I like if we have the means to help other people by donating two dollars we should do it. And that was just something I kind of felt throughout my childhood and still do. I saw other people who were struggling but they were able to help other people by donating to charity or volunteering or So I have kind of done it myself. I always felt like we are doing okay and te my career to helpin g people.

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225 Most of my participants came from privileged middle upper middle and upper class backgrounds, and this influenced all of their experiences and beliefs in some manner. For some it led to a more individualistically oriented worldview (we got o you get yours?), and for people like Karen it led to a more collectively oriented worldview. Most of the BSW students that I spoke with reported finding social work later. The pattern that emerged was that they had some vague ideas about wanting to help 14 Through my observations and interviews it be came clear that most of these students latched onto social work for these reasons and their own personal experience, not because of the theoretical or empirical and st rong pattern was that most students avoided other majors, such as sociology of psychology, because they perceived the focus to be too heavily on research and theory, which did not interested many of them (explaining why so many of them had such underdevelo ped ideas about why social problems occurred). Corinne knew she wanted to help people, but it took her a long time to figure it had no clue. ose many other majors because of the emphasis 14 about what social work was or any desire to study it bef ore choosing it. Second, the students typically found it either in college after testing out other majors or before college by dealing with somebody in the d social work and realized how it fulfilled their needs and desires. All of these students seemed to be searching for something, some career to fulfill these needs and desires, and eventually they found social work.

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226 and helping people (the avoidance of research and theory was a strong pattern among I have this incessant need to give back to people and the community it just took me until my 30s to realize where eventually led her to social work was an online quiz that matched her interests with a career. She believes that the government has no place in social welfare, but rather that the responsibility for helping people should be at the local and individual level, an interesting revelation about her individual oriented beliefs. Noreen went into social work largely because a friend of hers was going back to school much later in life, and the Her daughter was really? r originally wanted to be an electrical engineer, then a teacher, and then opted to go into the military. It was only after spending some time in the military that he eventually ended up in social work. Jenny Phan, Jennifer Reynolds, Karen Moore, and Isabe l Cervera all had similar paths to Peter LeBlanc. Jenny explains her path: I didn't choose social work to begin with, I actually wanted to be an art major in high school. Then I decided to change to biology, and then I changed to bioengineering, and then o ne day I was in my physics lab and stuff on careers and I flipped through a few things and I chose social work because I really like working with people and I want to change the world and that is why I chose social wo rk.

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227 Jennifer explains a similar path: You're going to have fun listening to this. I started out undeclared and then went into accounting. I love numbers and I love the business and all of that, but I just was n ot getting the concepts and definitions. I took my first accounting cour se and I was just not doing very well. I was already into my first semester of junior year and at that point I and I could either continue and possibly fail and end up probably having to stay five or six years or just change my major. And so accounting was not working out for me and so I kind of went through different majors that I would be interested in I know it sounds horrible. Social work was one of the only majors where I could gra duate in five years so I decided on social work. Anything else that I was somewhat interested in would have taken six years hence the reason why I have been compl etely undecided on grad school. I sort of informally went through a number of different majors. First I started with English, then philosophy, then communications, and at one point psychology. I always kind of had an interest in psychology and psychiatry, but I w ell all I can do with a talk to people. So I heard about social work actually my mom was watching some cat show on this animal network and it was talking about this woman who was a social worker and she used cats in her counseling. combination of psychiatry and hands on experience and helping people and it sou nds like a diverse field and so that is what drew me into it. But I knew I always wanted to help people, and to do it from a psychological soci al work was the answer to that. Isabel on her similar journey to Peter, Jenny, Jennifer, and Karen: I always want to be involved in the health field. First I wanted to become a dentist, and then a dental assistant, and then a doctor, and then a nurse. After trying to apply to become a register ed nurse I was not able to pass two exams that are required and I only had one chance. So then I was doing more research about other careers to study and I found social work. So I went to [BSW] orientation and I really loved the idea. I think I have always have been interested in working with, you know to make changes in people, working with people. I have never seen myself working at a desk or working on a computer. I just like to be more involved wi th people and work with people.

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228 Olivia originally wanted to be a government major, but the focus on research and policy scared her away. She was not interested as much in the minutia of why social problems happened or policy designed to fix them, but in getting to work with people one on one. She explained that, I volunte er at church camp every summer and I happened to be at camp one day when the lifeguard at the time was talking about being a social worker Once she was back in the school in the fall she switched her major to social work. Laila had a similar distaste for learning about the cause of social problems, explaining that she was more interested in helping people: I was initially a sociology major, but the more cours es I took the more I realized that it was all very theoretical. I realized that if I was going to be out there on the job market I wanted some more practical skills and social work seemed to offer that. So I changed majors to social work. I was basically t rying to match my interests with what I was good at and what I was interested in. I thought I would be better at interacting with people in a kind of one on one basis and it seemed l ike a good fit for that reason. Tom reported that he was too concerned ab out making money and that is why he chose to go into the business world for the first 15 years of his career. It was only after a long internal struggle over his desire to help people that he eventually ended up in social work. For as long as Natalia can r emember she wanted to be a nurse, and she too After I finished high school I went to community college for nursing and the So I started looking at other professions that were similar to nursing, in terms of helping people, and so cial work popped up. I guess it looked like the closest thing I could do to accompl ish what I always wanted to do. another, matching their personal interests with a major and avoiding having to deal with

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229 too much research or theory. Corinne, when talking about how she came to social work, reported a similar story: Actuall y my Associates Degree is in sociology, but then once I really important for lots of people to do, but y much why I chose social work. Amanda also wanted to avoid too much research and theory: I started out as a psychology major, I took that in community college. E ventually I switched to sociolo was looking for either, because that was more theory. An interesting finding in this study was that most of the students had little to no interest in following the news or current events. I did not ask these stude nts about their news gathering habits to find out about their intellectual curiosity; this particular interview question was actually initially designed to gauge where they were getting information about social problems and how this might impact their worl dviews. This question proved pretty useless in this regard since most of the students had very little interest in the news, but it did reveal something about their intellectual curiosity. On the surface this is not a profound finding, and lack of interest in the news is not by itself a sign of lacking intellectual curiosity. When combined with the overall lack of interest in the empirical and theoretical basis for social problems, however, it became an interesting piece of this study. These students, overal l, tended to reveal a lack of intellectual curiosity on many fronts, instead picking and choosing different causes and conducting little self reflection on their own views about social problems. It is within this context, the overall lack of participant kn owledge or interest in the complex explanations of social problems, that the apathy towards the news became noteworthy.

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230 There were exceptions, of course, to this pattern or disinterest in current events. Sarah, for instance, regularly watches the news ea e news I just go to l ocal ne ws first, and then I go to national news like The Today Show. I cook and prepare breakfast and I can w atch it on the TV Noreen voraciously I watch the news eve ry single day. I wa tch local news, I watch MSNBC, and m y local news is now on 24 hours on however, there was a strong apathy towards current events. Melanie said that she I can get news alerts on while Natalia responded, should, but I really don't. ly members if they ever want to the news very often at all, l listening to the news. If I did need to find out about something about the news, I would Not reall y. Usually I have two sources, o I would say In response to my ques tions about what their program taught them about poverty and inequality, my respondents both explicitly and implicitly acknowledged that their program did not have a strong focus in that area. This left me with the impression that they were leaving the BSW program without a solid background in some of the macro level issues that they would be dealing with. In talking to the BSW students I found that most of them had their most important exposure to poverty course material in their

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231 introductory social work c ourse. When I conducted document analyses to determine what exactly they were learning in that course, I found that poverty was in fact addressed but not from a strong theoretical or empirical perspective. Their course material only vaguely touched on theo ries of poverty and inequality. This helped to explain why the students had such underdeveloped ideas about why poverty and inequality exist, and why they rely so heavily on their own personal beliefs to explain these social problems. Karen, for instance, is a junior and could not recall if the program even teaches poverty. I asked her if there is a poverty focused course, and she responded: I am sure there is. At the senior level probably, maybe even the masters or the upper graduate level classes, they pr anything like that. This was a similar response to many of her colleagues; when I asked where and when they learned about poverty and inequality, they had real difficulty formulating answers. Natalia is a social work major, has taken many classes in the program, but when it aback by this answer, given the major role poverty will play in many of the populations that social workers will deal with. Of poverty, never really spent a lot of time with these questions. This is probably the most time I have ever spe Upon examination of the course materials in the introductory course, it appears at first glance to be heavily focused on poverty; in fact, of the two books they use, one deals solely with poverty. At MAU they strive for consi stency in course content and

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232 experience across the introductory sections with different instructors, so they all use the same two books: An Introduction to the Profession of Social Work by Segal, Gerdes, and Steiner (2012), and y in America by Stephen Pimpare (2011). The social work textbook devotes an entire 26 page chapter to poverty, while students might have undeveloped theoretical foundations it i s worth looking into how these books handle and attempt to explain the problem of poverty. In An Introduction to the Profession of Social Work the authors cover the topic of 94). D espite being a social work textbook, this book actually had the weakest explanations of poverty between the two books. The chapter begins by discussing the strengths and weaknesses of absolute and relative poverty thresholds. The authors then give the read er a few examples of federal poverty thresholds (for the 48 contiguous states and D.C.) based upon family size. The authors then discuss arguments for the overestimation of poverty as well as arguments for the underestimation of poverty. They then discuss the numbers and percentages of Americans in poverty and the ion arguing that there is little consensus about poverty causation among poverty scholars, therefore making it difficult ences. In those sentences they do not explain what the theory is and only give one weak criticism of the theory (how does this

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233 theory explain how people escape poverty?) instead of the many main criticisms of the theory. They then discuss, without naming a specific theory, perspectives that argue that poverty is necessary for the functioning of a capitalist economy. Then they begin Th e responsibility for poverty is placed on the individual, and society does not hav Blaming the Victim (2012) as an example: If poverty is the faul t of each poor person, then others do not need to examine the way income is earned or consider whether all people have the opportunity to acquire wealth. All efforts at fightin g poverty are aimed at the indi vidual rather than at changing the economic struc ture. The ues generation after generation. In addition, social stigma and blame enter deeply into the personal being of people who are poor. Poor people internalize this blame from a very yo ung age, and this factor can be a challenge for social workers who try to hel p people move out of poverty. The challenge is ho w to address internalized blame. (2012:74) o only a mention of one possible (weak) criticism of that theory, (b) a brief discussion of an unnamed theory that argues that poverty is critical to the functioning o f a capitalist Blame the Victim a useful tool in understanding poverty but not a poverty theory in the scholarly sense (and the useful aspects of this work are not discussed in any length in the chapte r). The authors never mention the wide variety of possible poverty theories or give any decent summary of the theories that they do mention. They also remain almost completely neutral about Whether poverty is th e cause of personal

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234 problems or personal deficiencies lead to poverty, there is a relationship between the Next the authors entered into a discussion about the mismatch between the total number and adequacy of available jobs and all who ne ed them. In this discussion the authors explain both underemployment and the working poor. They then discuss the unequal distribution of income in the U.S. and how this inequality has increased over time. The authors then move on to discuss racial income i nequality, prejudice, and discrimination. They then move on to a very vague discussion of the negative impact that poverty can have on educational resources and attainment, self esteem, neighborhood crime, physical and mental health, and drug use. They do not mention the type of or extent of this impact, just that poverty has a negative impact on these things. They then turn to a lengthier discussion of homelessness, including the increase in homelessness since the 1980s, the geography of homelessness (urba n, suburban, rural), and gentrification and its impact on the availability of low income housing. In this discussion they do mention that homelessness is only the extreme consequence of poverty, which I found interesting, since so many of my participants e quated poverty in general with homelessness. The authors then move on to a discussion of different social welfare programs: SSI, TANF (including significant criticisms of TANF), and SNAP. They end the chapter by discussing ways that social workers can inte rvene to help poor people. Despite doing very little in terms of a theoretical foundation for understanding the individual cultural and structural causes of poverty, the authors end the chapter suggesting that structure plays a critical role:

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235 Poverty is firmly entrenched in the economic sys tem. Even after the longest eco nomic expansion in modern history, millions of adults and children lived with incomes well below the poverty line. Current social programs provide a modicum of assistance, just enough t o cover the most essential needs. Society is reluctant to do more. Without changes in the social and economic structures, there are not en ough opportunities for everyone. Creating such opportunities is a major challenge for society and for social worke rs. (2012:87 88) The social work textbook addresses many of the key structural elements of poverty, and with a firm theoretical foundation the students might be able to properly contextualize the information that they are reading. Without this theoretical foundation, however, there is room for considerable variation in how students perceive and interpret poverty causation. For instance, students may read the section on the expansion of homelessness in the U.S. and be able to articulate and make connections to the structural factors that contribute to this expansion. Upon reviewing their course materials, however, there is nothing that guarantees this outcome; this may explain why so many of the participants framed homelessness as a moral outrage while still situating it within an individualistically oriented framework. Without that theoretical foundation, students are left to make the connections themselves. In Stephen Pimpare explores poverty from the perspectives of poor Americans throughout history. His book focuses on poverty and state responses to poverty (welfare) from the colonial era to present day U.S. He believes his book is important, coming from the perspective of marginalized an ignorance, whether real or feigned, that shapes public discourse about poverty and welfare, and policy itse lf" (Pimpare 2011:5). The author opens the book with a story

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236 about the wealthy female members of the 19 th as charity. It was the winter of 1893 and New York City was experiencing economic depression, rising unemployment, increased poverty, etc. The wealthy women in question felt that it was their duty, as privileged members of society, to give back to those in need in the form of po tted plants (to brighten the spirits of the poor). To their horror, the wealthy women found that the poor children were not impressed by their charity; instead, many of the children stole multiple plants from the women to sell themselves for profit. Review as what should be a powerful lesson for the BSW students: However well intentioned, and whatever its source, a great deal of what passes for social assistance in the United States has historically bee n their needs and wants. What the potted plant episode reveals about private charity can just as well be extended to any number of government sponsored social welfare programs, desi gned and implemented as they principally have been by a socially distant elite. Indeed, viewed from t he standpoint of the people who have needed it, and through the voices and experiences Pimpare features here, American public welfare can be understood as the product of a vastly impoverished social imagination. This very imagination, he reminds the reader, undergirds the familiar popularized m Social welfare has long been about charity in the U.S., giving to the poor as moral obligation and as a means to make the privileged feel better about themselves rather than fixing structural problems that create social problems in the first place; a typical response would be to supplement the wages of low income wor kers, rather than a structural fix of reorganizing work so that everyone has a job at a living wage. This was the model espoused by most of the BSW students: they were giving back to people

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237 because they felt bad for them, never truly critically analyzing w hy these people might justly deserve such aid due to the unjust organization of society. Pimpare provided many crucial lessons that could spur important realizations if internalized by the reader. Throughout the history of poverty and welfare in the U.S. Pimpare argues that: Americans, especially when compared to citizens of other developed countries, have been unsympathetic and patronizing towards the poor, welfare has been intentionally designed throughout American history to be minimal, welfare is not designed as an entitlement as the poor are largely undeserving of such an entitlement (since it is not based on the idea of structural but individual failings if it were a structural issue you would always allow for some to be poor), and welfare itself br eeds immorality (laziness, promiscuity, dependency, etc.). Throughout the book the reader is treated to narratives of poor people whose main concern is the right to steady work at a living wage. Welfare in the U.S. has largely assumed that those two things exist for all who seek them, and because of that the poor are always inherently suspect. Although the book was not highly theoretical, instead largely depending on the narratives of the marginalized to make its points, it does provide important lessons t o those who are paying attention. The author is also highly critical of individualistic and Culture of Poverty arguments about poverty. Pimpare cites many structurally oriented scholars in support of his arguments, including Richard Cloward, Barbara Ehrenr eich, Michael Harrington, Jonathan Kozol, Frances Fox Piven, Katherine Newman, Carol Stack, etc. He is critical of scholars who espouse viewpoints that fail to take into account the views of the poor and structurally oriented perspectives, scholars such as Charles Murray and Robert Rector. He even devotes a chapter to Culture of Poverty

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238 arguments, both strengths and weaknesses. Despite all of this, as I mentioned, the book is heavy on narrative and might lead some students to simply feel bad for the plight of the poor rather than critically examine the conditions that led to their poverty. If combined with a strong foundation of theoretical material and lectures to supplement it, individua listically dominated views about poverty inequality. Unfortunately, in their other course materials they did not receive a strong foundation in theory and research, leading to many underdeveloped understandings of these problems. I Want to Change the Worl d participants reported always feeling the need to help people and make a positive change in the world from an early age. For most of the participants this informed their decision t o pursue social work and also informed their desire to pursue hands on versus research and theory based studies. Allison, talking about her childhood and teenage I think I always liked the idea of having a profession where you help people always felt compelled to help others who were in need, or if I saw a need, I would try to fill that need career path, saying that she felt God was g iving her specific life experiences to lea d her to social work and assuring her that it was what she was destined for. She explained I t hink in many ways God was I have this incessant need to give back to people and the comm unity Wow, this desire for social justice since elementary school:

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239 I can recall ea rlier. w hen I was in elementary school having this sense that it essentially boils down to knowing that what my ancestors did to the native people when they arrived here was just wrong. Before I knew anything about oppression and prejudice and racism, I knew right from get here? Well, maybe, it was just knowing at a very young age somehow the sort of right and wrong kind of thing, but it may have just been that confluence of experiences growing up that I just found myself p assionate about social justice. Ever since she was a child, Ashley rememb always liked helping people, volunteering and helping the community with a substantial social welfare network and in a family with strong socialist sentiments, reported that her reasons for pursuing s a lot to do with my upbringing a nd seeing it from a different perspective, too. Coming from a country that has a huge Jenny remembers wanting to help people as a child, saying, have always felt that I want to ch ange the world, from when I was really young, probably five or six t has always been part of my nature and part of my sister s nature that we are j ust helping people so it was sort of natural to go into a helping profession I always knew I wanted to be in a helping profession remembers wanting to help people like herself, due in large part to the help she never When I was younger, ever since I was a kid I always wanted to help people, that was my biggest thing. I want to help people however I can I think a part of it was my adoption I just kind need to h elp, a need that was further cultivated by her parents, explaining that this goes back a ll the way to when I was young. I think my parents have kind

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240 of tried to instill that in me when I was growing up Laila revealed that, problems were always something I was interested in. My culture is very much family centered, you are supposed to be helping people, a Marena talked about her desire to help people from a young age, explaining that: Ever s ince I was a little kid I've wanted to help people and I think that definitely led into my decision to go into social work. I think I have always have been interested i n. [making] changes in people, working with people. Karen remembers being a dep ressed teenager and wanting to change what she To be honest I was a pretty depressed teenager. I felt like the world and people were pretty nasty to each other and it bothered me that that was the way of the world or at lea st how I perceived it. So I always wanted to make a difference, I wanted to be a light of hope, I wanted to be the opposite of what I perceive the world to be. Even before that as a kid I always wanted to help people. Even then I just felt like that is jus t what you do as a human you have an obligation to help other people however you can. And I am not saying everyone ought to dedicate their lives to helping other people but that is someth ing I knew that I wanted to do. Isabel talked about her lifelong des ire to help people: I have always been open to helping anyone, I know that is something that social work students say, that th ey want to help people, b ut it is true, I have always been helpful to others, very considerat e to help other people in need. I have always been there for everyone that I know. For most of the participants in this study, they were able to identify in their childhoods the roots of wanting to help people and change the world. As they grew older, they each had experiences that soli dified the populations that they wanted to work with and the avenue (social work) that they would pursue to help these populations.

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241 The Influence of Privilege Through their answers it became clear that the largely middle upper middle and upper class upbringings of my participants had a substantial impact on their largely individualistic economic worldviews. This was impacted heavily by their family and social networks growing up as children. I developed a strong sense that even though their family a nd friends did not always come out and explicitly say it, the family and friends of the participants did not approve of social work because of negative judgments of the populations that people would be dealing with. I think this involves both American cult ural evaluations of specific populations of people (such as the poor) as well as the typical privileged class position of these families. about the salaries of social workers, t he stress of the job, the notion that social work is in the populations she will serve: My family kinda thought that somebody would like pull a gun on me [in social w ork]. A fter that they started worrying about the money issue because we do not make very much money. Sometimes they will flat out say things. I remember at Christmas last year when I was changing my major my mom, dad, and grandmother had like a mini in tervention with with articles about how social work is one of the lowest paying jobs, how everybody ends up i n poverty. They are really blunt about it. I think they are coming around to it hopefully. My friends don't understand what it is to be a social worker. I feel like that is the plight of a social worker. They don't understand what exactly it is that we do. God that is so admirable! Oh my God you are such a good person for don't know exactly what we do, they just know that our job is very hard emotionally and physi cally.

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242 Olivia and I were discussing whether she would ever feel comfortable using welfare, and her long response highlighted her belief that her family had done things the right way and have never received assistance. As hard as it was to believe that her family, like every other family, had received some substantial help from somebody along the way, her response reflected her privileged class position and an important part of her individualistic identity: Regardless of why they are poor people s hould get welfare as long as they're making a change in behavior. I am from a middle class family. My family did not receive any government assistance. My parents did not receive any assistance on my FAFSA, they pay for everything out of state for me. I am graduating without any college debt and I really appreciate my parents for doing that. It is amazing. I think it is unfair to ask people to give up money that they have earned. Why do I have to give that to everybody else? I agree that is unfair especiall y if that person is not making an effort to change. You're going to have setbacks, you're going to make some poor decisions along the way, b ut as long as it is proven in the long run that you're making that change. After so many times though, I hate to say that, but if you are not making an effort to change do you really deserve to receive this assistance? Because you don't seem to be appreciating or using it and really feeling like it is helping you. So I agree philosophically as long as it is structur ed the right way and people are m aking changes in their lives. sufficiency, but also her belief that welfare is about changing the individual, not fixing structural imbalances Cash and in kind assistance were in effect taking away money that other people had earned, according to Olivia; this framework for understanding welfare eliminates the possibility that at least part of that money was earned at the expense of other people due to unjust structural imbalances. Terra and I were having a discussion of her privileged upbringing and how this would impact her own sense of pride if she were to have to use welfare; on whether she would be prideful, she reported:

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243 Of course. I think never grew up with having to do tha t, so it would be embarrassing. I would Melanie admitted that her comfort able upbringing not only allowed her to avoid experiencing the difficult circumstances that she sees in the social work field, but also allowed her the privilege of ignoring social problems for much of her life: I absolutely did not think about this stuff [social problems] before college. I was a little selfish until about my mid about poor people or anything like that. It was just kinda somet wanna think about, you know, poor people, it was just not som ething I needed to worry about. Melanie hinted at the luxury of being able to ignore structural imbalances when you are the beneficiary of such an arrangement. Noreen grew up in a comfortable environment that impacted the economic and racial ideologies to which she was exposed in her economically and racially homogenous small town: M y parents were from a very different generation. And my father, in particular, was an absolute racis t, and we used to butt heads since I can remember, since I was little. think there might have been like one black family or something. And so I was butting heads with my father and everyone in our little social world. And everybody in our little world, in their network of friends, they all thought the same and were from the same generation Ashley grew up in a privilege environment where her mother had the choice about whether to stay home with her children or work in the paid labor force outside of the home. Despite knowing this, she uses her privileged perspective to analyze the decisions of poor mothers:

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244 From my experience I have seen that the office for children provides free or reduced childcare. I kno w that regular childcare can be as much as college tuition. And so I think that is the way to go. I know there are people that say mothers should be able to spend time with their children, I think at the same time sacrifices have to come instead of just ha nding things to For Ashley, poor women should make sacrifices just like every other social class; what is excluded in this analysis is the possibility that poor women might be forced to make sacrifices that other social classes do not have to make, that those sacrifices might be qualitatively different and unevenly distributed, and that many of those sacrifices are the result of social organization. Karen grew up in a privileged househ old and was always bothered by the fact that her parents did not do more to help those less fortunate, I just kind of saw that my parents di I always just kind of felt like if we have the means to help other peop le by donati ng two dollars other people who were struggling but they were able to help other people by donating to charity or volunteering or whatever. So I saw that and I was just like discussion one day about welfare and whether he would ever use it himself. He had an interesting response: he would not feel comfortable because he always considered himself the person on the other side of the desk (the so cial worker giving the assistance). He said: I would like to say yes [that he would use welfare] but I know my ego would be hard pressed to say y es, to seek these services out. M y ego ing myself to go into an office, where I was not that poor person before, I was on the other side of it. And now I am o n the other side needing help. As I will discuss in the next chapter, Tom firmly believes in the American cultural narrative about the c onnection between hard work and economic success. His pride

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245 would be negatively impacted because he was always the one being compassionate and giving back to these people that had failed in some manner. The relatively privileged backgrounds (and current privileged class positions) of the students in this study are a possible explanation for their individualistically oriented worldviews. Many of these students believe strongly in individualistic explanations for social position, and these explanations refl ect positively on them and their families; their families succeeded economically, and cultural logic assures them that it is because of meritocratic and moral reasons. A typical response to questions about why students chose socia l work included least vague notions about wanting to pursue the field of psychology either before entering college or before declaring a major. A substantial majori ty of students also that they would go on to work with. When I explored this phenomenon with the students, the pattern that emerged was that the students knew that the with individuals that, if fixed, could remove the primary obstacle to their success. This was consistent with the poverty and welfare ideologies that the students expressed about social problems: a focus on fixing the individual ra ther than the structure contributing to the problem. Terra went into social work despite her previous interest in psychology because she did not want to go all the way through the doctoral program in psychology, which she thought was necessary if she wan ted to have a career in psychology:

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246 When I started at community college I knew I wanted to do social work. I ave [social work] a branch off of being interested in psychology. I originally st like you are a psychologist. In talking to Ter ra, it became clear that her fix the individual approach and worldview never really changed, just the career that she chose. It also became clear from our conversation that her impression of the field of social work was that she did not need to change her fix the individual approach, that she felt both fields were individual focused. I asked Terra about this individual level focus, and whether her fellow students had a similar focus: I think more [BSW students] would lean toward individualism because I thin practice self determination meaning you get out of life what you give. we learn a lot about self determination, li ke I said. And we are taught to think more like not to just think about the people first versus I think its way more optimistic. So sort of helping individuals fix their problems, do for themselves. After spending time in the BSW program and its focus on the nuts and bolts of social work, it is easy to see why students might focus more on the individual. After all, their jobs call for them to help individuals any way that they can (within the parameters of social work) to escape from difficult situations, despite the circumstances. They are not in charge of designing policies and allocating federal and state resources; they must help individuals make the most of their situations no matter how unjust they mig ht be. The unfortunate byproduct of this focus is that some students go through the entire BSW program never feeling the need to examine their own individualistically oriented

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247 worldviews, helping to perpetuate a culture in the U.S. (and within crucial inst itutions designed to alleviate social problems) that is highly individualistic. Corinne wanted to study psychology, but chose social work instead, saying about social work: I guess you get to get in there and get your hands dirty with the participants, or what I see from social work. Psychology is great, but in the day to day, ives. Mel anie really enjoyed sociology and psychology, but could not decide on how that interest would translate into a career. She kept coming back to her interest in both subjects, particularly psychology, until she eventually took an online quiz that suggested s he pursue social work. Ashley started in psychology, but realized that a career in psychology would require her to invest too much time, money, and energy into her I start ed off in psychology and I thought that was where I wanted to go. But I started to realize that psychology would take a lot more time and a lot more energy than social work. Then when I had my internship as a psychology student in a social work field I realized that socia l work is a lot more versatile. Jana also expressed a reluctance to pursue psychology when a degree in social work would take less time: I was doing psychology and then through classes I found out that the social worker actually can do just as much with clients as a Ph.D. in psychology. You can do group work, you can do client therapy, you can do all of th is without having to do a Ph.D. address certain sense to her to initially pursue psychology to acquire the tools to fix a person so that

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248 they no longer needed help from the welfare state. Amanda also mentions that she sort people and their behaviors. Nancy reported an interest in psychology because of her emphasis they put on the first five years of your life and how important those are. I mean the first five years of your life are really going to determine how the rest your life is level issues that might develop due to growing up in an underprivileged environment, leaving out any discussion of the role of the social structure in this process. When Laila wa s younger she thought she would study psychology, and it was not until a negative experience with a psychologist that she changed her mind: I initially thought maybe psychology would be a good choice you know it is one on one and it is helping and all of t hat. I had to go to a psychologist You are sitting there sort of spilling out all of your guts and feelings and they are just sitting there taking notes it rubbed me the wrong way a nd changed my notio n of what psychology would be. Karen tossed around different disciplines in her head before choosing social work, with a particular interest in psychology: I sort of informally went through a number of different majors. First I started with English, then philosophy, then communications, and at one point psychology. I always kind of had an interes t in psychology and psychiatry. When Karen eventually settled on social work she felt that she had picked a field that incorporated her interes t in psychology:

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249 I felt like it [social work] was like a combination of psychiatry and hands on experience and helping people and it sounds like a diverse field and so that is what drew me into it. But I knew I always wanted to help people, and to do it f was where I could do that, so soci al work was the answer to that. I asked Karen what the connection between social work and psychology is, and she lieved social work was, incorporating many different interests and perspectives: I think social work is a combination of different fields, like criminology, psychology, and sociology. For people like me who are indecisive about what they want to major in i t is kind of a nice made drew me into it, too, is that it is hands on. You are working with the people and you are more involved with peop le than with other professions. Tom initially wanted to study psychology but had an issue with the patients that he would be dealing with and his disdain for the fact that they could not take care of their problems themselves: I always knew I wanted to be in a helping profession. When I was younger it was more psychology and psychiatry, that sort of thing. But I had a I would never go seek help along [that he wanted to be in a helping profession], but I worked against myself to get into the field any field, whether it is psycholo gy, psychiatry, or social work. Tom told me that after he graduates he wants to go into an area of social work that can help him be secure financially and possibly give him the sort of stand alone practice that a psychologist or psy chiatrist might have, saying:

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250 I guess my years in business have led me to think about what is sort of a niche market, you know, an area I can do well in financially. I am not going to lie I have expectations for my life [income, living standards]. My end goal is to do work in mental health and eventually have my own practice where people are coming to see me similar to what a psychol ogist or psychiatrist would do. in t his study helps explain their individualistically oriented worldviews. Most of the students held these worldviews long before they ever stepped foot into a BSW classroom, and self selected social work as a field that allowed them to address their particula r desires and interests. Social work did not, at least in their minds, heavily conflict with their worldviews and seemed to be similar enough for them to feel comfortable in the program. It also allowed them to avoid much of the research and theory that mi ght have led them to reevaluate their firmly held assumptions. Program Influence 15 The participants in this study revealed that the strongest influences on their poverty and inequality worldviews were clearly non program factors: their upbringing, their c hildhood and teenage experiences, personal and American cultural assu mptions, etc. (refer to Figure 4 1 on page 177 ). This of course does not mean that their experiences in the BSW program did not impact their worldviews. Many students reported growing and changing in college. What the ethnographic record seemed to suggest is that the students who came into the program slightly more structurally oriented also tended to have strong politically liberal identities and felt that the program validated those left ist beliefs. These students seemed to do the least self reflection, 15 In the previous subsection I discusse d the introductory course materials. This document analysis could here, I will discuss other aspects of program influence.

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251 failing to examine the highly individualistic worldviews that they held about poverty and poor individuals. They selectively chose certain aspects of what they learned to incorporate into their existing worldviews, but did little reflection on why they were so individualistically oriented. In fact, most of the students who identified as politically liberal did not realize the significant role that individualism played in their worldviews, e ven when they made statements confirming this notion. These students seemed to find solace in the fact that since they did not perceive themselves to be overly judgmental or negative towards the poor, this somehow differentiated their worldviews from their politically conservative and/or more individualistically oriented counterparts. In truth there did not seem to be major differences in their worldviews, just the manner in which they expressed their worldviews; the conservative students were highly critic al of poor individuals from an individualistically oriented worldview, while the more liberal students expressed more compassion for poor individuals, but still from a largely individualistic worldviews. This seemed to suggest that the more liberal student s left college feeling that their beliefs were validated while failing to fully examine the fundamental assumptions of these beliefs. The more conservative students seemed to leave the program slightly less individualistically oriented, incorporating more structurally oriented notions in their worldviews. Both sets of students, however, seemed to leave the program still holding poverty and inequality worldviews dominated by individualism. In this section I will discuss how the students expressed some of the ways in which the program impacted them 16 16 It should be noted that when t he students discussed how the program impacted them they mostly identities and how this differentiates them from the (perceived) less compassionate and less knowledgeable American public. Where they actually directly discussed poverty in my fieldnotes and

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252 Allison talked about how her internship opened her eyes to the difficulties that low income families faced, difficulties that she says were much worse than she imagined: income fami lies, very pe rsonal things. J ust f rom filling out certain sheets you learn because the y get pretty detailed about their conditions. I know most families there were coming from low income back grounds, but things actually were for them. I learned a lot about that and about the programs that t hey offer. It has bee n a really positive experience. Terra hinted at how her college courses impacted her worldview, helping her to understand some of the limitations of a strictly individualistic w orldview: I think when I was younger I used to really think it [the cause of poverty] was individualism. You know, you get what you give like if you have the can be anything you wa getting going to college and actually seeing how hard it is in science and things like that, like growing up and if I was younger, I probably would have chosen individualism wh en you asked me. Corinne int erned at a social services agency, and realized how little empathy there was for th the children, but virtually none for the adults. Corinne did not reflect any further, but this seemed to suggest that she might be more empathetic towards the adults because of her internship experiences. Melanie worked at an agency that deals with people dealing with mental health issues and reported that it taught her firsthand how devastating this can be for people in their everyday lives: interview transcripts, however, the students would reveal much more individualistically oriented attitudes,

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253 What have I learned? Well, I guess for the mentally ill I have learned that waiting lists that their lives just continue to go badly. I guess their worke d there. I t has made me a lot more aware. Melanie, like many students, revealed just how valuable the internship experiences are for giving the students tangible, firsthand evidence of what they learn in their studies. Melanie told me that before she went just kinda somethi ng I did not something I needed to worry about. our conversation Melanie and I talked about how BSW students might differ from the average Americans on at titudes towards poverty and inequality, and she again highlighted the impact of her studies: I would say the majority of them [Americans] are probably as ignorant, as intentionally ignorant as I was before I studied social work. I think a lot of people jus t kind of put it out of sight, out of mind. Most people I know ally get out of it themselves. Noreen picked her internship because of convenience she could walk to it from her house. Despite this, she reports that the experience changed her life:

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254 about? But it was so much more than that at so many levels. I think probably one of the biggest things that hit me unexpectedly was it sort of brought to the fore my own sense of mortality. I mean, at my age, I much older than me and some of them were even younger than me actually. It really put me in an environment among a population where my eyes were opened. What made it worse was that I would see qualities in people that would remind me of my parents. In fact there was a woman that was basical ly my mom. I mean it was my mom in every way. It was very emotional, just wicked emotional. I would cry, it was that intense. And through it, I was finished by Thanksgiving or something. It was very intense and it was wonderful. It was really a very profound experience, I would say in many way s even life changing, you know? Peter rejected structural explanations of poverty as strongly as probably any student that I observed or spoke with. Despite this, even his almost entirely individualistic worldview was shaken by his internship experience in a homeless family shelter: limitations of language, education and then conflicts of the culture clash Eastern country ot of things for trying to is to find you permanent housing and make it so you can be stabilized to egree from their country of origin, sometimes we end up having to find them a job doing deliveries, be cause the only thing they can do right now is drive. So I guess the harshness of can probably put in applications for any one of the stores and I can get it. But for someone really hard.

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255 Peter says he does not think the BSW program has changed or has the ability to change his individualistic attitudes very much, but does appreciate having a better the reason be internship at a homeless shelter and through this experience became much more knowledgeable about the complexities of homelessness beyond simple individual centered explanations: I think I realize now that I learned a lot while I was there [at the homeless shelter] and I have definitely become a lot more educated about homelessness. Now that I have seen that, I wish people would understand finitely came into the situation feeling that homeless people were there through want to work, etc. I think there is of course a broad spectrum of attitudes and feelings that ind ividuals who are homeless have and on drugs and alcohol, at least the people who come to seek help before they can get into the homeless shelter. Of course there are the anomalies, but I definitely left feeling that there needs to be more affordable housing and there needs to be more education to the public as far as what homelessness is. It is not just some vagrant transient on the side of the road asking for money, it comes in a lot o f shapes and sizes. I guess that is the point of the internship, to open your eyes. The homeless shelter internship changed my perspective, changed a lot of the attitudes and stereotypes I believed before working there. I t changed a lot of my opinions. She believes this experience helped her understand addiction as more than simply the result of personal choices:

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256 I think my eyes have really been opened [by the inte rnship] as to the complexity behind addiction. Nobody gets into drugs and alcohol and environment, noth ing happens in a vacuum. There are a lot of people who have broken homes or come from really distressing circumstances, and drugs and alcohol is introduced to them by their family when they are young, or they get into it by themselves when they are young o r older and it becomes something that i s unmanageable in their lives. Despite opening up about how the program has expanded her worldview, Ashley still and student structurally oriented viewpoints are being disproportionately represented in the curriculum, an d this of course bothers her a great deal. Ashley described a class problem with poverty and welfa exasperated when a professor instructed one student to take welfare even if she did not want it; the student de scribed being in a tough spot as a single mother but not wanting to turn to welfare, and the professor encouraged her to use programs that she was professor might be attempti ng to suggest that you should rise above your ego and get help that you need and deserve; if you qualify for aid you likely need it, even if your ego or inaccurate perception of your finances is an obstacle to receiving that aid. Ashley

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257 hates welfare and h as a particularly negative view of the poor, however, so she believed that this was terrible advice. She said: If you simply qualify for it but don't need it, that really irks me. The professor started talking about the WIC program and a student asked her, but I decided I didn't want it anymore. I was working and I can contribute nything. It really bothered me. Ashley also believes that, because she perceives the social work professors to be biased research in their courses: Recently I had an impromptu debate in my class about whether we should drug test welfa re recipients. I feel strongly that the research is biased. the research is very liberally biased, slanted, whatever you want to say. It is biased to say that it hasn't worked. I do disagree with course materials a whole lot, stuff we read and stud y. There have definitely been times when I read textbooks or articles that are assigned to us and I th ink, what are they teaching us? Despite incorporating many structural arguments into her existing pre BSW politically conservative and individualisti cally oriented worldview, it was clear that Ashley was only willing to change so much. She still felt very strongly about the merits of individualism. Jana came into the BSW program very structurally oriented and believes that what she learns in the progr am is in line with her own beliefs. Students like Jana made me wonder if, because the program does not have a strong theoretical component, students interpreted the program as individualistically oriented, structurally oriented, politically liberal, and/or politically conservative based upon their own interpretive lens. I developed the impression from talking to these students that the lessons of the program were different for each student, dependent on which worldview they were being interpreted through. J ana says:

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25 8 I think they [her fellow BSW students] would mostly agree [with her structural point of view] because that is what we are pretty much taught. In social work programs what we are learning is the whole systems perspective. We are not even a that is happening in their lives right now. And I think if you are a caseworker and you are not trained in that perspective or have never does your question, it is the education [in the BSW progra m] that plays the biggest part. Jana intimated that the program did indeed teach about poverty, but that the teachings were not grounded in theory and were confined to introductory courses: I sometimes discussed as a separate issue from gender, race, disability, prison, and whatever. I think it is jus t a par t of the whole spectrum. Jenny discussed her time interning at a homeless shelter and how her experience challenged many American stereotypes about homelessness and poverty; this experience was punctuated by a story about a person at the shelter who had c ontracted AIDS through their nursing job and could not find work: I really want to work with the homeless population. This population has always really interested me. I am interested in how much they are ignored by mainstream culture. Most people think tha t everyone who is homeless are lazy or crazy or something like that I hear that a lot when really some people just fell on hard times and need help getting back up. I hear my friends and people on television talk about how lazy they are, how they could get makes me feel like they should get more educated about it. I hear that a lot, maybe not among social work students, but among my peers that are not in social work. You don't know how they live until you see how they live and walk through their shoes. When I did my first internship I met a nurse who had contracted AIDS while working but he had not realized it. And he could not get another job because of his illness. So that was one of t he main things that opened my eyes to how unfair it was. I mean I always felt that these people were being treated unfairly, but this experience just strengthened that. It made me realize what I was thin king was actually true.

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259 I asked Jenny if her firstha nd experience with the homeless population confirmed any of the structurally oriented ideas she had about homelessness and/or poverty, and she to get out of homeless Amanda noted that her internship helped her understand how the welfare system was unwelcoming to people: One of the clients that I had at my internship, I remember taking her to the dentist. I remember there was such a small t ime frame that she was allowed to go for an extended period of time after that. This was at some so stressful and so difficult to make it to this appointment. If people had to deal with that for every type of situation, for like medication, food, and all heard that same thing from other c lients from that same internship, about how they get bounced around a lot. You know they call one person and they are told that that is not the person that they need to talk to so they call another person and they have to come in at a certain time. They ju st get hassled and have to deal with all of this stuff until they can actually get the service that they need. Nancy talked about her studies and how they confirmed the ideas that she had of the same things I do She was particularly influenced by the focus in the curriculum on the impact of the first nd this focus has only further inspired raised in healthy environments th internship at an emergency shelter for large families, and how it has taught her about

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260 some of the ineffectiveness of social welf are programs. At this particular shelter the families are given 30 days to find employment, housing, and start a savings account. Nancy believes that the families are required to save approximately 30% of the money that they earn. She reflected on these su bstantial goals considering the 30 day window: I think the program is really difficult for people to meet, I think the expectations are a little high. I mean we get some families for example this woman was traveling with her five children under the age of five with he abandoned her in a shopping center. We picked her up and she had literally nothing, she was totally abandoned. So the people at the program to get a job, housing, and all of other stuff in having enough money to support five kids? I mean housing costs would increase obviously because she needs more room. I think if we slo w down a little bit it could be more effective. This experience in her internship, along with her studies in the BSW program, have taught her a lot about the complexities and difficulties of poverty and welfare: Taking all these classes and stuff and lear ning about all of these hoops that you have to jump through, all of these limitations on people, and the statistics about how very hard it is to change your socioeconomic status. Usually the social class you're born into is where you will stay. There are e xtreme cases of rags to riches but for the majority of people that seems to be how it ends up working out. So my own idealism and what I have learned in college have really shaped my ideas and my o pinions. Nancy gave a specific example of how her experien ces in the BSW program have impacted her worldview when discussing drug tests: Most people that I have interacted with in my short time at my internship, I don't think any of them are on drugs. To just test people for no reason without cause, no. Emphatica lly no. I think society has skewed views of people in need and in the welfare system, assuming most of them are using you know, back to Marena believes that her BSW studies have challenged many of the individualistically ori ented beliefs that she brought with her into college. She went to high school in what

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261 she calls one of (if not the) wealthiest areas in the U.S., and living there she was exposed to a significant number of classist and racist ideologies: It was a lot of we althy people and they would make a lot of racist jokes and stuff like that. I guess along the way I assumed things were about race and people got help because they were lazy and stuff like that She believes the BSW program has taught her about the comple xities of poverty and welfare and gave her a much deeper understanding of welfare requirements: I think people have that concept of the welfare mother that sits at home and doesn't do anything and just gets food stamps, stuff like that. I think that's what a lot of people think, that's definitely what I thought about before I started taking social work classes. You know, these people just get help for nothing and they just sit at home. You hear all these things and then you realize there's a lot of requirem ents to get things like that. It's not just these people are sitting at home doing nothing, they are really in need of programs. I took intro to social work and they started describing all of the requirements and stuff. It is amazing, you would never e ven know how many there are and it made me feel so ignorant about it because nobody knew, nobody even bothered to look into it, nobody knew the requirements. I feel like if you don't have that class to teach you otherwise you are never going to know. I mea n, I don't know how it is in other majors. I think it would be really hard for people to unlearn their biases and they're thinking unless they experience a class like that. I mean you can go through your entire college career and not be exposed to that dep ending upon your major. They provide case management therapy to low income immigrant populations and also survivors of trauma and torture. I work with undocumented and documented immigrants. It is very hard. Not many available resources, their way of thinking is different. The people that I dealt with are not educated. I am not saying it is a bad thing to be uneducated but their way of thinking is completely different than mine so sometimes I have conflicts on values, ethical dilemmas, all of that. One of the major dilemmas she was talking about was a client with a husband and two children, all of which were undocumented. The client and her three other family members were living in a two bedroom apartment with ten other people not related to

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262 them. What bothered Isabel most about this situation was not the structural factor s that might have helped create saying, Marena instead talked about how this experience confirmed her belief that some people in poverty are victims of their own culture. Because the BSW program does not have a stron g theoretical component, students like Marena are forced to interpret their experiences with the tools that they have: their own personal beliefs. Despite this, Marena does believe that her program has given her a better understanding of poverty: A few yea rs ago I would've said [lack of] motivation [was the cause of poverty]. I always thought that sometimes people are lazy, if you want to be poor it is because you want to be poor. Especially living in this country we have so many opportunities. That was me two years ago, three years ago, four years ago. So if you don't take advantage of the opportunities this country has to give to you then you are going to have a mediocre life. The opportunities are there, you need to take advantage of them. I reject that n ow [because of her studies]. Not everyone can take those opportunities. Not everyone can take advantage of these opportunities because everyone's life is different. Me as an immigrant I can relate to other immigrants but still my life is completely differe nt from other people better. I have seen the different perspectives of people and the problems that they face throu gh my experiences. I asked Marena what has had the biggest impact on her changing worldview, and she revealed that she believes it was the internship experiences: My internships have had a huge influence. My studies also, reading articles. Maybe not the first two years of school, but definitely the last two years. I think the firsthand experience has had the biggest influence, more than school. The internships. I think if I had just been reading articles or going to class it would not have made any impact. Actually seeing it up close firsthand was huge.

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263 Laila also believed despite many indications that s he has internalized some deeply individualistic assumptions about poverty and inequality, that the program has led her to a better understanding of social problems like poverty: Lack of education and lack of knowledge abou t these social structures is a huge disadvantage. I am pretty sure early in college, around that time, I their environment as well. If you are not introduced to it, I can see how it might not be intuit ive to think about it that way. said that BSW students are Tom gave about social problems, but his identity was clearly rooted in this notion that people like him wer So you may not directly impact person X or Y but if you can fix the system to help the individual because I want that person to do well and live a fulfilling life but I want to fix everything that is messed up [around them] so that you know the three people that are behind them also can benefit from that. or you are lazy just that they are not trying, it could be that that is jus herself very religious but a slightly more moderate conservative than her family. She says she mostly votes for Republican candidates in elections and faces c onflicts with

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264 tend to be mostly categories rather than theoretical or empirical schools of thought, a reflection on both her and the program. Despite her deeply held beliefs and repr esentation of the academic world as a political dichotomy, she believes her experiences in the BSW program (particularly her internship) have given her a more nuanced understanding of many issues. Here she talks about her internship working with people dea ling with mental health issues: I never really realized how much they can put themselves down for the mental disability they have. I knew that they had the same dreams and aspirations as a lot of other people. My biggest lesson has been not to take the fa ct that I can wake up every morning, keep my room clean, keep myself groomed, without having to forcefully make myself do that and push away something else. I don't have to worry about having a cashier job and hearing voices while I am trying to work. I al so didn't realize how aware they are and how even though they know they're making a certain decision they are aware of it and how much they put themselves down for it. Because of the internship I definitely feel like my worldview has changed. There is one client for instance who wants to have a music career, and I have never heard him but apparently he is very talented. He also struggles with a mental illness. He wants to get a job but the jobs that are available to him are like janitorial jobs. Why is that the only job that is available to those with a mental illness? But I feel like we are in this fast five minutes at a cashier because that person just does things a little bit slowe r than everybody else and has to focus is little more. And maybe they can't always have the perfect people skills. I definitely feel a sense of frustration for them that that is the j obs that are available to them. Amanda believes that her colleagues are too focused on individual explanations of poverty instead of structural explanations, and says she believes that this individual level focus dissipates somewhat as students spend more time in the program:

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265 I think a lot of people in my program think peopl e are in poverty because of choices that they have made, and they feel that that is a huge part of it, people believe. I am not really sure why I feel that way, it is more of a combina tion of discussions we have had and the attitudes of my colleagues that I have picked up in various classes. I feel like a lot of people are very focused on the individual and they don't necessarily take the perspective of considering the environment. That actually might be normal for first year social work students. I just think they focus too much on what is going on with the individual rather than the circumstances surrounding the m, the environment around them. I explored this notion with her that the p individual centered explanations to more structural explanations, asking her if the program did in fact have this effect: Yes. I feel like it is a very different attitude in the program. I took psychology too. Withi n the social science department the perspectives of the social work department are not similar to anything else. It takes time to adjust to that. People have the intention that they want to help people and they know this is the route to get there, but stil l people have their biases. In society we tend to blame the individual for everything that happens to them. In our program we learn to think otherwise. You have to learn that everything affects everything, it's not just the individual person who makes the world. I mean they don't create their world.

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266 CHAPTER 5 In chapter four I discussed the paths that the BSW students took to the study of social work and how these journeys may have impact ed their worldviews 17 In this chapter, I will discuss the specific explanations that the study participants gave for the existence of poverty and inequality in the U.S. I analyzed all of the arguments that students made during our interviews and categorize d them as belonging to the individualism perspective, Culture of Poverty perspective, and/or social structuralism perspective. To determine the overall orientation of their worldview, I located individual answers where they were specifically explaining the root causes of poverty and inequality and identified which perspective (if any) was dominant. Of the worldviews that had a clearly dominant perspective, individualism was by far the most common perspective and Culture of Poverty was the second most common perspective; there was only one student who espoused a perspective that was clearly structurally oriented. Of the minority of students who espoused a worldview without a dominant perspective, all contained significant individualistic elements. I asked st udents a variety of questions related to poverty and inequality in the U.S. For one question, I described three broad explanations of poverty: individualism, Culture of Poverty, and social structuralism; I then had them rank the perspectives in 17 It should b e noted I have used the same quotations in multiple chapters, and sometimes multiple times within a chapter. When I analyzed the ethnographic record, many lines of data produced multiple codes. For instance, if a participant told me that their politically conservative and strongly religious upbringing helped them understand the importance of self reliance, more than one code was appropriate: the impact of personal experience on their worldview and the ideological concept of self reliance. I then might use t he same quotation in multiple chapters dealing with those issues separately. Sometimes data produced two codes used in the same chapter; for instance, if a participant supported drug tests because they believe people should make responsible choices, I migh t use this in the drug testing subsection as well as While duplication of quotes makes for lengthy chapters and some redundancy, I believe it is absolut ely crucial for the overall analysis.

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267 order from one (most agree with) to three (least agree with). In another question, I asked them why poverty exists in the U.S. In another question I asked them to tell me what they believed (if anything) could be done to either eradicate or substantially reduce pover ty in the U.S. (either by government or non governmental means). I then asked them whether they agree philosophically with the idea of welfare assistance, and whether they would personally turn to welfare assistance in a time of considerable personal and/o r family need. I also asked them whether they would support three different welfare policies (work requirements, fertility policies, and drug tests) and to explain their reasoning. I finished by asking them whether or not the U.S. is a meritocracy. All of these questions were designed in varying degrees to deeply explore and/or the image that they wish to project and that they would ideally like to believe they adhere t the perspectives that they truly utilize in everyday life to interpret the social world). For most students there were significant differences between their ideal and real pers pectives, and many students utilized multiple perspectives at different points in the contradictory worldviews). The question asking them to rank poverty perspectives in terms of their personal agreement was designed specifically to gauge their ideal cultural answers (please see Table 5 1 on the next page page 268 ). Going into this project I expected the students to answer this question based upon what they believe to be the best parts of their individual identities; for many students this meant being structurally oriented, political

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268 liberal/progressive, more compassionate towards and more knowledgeable about marginalized populations than the general public, etc. Not only did I ex pect students to answer this question based on how it reflected on these firmly held and cherished components of their identity, but also based upon the image that they would like to project to me and the world about who they were as people and as social w orkers. It was no surprise that (a) most students claimed to believe in social structuralism the most, (b) most students claimed to reject individualism as the least agreeable option, and (c) that their answers to the other poverty related questions would contradict these answers and reveal conflicting/multiple perspectives on economic issues such as poverty and inequality. In this chapter I will explore the variety of perspectives utilized by Ta ble 5 1. Responses to the Interview Question A sking Students to Rank Three M ajor Poverty Perspectives in Terms of Highest and Lowest Level of A greement. Social Structuralism Culture of Poverty Individualism Despite the wide spread use of structurally oriented perspectives by many students in at least some of their answers, and the clear preference for that perspective when asked to rank the three perspectives, the overall pattern when analyzing the entire ethnographic record for each st udent tended to reflect more individualistically oriented perspectives. Most of the worldviews I analyzed had a clearly dominant perspective, with individualism being the most popular. Culture of Poverty was the second most 15/25 (6 0%) 7/25 (28%) 3/25 (12%) 5/25 (20%) 12/25 (48%) 8/25 (32%) 5/25 (20%) 6/25 (24%) 14/25 (56%) Most Agree Least Agree

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269 popular perspective, with social structuralism as a distant third (in fact students with structurally oriented perspectives). Of the minority of worldviews that were not individualistically oriented, individualism was a major component in a majority of those worldviews. It was clear that these students were grappling with a whole host of issues when giving their answers, from their experiential knowledge from their own lives to American cultural beliefs to what was being imparted to them in their undergraduate social work program. In the first subsection I will give examples of the overwhelming number of worldviews dominated by the individualism and Culture of Poverty perspectives. In the second subsection I will di scuss the minority but significant number of worldviews that overarching guiding perspective, and (c) still contained substantial individualistic and in many cases Culture of P overty assumptions. In the third and final subsection I will discuss the one (out of 25) student who clearly espoused a structurally oriented perspective. The Role Of Bad Choices A nd Deviant Values Ashley Cohen was one of the most fiercely individualisti c students that I spoke with. Her worldview is almost entirely dependent on the individualism perspective, with some hints of Culture of Poverty and social structuralism arguments in some limited cases. Her privileged class position seems to have a strong influence on her financially. She strongly believes that because her family was upwardly mobile from poverty to the upper class that everyone else can make that climb if they choose:

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270 [The U.S.] is abso lutely a meritocracy. I see my father and his life as a perfect example. I think all of my family gets very frustrated when people say that you can never rise out of poverty. Seeing my dad really work from the bottom up I kno w it is possible. We went from poverty to the upper class in one generation. I think there is a lot to be said about working hard and being able to achieve success. Ashley believes that no person has a right to complain about his or her social position si nce it can be changed by the choices that the individual makes. I asked Ashley to rank poverty causes, and she said individualism was emphatically her first choice and the perspective she almost entirely agrees with, then chose Culture of Poverty as her se overly liberal and overly rials a whole lot, stuff we read and study. there have definitely been times when I read Ashley made a lengthy argument that her professors were intentionally choosi ng articles that were based on bad science and liberally biased. Discussing articles that they read concerning the efficacy of welfare drug s and course materials that are not sufficiently focused on her individualistic beliefs causes her to ever turn to welfare if she needed it she was quite hesitant (under standably given her had to use welfare she argued that:

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271 I think the key difference [between her and other welfare recipients] is I would not depend upon it in a l ong receiving welfare would be to get off o f it, not depend on it forever. Ashley believes that there are limitless opportunities and all people can succeed if they so decide, so short term welfare use is fundamentally important to her beliefs role of the government in helping to address social problems : There are a lot of opportunities for people to depend upon the government right now, I think it is so freaking scary. I saw this in my internship I think it is very scary to have someone not willing to work because or unemployment. If unemployment is of fered to you for 18 months and it is greater than the amount you can get at a part time job or a full time job, why not take the unemployment? And it will last you longer and offer more security in that way. But of course it doesn't take you above the pove rty line. I mean it will it will help you be somewhat self sufficient but not adequately enough. I think long term I think there's always going to be poverty, there's never go ing to be enough for everybody. her individualism, her answer had the seeds of a structurally oriented point of view if you analyze it more deeply. She says that people will take government benefits such as unemployment if it is greater in cash value and provides more security than what the low wage labor market can provide. She then argues that government benefits will not raise an individual above the poverty line. She goes one step further and argues that, presumably due to structural limitless opportunities). In this answer, she implicitly makes the argument that (a) some people will be forced to take low wage jobs and (b) that the low wage labor market provides insufficient income, benefits, an d security. This is a very structurally oriented answer if she were inclined to interpret it that way. One might con strue her argument in

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272 favor of accepting welfare assistance, given the abysmal state of the low wage labor market. Instead she is okay with this situation, the competition that it ensures for limited resources, and the consequences that it has for those whose lose in that competition. When discussing how to address poverty, Ashley focused mostly on homelessness, equating poverty with homeless ness (and presumably casting doubt about the accuracy of federal poverty thresholds). She implicitly argued that education will prevent children from developing individual level problems later in life: I would make sure that no matter where children lived they would have equal opportunities to education. So in the inner city it is not going to be, Education would be an equal playing field for all. As much as people want to end ho melessness I don't know that there is an opportunity to really do that in a short amount of time without a lot of money. But looking at preventing homelessness within the next decade or century or whatever. I think with education you can prevent a lot of p roblems that come down the line wit h people as they become adults. Her answer assumes equality of opportunity is more desirable than equality of outcome, and that competition over scarce resources is a desirable social situation (she later argues that the re will never be enough resources for everybody in society). She also espouses an empirically unsupported belief that (a) charter and private schools offer better educations and fight poverty and inequality more effectively, and (b) that within school fact ors are responsible for the majority of educational inequality. Despite discussing at length how her internship helped her to understand the complexities of addiction, she framed drug use as a personal choice in her support of welfare drug testing. In drug e could bring this to their eyes something that is feeding into their poverty.

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273 criticize dr made no mention of the justificati on for singling out the poor for regulations on morality. In agreeing with work requirements she believes that everybody can work despite their situation, and a job is si tuation, it should happen. Especially if it is full behavior rather than a correction of possible structural imbalances. Her politically conservative and strong religious views shape her beliefs: My religious views of self reliance and self sufficiency, they go hand in hand. We believe very strongly that you should be self sufficient, that you somebody else to bail you out. This idea of self sufficiency is deeply individ ualistic, assuming that (a) successful individuals achieve completely on their own, and that (b) unsuccessful individuals have themselves to blame for their social position and must look to others to bail them out. Later in the interview she argues that so ciety is structured in such a manner where there is always a lack of resources for all who need them, despite her belief that everyone can be self sufficient if they so choose. Despite her strong individualistically oriented beliefs, she did reveal some acknowledgement of structural influences. Her internship in a homeless shelter helped

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274 changed a lot of the attitudes and stereotypes I believed before working there. It mind completely about the homeless, and did little to impact her views towards the housed poor. The two biggest myths about homeless individuals that were debunked by her experience, Ashley explained, were the assumptions of rampant alcohol and drug use. She also believes her internship helped her understand how an individual can become homele ss through causes beyond their own personal choices. She argued that her internship opened her eyes to the need for more affordable housing to combat homelessness in the U.S. Another internship experience at a residential treatment facility for substance a buse had a major impact on her: I think my eyes have really been opened as to the complexity behind there is a lot to be said about the person and their environmen t, nothing happens in a vacuum. Beyond the homeless and people with conditions that could be medically explained, Ashley had little acknowledgement of structural factors that might play a role in th e poverty of the rest of the poor in the U.S. Jennifer Reynolds utilized individualism and Culture of Poverty perspectives when analyzing poverty and inequality. Jennifer believes individuals are responsible for their own success or failure because of pres umably endless opportunities in the U.S.: They all kind of make sense for the most part [individualism, Culture of Poverty, and social structuralism]. I would say individualism is what I most agree w ith, although I believe in the Culture of P overty one als o. There are so many opportunities its America, I mean come on.

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275 Jennifer also believes in many Culture of Poverty arguments, explaining to me that she believes a major problem for poor people is that they are not knowledgeable enough to rise out of pove rty: anything. Like people are stupid in the fact that they do drugs and drink ol their money spending. It is lack of knowledge, just basically stupidity actually. It can be their fault and it can There are poor and homeless people who are poor and homeless bec ause they choose to be so as well, and that is also stupidity in my opinion. I saw it all the time at the homeless internship I did. A lot of those eir own homes. So they would get on this list to get a home and so now they have this home because it was their time. But instead of trying to make their lives better, like trying to go to school or trying to get a job or saving their money and only buying anymore. So I am just going to r ely on them instead of trying to get on my work to stay there, but they got really comfortable. It was really, really frustrating. No matter how many times a case manager would talk t o them therefore cannot help themselves. She also frames alcohol and drug use as (a) disproportionately a problem for poor people, and (b) a solely individual level behavior. She believes that poor people do not spend their money wisely and are not smart enough to be able to find (presumably plentiful) jobs. She was also significantly focused are solely responsible for their plight and excludes the possibility that there are structural factors at work.

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276 When I asked Jennifer if she would ever turn to welfare assistance in a time of considerable need, she eventually said that she would; she was very hesitant, however, d that a person e other welfare ed like in my hometown where welfare as a transfer of money from those who earned it to those who had not, rather ooking for a job but I need well paying jobs or any possible justification for becoming a discouraged worker. She supported fertility limiting polices for the poor as well, again excluding the possibility that the social structure plays a role in fertility decisions or creating a class of people are already in poverty then having another kid would

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277 prevalent practice in poor communities of having children to receive more welfare that before, I have seen it in different areas. Having babies to get more money just welfare drug test question. She says that if she were in charge welfare recipients would be tested for all drugs to keep people from (a) spending government money unwisely and (b) engaging it what s be happy to get you food. I am completely against drugs, so morally I think it is wrong. Sarah Kim utilized both individuali sm and social structuralism perspectives in her answers, but her beliefs about the root causes of poverty and inequality are clearly individualistically oriented. Sarah believes the root causes of poverty are low wages and lves. She believes strongly in the individualism perspective and the idea that the U.S. is a meritocracy. When discussing fertility policies, she spoke exclusively about individual decisions rather than any structural conditions that might (a) limit opport unity and therefore bar certain people from ever having children if it is simply an economic decision, and (b) how social conditions might use in the same manner, as a personal choice disconnected fro m the social structure whose causes and consequences were based on the individual. Sarah supported drug tests for poverty targeted welfare but not for other forms of welfare. She speculates that poverty and the inability to help oneself might be geneticall y determined. She explains:

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278 have not had an opportunity to family right choice. Probably if they genetically they exposed in that way, lp themselves. They reason is that they just not motivated, as a family, no matter how hard they what is t She believes the answer to addressing poverty is enhanced education funding to help themselves. To help them to create programs to motivate sel f believes that no matter what conditions a person is born into or what obstacles they face, everyone has the opportunity to build a basic quality of life for themselves. She also believes that the U.S. federal poverty thresholds are too high. She believes that to be poor means that you have absolutely nothing, and that many people who are counted as poor in the U.S. are not actually poor: says you have nothing th ere. You might not be rich, or middle class, but if you work hard, and if you make the right choices, you can actually no matter how society throws at you, you can actually live minimum. Despite citing wages as a strong determinant of poverty, Sarah criti cizes her colleagues for focusing too heavily on structural causes of poverty. I asked her whether her classmates would agree with her views on poverty, and she responded: No, not on economic or p overty is about stru cturalism, how society put different people in one area, how society distribu tes wages and stuff like that. So of those

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279 Sarah was not alone in holding conflicting ideologies. Many of the students I spoke with utilized dif ferent perspectives at different points in our interview. Sarah switched back and forth between structurally oriented and individually oriented perspectives (and even highlighted some Culture of Poverty arguments) even when discussing the same topic. For i nstance, she believes anybody who truly wants to escape poverty can do so by individual effort. Then when discussing another topic, welfare work requirements, she cites structural limitations on the number of well paying jobs available to people: now about you have to work full time. Because you might not find a job that you can work full ildcare support systems, then Despite utilizing structurally oriented perspectives selectively at points in our conversation, it was clear from her answers that she believes pretty strongly in individualism; this is due to her belief that everyone can earn a decent living despite their circumstances. They may not be rich, but that does not mean that they have to be poor. When I asked Terra Whitley to rank three examples of poverty perspectives, she said she agreed with stru cturally oriented poverty explanations more than Culture of Poverty or individualism. When I analyzed her answers in their entirety, however, she seemed to prefer explanations based in individualism and Culture of Poverty. Like so many students that I spok e with, (a) claiming a structural orientation seemed to be an important part of the identity that she wanted to project, and (b) her claims about her worldview did not always match up with the perspectives she actually utilized when analyzing social proble ms. Like many students she went back and forth between

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280 perspectives. Here she projects the structurally oriented identity that is so important to many social work students: I think when I was younger I used to really think it [the cause of poverty] was ind ividualism. You know, you get what you give like if you have the biggest work ethic you succeed. But it was not as realistic. More like you getting going to college and actually seeing how hard it is in science and things like that, like growing up and if I was younger, I probably would have chosen i ndividualism when you asked me. When we discussed poverty in more depth, however, she signaled that subcultural and individual level expl anations were an important part of her worldview. This is likely influenced at least in part by her privileged upbringing, an influence she hinted at when we discussed if she would be embarrassed using welfare; of this embarrassment, she said: I would embarrassed, but what else can you do? I never grew up with having to do that, so it would be emb arrassing. Here she explains why poverty exists in the U.S.: anything and they want to have a better future. Also substance abuse I think a lo t of the reason why we have homelessness is a lot of substance abuse. Also mental illness, untreated mental illnesses. The main cause? I guess mental illness and substance abuse, I would lump them together. People face some sort of c risis and then lose eve rything. Rather than immigrants interacting with a social structure that influences their unequal social standing, Terra instead cites their individual characteristics as the cause. She equates poverty with homelessness and cites another individual level factor, mental illness, as another primary cause of poverty. Terra believes the poverty is less of a structural problem in the contemporary U.S. than in previous eras because of the types

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281 of social welfare programs available to people today. Because of thi s, she believes poverty in the modern U.S. is mostly the fault of individuals. She explains her reasoning: re ith financial aid, if you want to go to school, you can. Y ou can ge o you want to go to college or not ? excuse if you want to go, you c an go now. Terra, in a previous answer, had actually chided her fellow colleagues for being too individualistically oriented. Her answer excluded any notion that the availability of college does not ensure the college level academic ability of people. Ter ra believes the best way to address poverty is through encouraging people to work through the welfare I think welfare with a really good employment incentive. there needs to be some incenti agreed with welfare work requirements, welfare drug testing, and welfare fertility policies limiting the fertility of poor women. Terra believes the field of social work is based on an individualistically oriented philosophical foundatio n. She discussed self determination and explains that people get out of life what they give, and this is the philosophy behind social work: I think more [social workers] would lean toward individualism [as an explanation for poverty] because I think that f rom a social work probably pick individualism. Just because we practice self determination think individualism is more optimistic. we learn a lot about self determination, like I said. And we are taught to think more like not to individuals fix their problems, do for themselves. When we discuss ed drug testing for welfare recipients, Terra responded that she supported drug tests. She believes that without them the government is only enabling

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282 drug prone individuals, and allowing poor people to spend money on drugs rather than food for their famili es. She believes that a positive drug test for an adult recipient should testing positive for anything above marijuana then they should the children should be removed that the children could be placed with family or into the foster care system. She believes poverty and drug use go hand in disc ussed poverty was drug use. Drug use, like many other (perceived) individual level behaviors, causes poverty much more than any structural factors. answers were mostly dominated by Culture of Poverty assumptions, but also had a strong individualism component. At times she mentioned structural concerns, but this did not seem to be a major component of her worldview. Like many students, being politically liberal is an important part of the identity that she Dad was in a union and we used to go to Democratic parties all the time and everything. but identifies this as an i mportant part of her identity and worldview. Corinne sees social believes is the best e xplanation of the root causes of poverty, she explains:

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283 I would definitely say Culture of P overty for sure, that is a clear cut choices, so I would say the least all totally tie together, but C ulture of Poverty for sure number one. This answer revealed both Culture of Poverty (being in an environment that inculcates good decision making in all of her responses to poverty related questions, her poverty ranking matched with her substantive resp onses about poverty. Most students were largely unaware of the unaware of how many conflicting views they held about economic issues such as poverty and inequality. Discussing her Culture of Poverty beliefs, she explained how the subculture: a catch 22. Basically, like at least with my experience with the homeless population, like, the father is homeless, has very little education and is homeless, and therefore his children have become homeless, and they have children. So they are sort of just know any different. A lot be tests because she equates poverty mostly with homelessness and believes the homeless are largely mentally a imed at restricting the fertility of poor women as long as they know in advance before

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284 excluding (a) the possibility that fertility is influenced by social conditions a nd not simply a matter of choice, (b) the possibility that poverty is a structural problem, and (c) that her policy would prohibit women from having children unless they escape poverty. She says this about welfare recipients and fertility: I have a proble get more mon ey. You have to be responsible. She believes it is the job of social workers to work with poor families stuc asked her how poor families can be helped to escape poverty, and she again cited this need to change the culture of poverty that keeps them in po verty: I think educating the family, because I think you can do all you want to with children, but if they go home every night and are in this situation, to I mean, there are exceptions, of course, and realize that there is more out there for them, and they think that would be where we would need to sta rt. education is a way out. At one point in our conversation Corinne and I were talking about her experiences closely to which perspective she would utilize in response to this event, and found it interesting that she utilized a non out But not just like, how can we fix this, or what can we do to help them [

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285 that she identified in the social workers at the agency, Corinne still chose to utilize a perspective that was non structural; for Corinne, it was still th e responsibility of the individual people to better themselves (whether through making better choices or rejecting the subcultural values of poverty, this was not clear from this answer). The only thing that seemed to differentiate Corinne from her colleag ues at the internship was not the perspective that she utilized, but that she perceived herself to have a more compassionate individualistic and/or Culture of Poverty perspective. Later in our conversation she cited more structurally oriented beliefs, lam enting teachers are being cut all the time, and we pay our athletes and movie stars millions of eing done in schools by teachers is much more valuable than that of wealthy athletes, and their salaries should reflect this importance. She made it clear to me that these structurally oriented concerns were secondary to her strong Culture of Poverty belie fs. It is possible to imagine her identification of improving schools as either a structurally oriented response or as a means of combating the sub culture of poverty, but she did not explicitly make this clear. Melanie Caldwell believes that she holds stru cturally oriented beliefs, largely because she cites the educational system as a major cause of poverty in the U.S. At first glance one might agree with her conclusions and see at least surface level logical urther, however, it was clear that

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286 individualistic assumptions; she cited the educational system, for instance, as a means Poverty beliefs center around what responsibility to educate individuals as a means to help them escape poverty: I wanna say education is a part of it, education of those who can help and edu cation of those who need help. So I t hink a lot of it is education. If those who need help really understood fully what they were capable of, what kind of opportunities there were out there for improving the ir lives, the n I think they would do better. So I think the people who are in charge of the resource s have to educate those people. poor people need to be educated about how to succeed. Her answer is also individualistic in nature, because it assumes that plenty of opportunities exist and are accessible to poor people if they only learn how to grasp them. Melanie believes that in an ideal world the government has li ttle to no role in the social welfare system, saying, She signaled an inner belief that there is something wrong with that there was something wrong with turning to it for support. After informing me that she had personally used welfare she quickly assured me that she was not like other welfare recipients who abused the system and used welfare assistance on non

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287 She also crit oriented belief that welfare breeds dependency in an otherwise opportunity filled world. When I asked her if she agreed philosophically with the U.S. welfare system and if she would turn to it again, she again highlighted her belief that opportunities exist for most people and we short period of time, yes. I believe that it is there to help people get off of their feet so then referred back to her own welfare use, talking about the guilt associa ted with it and her belief that (a) healthy people are inherently undeserving in a world of ample opportunities and (b) failure to earn a middle class income was a personal failure: term when I was married to a he althy person and I was a healthy person, and I could eventually support myself. on it any longer than I had to I think I would feel guilt. For me, if I had to be uld probably be a pride thing. Just like feeling guilty like if I could do it once, then I could do it again. When we discussed welfare drug testing, Melanie responded that she felt very comfortable with the idea because government money should not be spent on non necessities. I asked her to use that same logic on government money that goes to individuals in the middle and upper classes, but she did not support drug testing for them; lik e the other students who made the same class based distinction between people receiving government money, she seemed to signal that there was something inherently suspicious about poor people.

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288 related questions signaled a bel ief in Culture of Poverty and individualistic explanations. This did not stop her from acknowledge the influence of the social structure in some of her answers. For instance, here she talks about what she learned from her internship: What have I learned? W ell, I guess for the mentally ill I have learned that waiting lists that their lives just continue to go badly. I guess their fore I worked there. I t has made me a lot more aware. Despite being concerned about welfare dependency and arguing that ample opportunities exist for people in many of her answers, Melanie utilized a structural perspective when talking about her non suppo rt for welfare work requirements (one of the few students not to support these requirements): everyone can work for full time because of either disability or having children. I was nev value staying with their children for a certain amount of time. But no, I either physical disability, mental disability, children, transportation issues, Peter LeBlanc was strongly individualistically oriented, but also utilized Culture of Poverty and structurally oriented perspectives at different points in our conversations. deficiencies. He believes strongly that the U.S. is a land of limitless opportunities, and that structural fact ors did little to either (a) limit these opportunities or (b) determine who

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289 might receive these opportunities. When discussing work requirements for welfare, You should give the recipient not a lot of time, but a brief period of time to be inducted into the program, get the benefits and stabilize their life before got three months, and after three months, if you still want t o use this pro For Peter, there were no structural factors affecting numbers and quality of jobs: the He made a similar argument about drug testing: individuals should be given a one time opportunity for rehabilitation but be cut off from welfare benefits if they ever use drugs again; this ignored the ongoing influence that addiction, previous life experiences, and current social co nditions have on these behaviors. When I asked Peter how to cure poverty in the U.S., he described a rather detailed system where corporations would work hand in hand with colleges and universities to make sure that people were being trained to fill jobs t hat were available at the moment (which seemed like an odd answer given that college is but a dream for many poor individuals). Peter is highly critical of his social work colleagues for ignoring the role of the individual in success and failure. His highl y individualistic views seem to come from his background feeling alone and isolated for most of his life bouncing around from Asia to a U.S. adoptive family to living is about the choices that you make and (b) everyone can succeed if they make the right choices. He believes his experiences have given him a truly objective view of th e world,

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290 The way I think about it [the world and social issues] is more objective sometimes I hear people talk abo experience in life in general. to the highest level, explaining: I ran away from group homes all the time of like if you work for a company. If you start from the ground up, you were the lowest of the low and then you go through the ranks, you get promoted, by the time you reach management position, you are the best at everything because y superior worldview relative to his colleagues in the BS W program, colleagues who depend too much on perspectives other than individualism. When discussing poverty, Peter told me a story about a personal experience that he remembers and how important it was in shaping his views (and confirming his Culture of Po verty beliefs). He says that before this experience he held stereotypical views towards the Hispanic/Latino population in the U.S., views centered around perceived laziness and poor work ethic. e who stand outside Wal Mart looking for under the he had visiting Hispanic/Latino friends and their families gave him firsthand knowledge about this population, confirming

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291 auses of poverty, he utilized a blend of individualistically and structurally oriented arguments to explain why American culture causes people to expect too much out of life: jus t not jobs that you like or pays enough according to you. Everyone have to work multiple jobs. But the bottom line is, if you have a job at [Asia] if you converted the currency, people could make $2.50 an hour screen TV. Most of them went to the local market every day, morning, evening, and we bought food and we cooked it fresh. We had no centralized heating. I remember as a kid my job was to go downstairs and pick up pieces of coal. I think people the best. I think people take that a little too far. I guess in the social work appreciate what they have, but they always want more. Also I personally think, what keeps the perpetual when you were a kid, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie to have mor e. it in no way addressed any possible structural had it been a part of a larger analysis of poverty in the U.S .; but this was his only analysis of the problem of poverty in the U.S., the most salient matter that came to his mind when asked about this enormous social issue. For him, the problem of poverty and inequality was that people were expecting too much out of life; he believes ample opportunities exist for everyone, he is hardly concerne d with impediments to grasping these opportunities, and he believes we would all be better off with a bit of an attitude adjustment concerning our social positions. Nowhere in this discussion was there any

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292 acknowledgement that there may be structural eleme nts that contribute to inequality, or sufficient standard of living, there are no unjust conseq uences of social organization, mitations of language, education, and then conflicts of the culture clash that a lot of things we take for granted. oriented in his analysis. He told me about one family that he wor ked with in an internship where the adult wage earners had difficulties learning English, making it very difficult for them on the job market despite considerable education and skills acquired in their home country. He explained: Like we take working retai the culture thing and the language. they have strive for the best. But sometimes we end up having to find them a job doing del iveries, because the only thing they can do right now is drive. So like, I can go to the mall, I can probably put in applications for any one of the stores and I can get it. But language c Karen Moore espoused individual level explanations for poverty and inequality, but her individualism was unique and did not come in the typical form that other students expr essed. For Karen, poverty was an individual level problem stemming from the competitive nature in all human beings and the inability of anybody to design a

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293 society that affords opportunities to everyone; for Karen, this competition was unavoidable and impo ssible to address. Karen believes poverty exists because (a) it is competitive, and (b) because throughout history there has always been poverty, proof for her that it is just the natural order of things. Of poverty, Karen says: I think it's just the nature of mankind. It stems from competition, logically it makes sense that there will always be somebody at the bottom. If you look at history there have always been poor p eople. it seemed clear from her answer that she views social work as a way to soften this nastiness, but she never quite identified how social organization might contr ibute to compete for scarce resources, and she never identified how society might be organized to mitigate these circumstances. Without ever really identifying the role o f the social structure, Karen sees charity as the logical answer. She believes people like her, the few nice and compassionate people in a nasty world, can help a bit by giving charity; she lamented that her parents did not give to charity when she was a c hild. For Karen charity was a form of moral superiority in the person giving charity, not an unfortunate that people who gave to charity were simply being good people, never placing this need for charity in any structural context.

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294 When we talked about the possibility of Karen having to turn to welfare, she said: I would not be dependent upon it personally I would feel a little ashamed getting it not because it is welfare but because it is somebody else's help. I was raised to be very self sufficient so I would want to get off of it. I know I would not be ashamed because I would do eve rything I can to get off of it. Like many students, Karen used our discussion of welfare as an opportunity to not only other welfare recipients. She is concerned about dependency and stro ngly believes in self sufficiency, two concepts that reveal the individualistic underpinnings of portions of her worldview. When she spoke about her non support for fertility limiting welfare policies, she rejected such policies but on mostly individualist ic grounds, saying, somebody could be raped, somebody could just be irresponsible, or somebody could aise the be unjust to forbid people from having children because they were the victim of structural forces that guaranteed there would be a group of poor and chi ldless people. connections herself. She would discuss a topic and highlight many structural factors that contributed to the particular problem, but never make any possible causal connections. When I asked Karen how we might spend government money to address poverty, she answered: I would like to give it all our military veterans, but I might put it towards children in poverty and helping kids because that has a lifelong effect, no t just on the kids but on the society as well. I think that might be the best way to do i t if I had to spend the money.

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295 She identifies the substantial negative impact that poverty has on children, but never quite makes any complex connections beyond tha t basic fact. At one point she talked about how she rejected the idea that the U.S. is a meritocracy: The people who are really in charge and in power could not have gotten there without help either financial help or connections or whatever. I feel like yo u can work as hard as you want to or as you can but that does not necessarily mean that you were going to be at the top. When I was at McDonald's, there were people working three or four jobs there. If we were going to measure people's position in society by merit or hard work th ose people would be at the top. She expanded on this notion and also discussed what she believes to be the flawed notion of individualism in American culture: Our society is heavily based in individualism, I have heard it from my p arents, you hear it all over television. You know, work hard and you can get what you deserve. It's the premise of the American Dream. I have worked hard I worked at McDonald's for four years and never received a promotion. And the people there worked thei r asses off. I also worked at Five Guys for a little bit, too. Those people work harder than people who make lots of money and they don't get nearly the same income or recognition. Sorry, this is a rant. I just don't think our society cares to look into th ings that they don't understand. I think we live in a really judgmental society, and I think Americans see somebody who is in a totally different situation from them and they don't give them the benefit of the doubt or try to understand where they're comin g from. [For] most Americans it is all about the individual in terms of how your socia l class is determined I guess. This is an incredibly insightful answer if Karen realized the structural implications of what she said about the disconnect between th e hard work of some people and economic success. She never fully comprehended the complexity of her answer, ignored any possible role for social organization in the world that she described, and se. I was initially inclined structuralism in her answers; I settled on individualistically oriented, however, because

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296 (a) she kept returning to the notion of individua l level human nature in her explanations of poverty and inequality, and (b) she never incorporated the structural elements of her answers to some questions into her logic when explaining the root causes of poverty and inequality in other questions. For Kar en, social structuralism was never a salient perspective during these interview questions. When I discussed why poverty exists with Jenny Phan she utilized Culture of Poverty and individualism explanations in her answers. In terms of her Culture of Pove from their parents: I guess some people are stuck in a cycle that their parents were poor and then they are poor and then their children will learn to be poor. Poor people don't know any better and they don't see any way out. Like you were in my social determinants of health class and we are learning how the children are stuck there b ecause they learned it from their parents that this is the only route you can take and those other routes aren't for you that is why I think some people are just stuck in poverty an d that is why we have poverty. It is hard for me to explain since English is not my first language it is just a cycle. My dad went to college so I have to go to college, you know? For someone else their parents maybe dropped out of high school in tenth gra de and started working because that is instant don't need to go to high school because my parents made money by just quitting high school. I mean money right away getting a lot of things that I college and getting more money in the end. They don't see the point of going to high school. Sort of passing down values from one generation to another. r is also based in individualistic beliefs, taking the social structure for s

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297 religion. that there is always going to be someone lower than us and always someone she believes subsidies for childcare would make a difference. Jenny also utilized individ ualism explanations in her answers. Jenny does not believe that the U.S. is a meritocracy, but for a different reason than other students: because she has seen many people working hard but in the wrong manner, saying you put effort into working at a f ast food restaurant in order to make money instead of going to school at the same time to pursue higher education and get a degree that is somebody might be forced t o take a low paying job, (b) how acquiring a higher paying job or the means to be competitive for such a job (such as college) might be structurally influenced, or (c) how a society could exist that would ensure a job for everyone and ensure that working a t that job would deliver a living wage, regardless of the particular welfare is not a system of addressing structural imbalances. She believes that the money that peop has to be repai d, so if somebody else like you needs that money then we will have

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298 If you are taking money from the public you should abide by the laws. People should be receiving that money to improve their lives. It is public money and I think if you are applying for welfare and you have a drug addiction there should be a program that you can go to get clean and rece ive that welfare. For Jenny, like a few of her colleagues, treatment for drug addiction is a one not tied to the forces of current social conditions or the accumulation of years of different path in the future, regardless of their pa st or present conditions (and in qualifying for welfare they are likely still facing difficult circumstances). Jenny speculated I would make a board and see who should be punished see who should receive punishment or not. study, utilized her privileged social class posit inherently legitimate and correct instead of socially constructed. Jenny seemed to espouse a charitable view about social w ork without the structural foundation; in other words, social welfare was not a means of correcting structural imbalances, but helping people based on the morality of those providing aid. I asked Jenny if she would ever turn to welfare as a means of avoidi ng a really difficult Jenny why it is wrong to use welfare, and she answered t hat it is not intended for people who can help themselves. This was an interesting response, revealing a lot about her

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299 philosophy of welfare: it is for individuals based upon their individual characteristics, not their situation. For Jenny, poor people are poor because they cannot help themselves. Some students believed that welfare is there for those who need it financially; for Jenny, welfare recipients are deserving based upon their individual characteristics, not their current financial situation. She h as clearly internalized some deep cultural beliefs about When discussing poverty and inequality, Isabel Cervera utilized both Culture of vidual level will help people grasp these opportunities. When I asked her why she chose social work as a individuals to escape their particular situations; she support policies su ch as work requirements, for instance, because she hates the idea that poor people will receive who just keep receiving the benefits and there is no change in their behavi welfare welfare use across generations:

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300 Sometimes I think it [poverty and welfare] is just a circle. There is no beginning or end. It becomes like a circle for people. Sometimes I think there is no improvement for those people. They just keep getting the sam e benefits or the same assistance. [For] the people that I have seen it is just like a chain. My family got this, your family will get thi s, and your kids will get this. From her perspective, poverty and welfare are rooted in individual and family le vel causes. She used a story about her internship experience at a multicultural human services agency, which provides case management therapy to low income immigrant populations and survivors of trauma and torture, to further explain her belief in Culture of Poverty arguments: It is kind of hard especially with immigrant populations. I work with undocumented and documented immigrants, so that makes it even harder. It is very hard. Their way of thinking, the people that I dealt with are not educated. I am not saying it is a bad thing to be uneducated but their way of thinking is completely different than mine so sometimes I have conflicts on values, ethical dilemmas, all o f that. She went on to describe working with an undocumented family with two child ren living in very poor and overcrowded accommodations. The situation is further complicated by the threat of deportation for the husband. They already have two children, and the girl in my thinking to herself: stable, your husband can be deported anytime soon, and you plan to have things that I think I have some issues with. Isabel explains that her culture values family very highly, and it is these cultural beliefs that are helping to keep this fa mily poor. She says she supports fertility limiting policies for welfare recipients because of stories like this one. Never once in this discussion did

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301 Isabel mention any structural imbalances that might unjustly affect the living conditions and fertility individual decisions. In many ways this is understandable: social work as a field must attempt to help people from within the system and help them make the best of their circumstan ces, however those circumstances were created. What is interesting though is that this is the first thing that Isabel thought of when I asked her about the causes of c time when Isabel could address macro level issues if she so chose, not handcuffed by the realities on the ground in the field of social work. In this setting where al l levels of analysis were possible, individual level decisions and subcultural values were the first and most important thing that came to her mind. Part of the explanation for her views biggest influence openly acknowledges that experiential knowledge impacts her worldview more than her schooling. In a program where there is already a weak theoretical f oundation, this leaves open the possibility for considerable variation in worldview and interpretation based on the individual beliefs of BSW students. For students like Isabel, this may lead to confirmation bias based on existing beliefs in the absence of a more complex toolbox to work from. When not responding to questions that specifically asked her to cite the causes of poverty, Isabel did mention some structural factors. She believes strongly that education is the answer to escaping poverty, and beli eves that there are obstacles

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302 preventing some people from obtaining education. In a country like the U.S. with (what she perceives to be) so many opportunities for families to thrive, it bothers Isabel that these obstacles exist for certain people, such as the immigrant population: Not everyone can take advantage of these opportunities because everyone's life is different. Me as an immigrant I can relate to other immigrants but still my life is completely different from other people and can be different from mine. I mean mine can be better. I have seen the different perspectives of people and the problems that th ey face through my experiences. Isabel is very comfortable identifying a few structural factors that she believes are importan of poverty and inequality, however, she stuck with her individualism and Culture of Poverty explanations. Natalia Huber is strongly individualistically oriented, but also uti lized Culture of Poverty and social structuralism perspectives in a limited manner. It was surprising how never really thought about or never really spent a lot of time with these questions. This is probably the most time I have ever spent talking about this stuff [poverty and in our discussion Natalia argued that she use would this would hurt her pride:

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303 I would not feel comfortable [using welfare]. To me I feel that I am too proud to accept welfare. It would have to be a very, very, very, very last resort. I would probably go to the streets for a little bit before even thinking everything even if I had to choose welfare and it w as the absolutely last resort a part of me would still say no. You are going to fight it. A part of myself to go onto welfare. I would feel like I am weak, helpless. And I have have been in that helpless child phase where I, even when I was put in control of my life. There is a part of me that would hate m yself becaus e I have already been helpless. es that poor people naturally become dependent on welfare (fulfilling their individual desires rather than addressing structural before they become dependent. She supports we lfare work requirements because she believes that such a policy helps the government inculcate a (presumably missing) sense of personal responsibility and motivation in recipients, helping them to stop being kind of get them on their feet, provide them with enough resources, and then kind of explicitly states that welfare use is an individual level failing and that a one time infusion

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304 with welfare causes her and oth opportunities exist for all who want them and we must encourage people not to turn to welfare which is unnecessary if people have the proper motivation. She framed fertility as both (a) a solely individual level decision, and (b) not the right of poor women, who are (presumably) to blame for the ir financial situation and therefore should not make that situation worse. Of family caps she said: If there is a set limit of income that you get, and you know that, I think that falls on you. If you know ahead of time, that falls on you. If you want to government is responsible for that, to give you more money for that choice. For Natalia fertility is entirely a choice, and her answer excludes the possibility that it is unjust to restri ct the fertility of a large group of people who are victims of structural constraints outside of their control. She framed drug use as an individual choice as well, and supported welfare drug tests because she was concerned about drug users abusing the sys structural concerns, instead (a) ignoring the role of the social structure in influencing who turns to drugs, (b) the role of addiction in keeping people in drug use, and (c) assuming th at welfare recipients are disproportionately using drugs and labeling an entire group of people (who may be victims of structural economic constraints) as suspect because of their social class. Since her main complaint seemed to be the use of government mo ney on drugs, I asked her if she would logically extend her argument to other recipients of government money (middle and upper class tax credits, farm

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305 subsidies, student loans, private sports subsidies, etc.). She immediately said no to student loans but that she could possibly think of a situation where this would apply (she said this hesitantly), but failed to identify one after a long pause. oth an individual level and structural level explanation. At the individual level, she believes that people do not think about the future, and (presumably) this leads to poor decision making and causes some people to fall into poverty. At the structural le vel, however, Natalia believes this need for instant gratification is uniquely American and influenced by macro level culture. She believes Americans simply expect too much from life: I get the feeling that a lot of Americans have the big dreams, they want the big house, the big cars, and I think a lot of people want whatever they want here and now. They don't always think of, well what if something happens? I don't think that they think ahead. I am also one of those people, but again I think especially as people get older I think a lot of it is an American thing, like uniquely American. It was unclear how this applied to poverty specifically or why this was her primary focus when explaining poverty, but she left her explanation undeveloped and we moved on in our discussion. When I asked Natalia how to best address poverty in our country, she equated poverty with homelessness and gave an answer based on all three poverty perspectiv es:

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306 I guess I would say housing. Build more housing for the homeless I guess. Maybe not use all of the money but use some of it to build the houses and then from there maybe set up programs as how to get them back on their feet. I feel like a lot of peopl e, there are a lot of homeless people because of mental illness. They can't support themselves, or financial issues, or they have always been in poverty. So it is the cycle of their life. Especially for those people who have never had a good life, to get t hem started, especially with housing, it is not that there is not enough, because I don't know that there isn't, but if we could at least get the people in a secure location then we can then go from there. So that would be my main thing. On the surface he r answer seems structural: she believes that we should expand low income housing. She falls back in to individual level and Culture of Poverty explanations later in her answer, however, explaining that (a) poverty (equated with homelessness) is influenced she is not sure there is actually a housing shortage, undercutting her structural argument. Marena Delgado peopl available to people to escape poverty, but it is a matter of (a) those in positions of (earned) privilege helping those in need (out of a sense of duty), and (b) those born i nto poverty rising above their social conditions by grasping available resources: I feel like people who are born into poor families or somehow become poor they don't really have the resources to get back and go up the social ladder. There's definitely res ources available, I mean I am a social work major so I know there are resources available. People really look down on poverty in this society so they are not really there to help people who are below them, it's more try to get yourself up higher. So I thin k it is resources and people with resources not he lping people without resources. f amily is normative and desirable, (b) that the nuclear family is an individual level

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307 answer to economic failures, and (c) makes no mention of whether society should be structured so that all family types can succeed. Marena agrees with work requirements be cause instead of a means of addressing structural imbalances, she views welfare assistance as a transfer of money from earners to recipients. She also believes that work requirements help people get themselves out of poverty, an answer that excludes the no tion that unemployment might be a structural consequence: I think if you are staying home and getting help from the government it's not really helping your case. I think that you should definitely be working for something because you are never going to get out of your situation if you are not working for what you are trying to get. You don't get free food, that's not how it should be. I think even mothers with really young children should be in the workforce. There reall y should not be any exceptions. Marena frames fertility as an individual choice and her answer excludes the possibility that limiting the fertility of poor women might be unjust due to the structural nature of their economic position: If you are in a situation where you need enough help for your family from the government you should not be having any more children. That is not going to help anybody. You shouldn't get more benefits for having more children. I think these policies would make you realize that adding on to your family isn't g oing to add on to your resources and discourage people from making these decisions. It would make you realize that you are already trying to help your family that you have right now, how much better is it going to be for you if you add another life that yo u need to take care of? Marena frames drug addiction as an individual choice and believes it is okay to drug test welfare recipients because they should not be allowed to use government money to buy drugs. Her answer fails to address why this would only b e a consideration for poor people, why it is assumed that welfare recipients are drug users, and if it is socially just to intentionally lower the living standards of people (and if it is, this suggests that a basic standard of living should not be an enti tlement).

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308 Olivia Pace began our discussion of poverty in strictly structural terms, leading me to believe that she strongly believed in this perspective. When discussing why poverty exists Olivia begins with a strictly structural answer, arguing that the manner in determined) their entire lives; if people make a mistake in their lives, even one costly main reasons [for poverty] are that in our society if someone scre ws up there is no way for them to fix that mistake. It's like even if you mess up once you are derailed and it is extremely hard to get back on, not impossible but more difficult than m ost people can handle. believes the family upbringing plays a role: Another reason is that you c ome from a position of poverty. I know my parents, my family has consistently had people who are middle income. W hat they have helps perpetuate be ing middle class. You know the money my parents are go ing to leave me is going to be really helpful, and middle class people are left with things as opposed to children who are left with their parents debt or things lik e that. Their parents did everything they could just to get by and to maintain but the children have to figure out how to pay for college on their own. And different things like that. Her answer could be construed as either structural or individualistic. I construed it as structural, conside guarantee that only those who play by the (structurally determined) rules succeed, it would seem logical that inherited resources are unjustifiably rewarded by the social structure (from her perspective). As I previously stated, the interview began in strictly structural terms. As our conversation progressed, it became clear not only that Olivia was not as structurally oriented as it first seemed, but that in reality she was strongly in dividualistically oriented; our conversation felt a bit like a road trip that had been following one set of directions for

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309 a time, only to take a drastically different course halfway through the trip. Olivia is very politically conservative and religious a nd comes from a family with the same values. Through our discussion it became clear to me that her interests in helping people are mostly internationally centered, and that she does not give social problems in the U.S. the degree of seriousness that she gi ves to other countries. Like other conservative students I spoke with, she seemed to view social problems as somewhat of a settled issue in the U.S. due to what she believes is a superior way of life. She considers ems to center around helping people in different said she believes that policies should be aimed at preventing personal and familial instability, a clearly individualisti c answer: The best way to attack poverty is the preventative and not the once it happens. I am all about the preventative measures. I am involved in Habitat for Humanity. And what I know is how much someone having a home can affect all other aspects of their lives. So that is something that I feel confident in saying I know enough about this, people need homes. They need a stable environment. They need homes that they pay off, it eds to be something that they work for, and it needs to be something they can manage working for. Because they need to feel responsibility for their home and feel proud and it, that is a pride thing. I was able to pay off and on my own home. But children n eed a stable environment to grow up in. That would be the major preventat ive thing that I would look at. Her answer does not address why society cannot be organized for all family types to stance (unless she believes lack of work is crucial to their economic problems). Olivia said that she agrees with the social structuralism perspective, but only to a point:

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310 I also agree with individualism a lot, the individualism viewpoint. I understand t he system has been very unfair to you. The system has been unfair, it has put you in this place, but you are still a person. There is still the personal responsibility factor. And while all these things maybe are against you, if you give into the syste m it is your choice. Somebody very close to me, his dad is a cabdriver and his mom has a similar low income job. But they are putting him through college. I am a firm believer that it is about the decisions that you make and I think sometimes that is w here I differ from other social work majors. I see a lot of my social work friends fault, I agree the system needs to be changed. I also agree that giving in to the system is a p ersonal decision. I think that sometimes we need to be their person Olivia believes that all individuals can rise above social conditions, and in fact it is th e Olivia agrees with giving welfare assistance to poor individuals as long as they poverty. She be lieves very strongly that her middle ignores the role of non individual, non governmental assistance that shapes the success/failure of all people. She does not view welfare assistance as a means of balancing structural imbalances but as a transfer of money from earners to recipients, do I have to give tha

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311 [She supports it] as long as it is proven in the long run that you're making that change. After so many times though, I hate to say that, but if you are not making an effort to change do you really deserve to receive this assistance? Because you don't seem to be appreciatin g or using it and really feeling like it is helping you. So I agree philosophically as long as it is structured the right way and people are m aking changes in their lives. For Olivia, people failing to escape poverty is (a) proof that they are not willing to change defective aspects of their personality/behavior, (b) staying in poverty is the result of individual failings, not structural forces, and (c) failing to rise out of poverty is pride would be hurt people and welfare recipients, she has the individual cha racteristics of a successful person; turning to welfare would make her doubt this notion. She believes turning to y power to get off of that unjust, and believes that the burden is on the poor to change these stereotypes. She says of her support for welfare drug testing: I think it is a good way of proving to people and removing that stereotype that people are receiving welfare benefits without making a change. I understand that having these tests can waste a lot of money, we were just talking about that in class the other day. But I think it is important to change the stereotype and the stigma attached to welfare. It helps the image of all welfare recipients, it is something that you can tangibly prove. She supports fertility back to an

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312 very selfish to have another child out of the desire to have a child. I think the responsibility that comes along with having a child is having the environment to raise level issue and punishing a group of people who are poor is justified (assuming she d oes not wish to punish the punishing people who are victims to forces larger than themselves). It was not clear from her answers that Allison Cruz r elied on one particular perspective to explain poverty and inequality; she utilized all three perspectives at different points in our conversation. It also seemed that she had contradictory beliefs about these issues, utilizing different perspectives about the same topic (in different answers) that did not seem to be able to logically coexist. Allison utilized an individualistic perspective when talking about social work, explaining how she wanted to ose. She utilizes both individual level and structural level explanations while discussing poverty in the U.S.: There are always people that need to fill certain jobs where pro bably not going to get paid enough to do them. And opportunities, n ot ev erybo dy has the same opportunities. So I feel like what background you come f I guess the system makes sure of things. I think we could help people with more programs that act ually train people for skills. yo u have to find ways to break that cycle. Culture of Poverty assumptions. She does not support fertility policies that cap welfare benefits because she believes (a) it hu rts children and (b) some people do not know any better. In her discussion of fertility policies she utilized both an individualism and Culture of Poverty perspective:

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313 At the end of the day, they might still have children, and the child is going to be the one affected. But I do think they should we should help them understand I know sometimes just because they are living in poverty, good to work with them and let them realize that in the bes t idea to keep having children. I characterize this answer as partially belonging to Culture of Poverty because she says poor people need help realizing it is not smart to have children in poverty. This answer is also very individualistic, because it at least implicitly assumes that poverty is an individual level affliction; otherwise it would not logically follow that we would punish people with welfare restrictions for simply being the victims of forces larger than themse lves. Allison rejects the idea that the U.S. is a meritocracy because of how hard her mother worked as a single mother just to make ends meet. She said, ple. Lik e a lot of people that work hard. i t is not as easy Noreen Ahmed espoused individualistic beliefs at some points in our interview, depending upon the interview question highlighted the incredible flexibility of the worldviews of the students I interviewed. Noreen was very structurally orie nted and one of the most politically liberal students I interviewed, yet held deeply individualistic views on many topics. She was at times deeply analytical and at other times amazingly contradictory. Most times I was amazed by her analytic ability; when she was discussing drug tests, for instance she said that you might be able to affect rates of drug use in

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314 e between causes and symptoms/consequences of social problems. She went on to argue that social policy was one of many insightful answers that highlighted her belief in and understanding of the strong role of the social structure in so many social problems (I will discuss her ideological contradictions in a moment). From a structurally oriented perspective she feels strongly that there are not enough opportunities for all who need them, and that we need to pay attention to the number and quality of these opportunities (well paying jobs, education, etc.); she explained at length some research experience that she had with the U.S. minimum wage, and how it failed to adequately support a typical family. This is a large and then make them get a job meritocracy: in my life that are bright, that are capable, t hat are ambitious, that have all obstacles and blocks that are really beyond their, you know, just simply ability to get past, you know? Rights movements in the U.S., and has long felt a need to fight against social injustices. right from wrong and I applied that just o personal experiences with social service agencies that there are structural impediments

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315 to the goals of the populations that they serve; in one such experience she claimed the that the distribution of opportunities in the U.S. is racist and sexist. Here we discussed what she believed to be the root causes of poverty: The very, very first thing that comes to my mind [when discussing poverty causation] is racism and sexism. Women on one hand and then minorities on the other hand have very different paths to poverty. But I think it comes down to opport unity, just opportunity, both economic opportunity and educational opportunity. The availability and quality of those opportunities. I think it comes from our social values. To this day, mostly, the power structure here is white, Christian, heterosexual ma les. The farther away you get from that core, the less respected, the less opportunity, the less you are seen as normal. So that creates this sort of social dynamic that, woman and you much left. Somebody asked me earlier today if I think that racism has to actua lly talk about, because nobody wants to be accused of playing the race card, you know? Racism is still very much alive in every single thing that goes on around us, you know? And I think when you look at poverty, nt path when it comes to that he re as refuges ve structuralism, which she identified with stron gly) that was important to Noreen: individualism. Noreen, in my estimation, had the one of the strongest self identifications as a liberal/progressive of the students that I spoke with; she showed up at our meeting

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316 wearing an Obama/Biden campaign shirt and spoke strongly, forcefully, and many times polemically about Republicans and political conservatism. Noreen considered herself somewhat of a leftist radical, seeing the world from what she believed to be a more accurate perspective than even her political ly liberal friends and colleagues. Despite their own success or failure if they have been provided with what she perceives to be sufficient opportunities; it was not beyond the ones that she identified. As our conversation continued, she moved away from the social structuralism perspective to her individualistically oriented beliefs. Here she discusses the implementation of equal educational standards for all Americans; in her answer, she assumes that equal educational access will solve the problem of poverty, ignoring how this will address non Everybody is to some extent responsible for their own personal success. Let me put it to you this way. if every single person has th e same access to the same quality education, if the science classes in the schools in the inner city are the exact same science classes with the exact same equipment and textbooks and teacher qualifications, you know, as we have here in the suburbs where t There are services available. There are ways to sort of help you th rough whatever. But if you have the same essential foundation, you know what I mean, the essential foundation, which I think is education honestly. I think that would go a long, long, long way t o alleviate overall poverty. sibility that society could be built to entitle individuals to a certain standard of living; she welcomes a competitive social structure. Her answer suggests that society should not guarantee equality, just provide equal opportunity to

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317 attain it. As I said previously, her answer also ignores the significant body of research that suggests that most educational inequality is due to non school factors, and how educational ine have a solid foundation. I can extend that into my experience in [Africa]. I mean, because of the nature of their history. You know, the problems, not all of them, but a significant number of the problems resulted from the fact that education was for a ce rtain group historically under colonialism. So what evolved was a whole group, mostly business, whateve r, you get left behind. And it just keeps growing, I guess, over generations. And the next thing you know, there is this tever and these people are n For Noreen, like so many students that cited education as a critical factor contributing to poverty, she excluded equality of outcome as an answer, only discussing equality of opportunity. Education, for Noreen, was something that made individuals co mpetitive, and this competition was taken as a given for Noreen; her answers assumed that life should be a competition and the social structure should nurture this rather than assuring some level of equality of outcome. There is of course nothing inherentl y wrong with this subjective assertion, but is critical when analyzing these perspectives to identify both what they include as well as what they exclude. Noreen supports policies aimed at limiting the fertility of poor women, going so far as to say that r emoving their children from their home might be an acceptable consequence for being poor and having children:

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318 position to even maintain yourself and what you have then you have no understand that and I do support that. We could say, you know, at least consider that the agreement would be that if you have more children then some other arrangement needs to be made. In other words, foster care or something. There has to be a consequence to you for making this and for not b eing responsible enough to know your own situation and not think that somebody is gonna come in and bail you out, basically, you know? There has to be some kind of a consequence to the parents. that has to be part of this whole thing, that you should h ave to agree with some kind of consequence. Hold the parents accountable. Because the kids get hurt, okay? If the mom is in poverty because she just embraced some sort of gonna g onna be getting what they need. in this answer it can be assumed that poor women should not have children while they are poor; this of course begs the question: if she believes so strongly in structural causes of poverty, why would she penalize families who are the victims of these struc tural imbalances? If structure plays such a critical role, as Noreen argues strongly, why would she support a policy that would mean the long term poor would be essentially barred from ever having children (or at least children that the government would al low them to keep)? Like the example provided by sociologist Mark musical chairs despite the absolute impossibility that everyone could have been a winner; after all, mu sical chairs is a game rigged to guarantee an inadequate number of chairs. Her answer not only contains those assumptions but also the assumptions that (a) poverty is a personal failing, (b) fertility is a personal decision and largely untouched

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319 by social forces, and that (c) consequences, such as the removal of your children, are just due to poor choices of poor individuals. Tom Rowe incorporated all three perspectives into his answers about poverty many contradictions: he rejects the idea that the U.S. is a meritocracy, for instance, based on evidence of racial discrimination, but then signaled to me in our interviews that he also has a deep seated belief that ultimately individual people are respons ible for their own financial success or failure. Along with these structural and individual level explanations he also utilized Culture of Poverty arguments at times. In terms of his individual level views, he has focused psychology and psychiatry. He did not ultimately go into psychology and reason he did not want to deal with their problems, he says, is because he believes most problems that afflict people can be solved by making the right choices. Because of this he would feel uncomfortable seeking I would never go seek help because you should be welfare, he explained how his ego woul d be crushed: Pulling out food stamps and an EBT card at the grocery store in front of other people, my ego would just be shot. I feel like a reasonably intelligent individual, so if I got to that place I am sure I would be really depressed. Depressed to a n extreme, and jus t embarrassed and disappointed.

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320 The primary source of disappointment for Tom is his belief that he is an intelligent human being who, like anybody else, should be able to solve his own problems if he puts his mind to it. His ans wer framed social problems such as a poverty as simply a riddle that poor people needed to figure out in order to overcome their problems, rather than structurally determined. When we discussed fertility limiting policies for welfare recipients, Tom frame d poverty and fertility as personal choices: fertility because it is a choice rather than influenced by social conditions, and poverty because the social structure does not ultimately decide who is poor, people do. He said he would support fertility polici es as long as people were aware of them ahead of time, ignoring these structural concerns. He is hesitant, because he does not want to see children hurt, but he clearly objects to I objec t to the idea of continuing to foster a method of no responsibility but also do not want that refusal to result in something far worse like the death of a child. Tom is very cognizant of structural factors that contribute to social problems, but (a) had trouble incorporating them into non individual explanations of poverty, and (b) seemed to be conflicted about his knowledge of these factors and his strong belief that people are ultimately the ones responsible for helping themselves. He says social worke believes that social workers learn to look beyond the individual to see other fa ctors that

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321 change on a larger scale. So you may not directly impact person X or Y but if you can are poor you are lazy and you are not doing enough to fix your situation. But what I study and learn is that there are so many other factors that go i nto it. It is not just that structural factors and recognized their impact, he never seemed to make solid connections. He believes that the primary cause of poverty is family, an individual into a certain family, but the cause is still individual level (the members of the family and their ineffective methods of raising children) rather than structural. When citing family as the primary cause of poverty, he delved into some of his Culture of Poverty beliefs along with his individualistically and structurally oriented beliefs: One answer that comes to mind immediately as the root cause is family. The family unit, having support, drawing support from your family. There are so many reasons why families are working and not working. Before I talked about the cycle of poverty a bit, so if a family member can see outside themselves and their current situation they have the opportunity to change the dynamic of the family situation. It would be challenging for sure due to the other factors which come into play, such as institutionalized racism, economic and educational opportunities. Tom believes that the best way to address poverty is through education. He education across the board then children have the opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty a s opposed to just bad programs in the schools and they just get stuck in this

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322 the skills to succeed in society. Within his worldview, this makes sense given that he sh ows little concern over whether there are enough opportunities for everybody; his main concern is not that opportunities do not exist or that there is not enough for everybody, but removing obstacles that marginalized groups face in grasping these opportun ities and resources. Nancy Washington utilized all three perspectives when discussing poverty. She is very interested in the negative influence that parenting can have on life chances, particularly salient for her because of life experience. The brother difficulty the rest of his life because he got unlucky and go t some really crappy parents, individualistically oriented explanations, but also some structurally oriented ones as well. Nancy has long had an interest in how early chances, an interest that has been strengthened by her college studies. She said, ocial work classes and the emphasis they put on the first five years of your life and how important those are. I mean the first five years of your life are really going to determine how the rest your life is upbringing. If you grow up in a poor family, there is no way to get the education that you need, get the tools that you need t

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323 structurally and individualistically oriented, focusing on both parenting and the class you're born into is where you wi ll stay. There are extreme cases of rags to riches explanation is in large part focused on the individual level (not the fault of the poor individual but the individual(s) who raised them), but she also sees it as a structural this is how it is going to When talking about work requirements Nancy framed work as an individual level you response is the finding a job at a decent wage is largely and individual level issue. She does not support fertility limiting policies, but this rejection is not based on stru ctural but individual most people get into these situations, having unplanned kids. It is not fair to punish the smart decisions based on their financial status is the key concern, not structural causes of poverty and/or the injustice of punishing victims of those structural factors. When I asked Nancy to tell me the biggest lesson she learned from her internship, s he cited welfare abuse. Nancy could have picked any lesson at all, positive or negative, but she focused on welfare

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324 asked her whether she would ever turn to welfare, s he said yes but was somewhat students answered similarly to this question, quickly reassuring me that they would be Along with explanations rooted in the individualism and social structuralism perspectives, Nancy also utilized Culture of Poverty arguments to explain poverty. She believes in education as preparing people for the (seemingly inherent and unchangeable from her perspective) competition in the job market. She believes that success and seeing past their current social conditions, a sort of fatalistic acceptance of poverty: out there, the possibilities that you have unless you learn about it. If you are not educated you're stuck in this little bubble and if it is a bubble in a poor neighborhood that is all you know. That is all you see, you don 't know your potential I guess. When Laila Nasr and I discussed why poverty exists, she utilized all three perspectives when explaining poverty. She believed that she was structurally oriented, oriented, she cited Culture of Poverty explanations along with individual level (family upbringing) and structural explanations (educational opportunities, healthcare access, and economic opportunities could be construed individualistically or structurally in her vague answer):

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325 There are a number of reasons why people are poor, but I really think it starts at the beginning. Are you getting the right healthcare that you need, the right education, what are your economic opportunities? If you are living in an area like the South Bronx and this is your life and this is your world and how will you be making money? When you are in an environment where there are not other people in that healthcare, economic opportunities, there are many reasons. I think it is erpetuate it because the whole Culture of P know if there is enough data. I think it may have an influence though. I am not saying they are bad because they are being influenced by others, I think they are human beings and of course they are being influenced by others like all of us. Just as I am influenced by my father for being a successful orthopedic surgeon, you kno w what I mean? I have him as a model. I am just using that as an example. I think it is natural to be influenced. Everyone around you is destitute and not doing well. How does that make you feel about your lif e and the outcome of your life? Laila believes her more structurally oriented beliefs have been encouraged by her as well. If you are not introduced to it, I can see how it might not be intuitive to think to from the how structural constraints might not guarantee enough resources f or all educated people, or any mention of a right to a certain standard of living beyond what one can get across the board, even if you have nothing, no money at all, there needs to be an equal educational system is where poverty is truly rooted:

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326 Our educational system is not doing the job at all. There are studies to suggest that funding doe having equal educational funding would make a difference. Having quality teachers makes a difference. Funding the schools, making sure there are good safe buildings, a competent staff, seeing if th ey know how to ay have a lot going on at home. answer s equal educational access alone. She also fails to identify how fixi ng the school system, which empirical research suggests is not the primary cause of poverty, would fix the social problem of poverty itself. answers to poverty and inequality related questions were a bit vague, and could be interpreted a s structural and/or individualistic. I tended to interpret her answers as individualistic, but not completely. Amanda believes that the U.S. is a meritocracy where people occupy certain social positions based upon their y the U.S. is a meritocracy. It is mostly a families pass resources and opportunities throughout the generations to ensure success or failure. This answer could be constr ued as structural or individualistic, depending upon why she believes this influences social position: at least, I was born into a family that was very comfortable and I was very a lot of money, and their opportunities are not extensive as say my tric kling down throughout families. Aman da believes that the answer to addressing poverty is through education. She

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327 preventative level answer, given that she is suggesting we prevent the financial consequences that people who lose out in the economic game suffer; her answer makes no mention of fixing that game to ensure more winners is the biggest thing that gives p eople an adequate education for everybody. She says equa competitive socie ty and excluding other factors that prevent a level playing field. The Rare Structurally Oriented Worldview The majority of student worldviews were individualistically oriented, while the rest where either dominated by Culture of Poverty assumptions or h ad no clear dominant perspective. Out of the 25 students that I spoke with, there was one student who had a worldview clearly dominated by the social structuralism perspective. In our discussions of poverty, Jana Tanner a oriented (in my estimation she had the most thoroughly structural worldview of the participants in this study). She comes from a European country that has a more extensive social safety net than the U.S. a nd whose cultural assumptions about social problems justify the need for such an expansive social welfare system; in addition to this cultural influence, she was raised by parents who seemed to be even more leftist and structurally oriented than much of th e population of socialist. He is a party leader in the Socialist party and so we were always pro union, pro social elative to people

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328 I think it is so sad in the United States that people here think that poor people don't deserve social welfare. I just don't understand this meanness against poor people. It is not like they want to be poor. And so I think that is another big push for me, I just think that this country really needs as many voices for the poor people as possible. It has a lot to do with my upbringing and seeing it fr om a different perspective, too. Coming from a country that has a huge social welfare network. She says that in her country in Europe, there is little stigma attached to the word ust due to thing that we think of when we think of Russia. I think it is a democracy built on social welfare and social well iew, and says she chose social work because of the perceived similarity between her worldview and the theoretical orientation of the field: This [social work] actually suits me better [than other fields] because it is a more inclusive profession because w e are looking at all of the systems. You know in social work programs what we are learning is the whole systems perspective. I am not just looking at the person, I am looking at the person because that person is like a spider web, right? It is like the center of the spider web and it touches all these different things within his or her environment. Which, if you have an issue you cannot just fix the person you actually have to fix all of the threads that connect that person. [If] you are not tra ined in that perspective [systems/structural] or have erson. It is a situational fix. inequality: I think the main problem is inequality. That can be anything from racial inequality to gender inequality. I think if you look at the power structure of who is not poor you will notice it is white males from a Christian background. Then you loo k at the people who are most likely to be poor, which is a colored women, and that explains the whole thing. The way we have our pay structure, the way we have our childcare structure. I think that's inequalities, the main reason. It is built into society. A lot of the problems we deal with in social work are related to poverty in some way. It is either the cause or it is the reason or the symptom of it, you know.

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329 When I asked Jana to tell me the best way to address the problem of poverty, she cited reforming welfare rather than the bigger structural issues that she cited so many times in our conversation. She believes that the U.S. welfare system is the ultimate answer to think the [social considering how strongly she felt about macro level issues such as gender and racial inequalities. She did argue the need for a higher quantity of affordable housing units for income section believes that policy makers should calculate the number of individuals who need lower y should have to be set aside for low

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330 CHAPTER 6 SYMBOLIC STRUGGLES In chapter five I discussed the overarching explanations that the study participants utilized to help explain the existence of poverty and inequality in the U.S In that di scussion, I explained how (a) individualistically oriented worldviews were the most common worldview, and how (b) individualism was a major part of the remaining worldviews. In this chapter, I will discuss more narrowly focused themes from within these wor ldviews that emerged from the data. These themes cover a wide variety of poverty and welfare related topics and help to further support and understand the mostly on the them es/justifications that support the dominant perspective of individualism, as well as other themes that emerged from the data. The U.S. is a Meritocracy Most of the students I spoke with believed that the U.S. was a meritocracy. I asked all of the student s the following question: Do you believe the U.S. is a meritocracy where income, wealth, and social class position are mostly determined by individual characteristics such as how hard we work and whether or not we make smart choices? Do you believe this t o be true or false for most Americans ? the U.S. is a meritocracy, where indivi dual characteristics determine our social class position, was the dominant sentiment among the students that I spoke with, and helped to explain the dominance of individualistic orientations (discussed in chapter 5). There were of course a significant numb er of students (32%) who disagreed with the notion of

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331 I disagree. I mean the institutional and systemic racism, sexism, poverty, etc. All of the things that I have talked abo that are capable, that are ambitious, that have all the qualities you would ks that are really beyond their, you know, just simply ability to get past, you know? And it gets very discouraging. Despite this minority viewpoint, the dominant pattern in the data supported the notion of the U.S. as a meritocracy. meritocracy comes from his strong individualistically solid proof. For Ashley, the fact that upward mobility is possible for some is proof it is possible for all: I see my father and his life as a perfect example. I think all of my family gets very frustrated when people say that you can never rise out of poverty. Seeing my dad really work from the bottom up, I know it is possible. We went from poverty to the uppe r class in one generation. I think there is a lot to be said about working hard and being able to achieve success. Isabel also used her experience and relative success as proof of a meritocracy, saying, pretty much, I mean I am not successful yet, I still have a ways to go [but believes she will succeed]. But if you have motivated inevitably succeed, and the (perceived) un limited opportunities present in the U.S. ensure that hard work will be rewarded. In support of this belief she explained,

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332 Natalia also believes that the U.S. has unlimit husband, he told me that nobody outside o a very wealthy area, one of the wealthiest in the nation, and her awareness of her privilege seemed to lead her to question her beliefs on some level during our interview. She struggled to find an explanation for the inequality she hears about elsewhere but in the end stuck to her belief in a meritocracy. Jenny said she does not support the idea that the U.S. is a meritocracy, but it is clear that believes in half of the premise of my question (she rejected the idea that our social class position is based on hard work, but does believe that social position is the result of smart choices). Jenny explained: I understand that peop le do work hard and no matter how hard they work they can't get out of their set level because they are putting their effort in the wrong things. If you put effort into working at a fast food restaurant in order to make money instead of going to school at the same time to pursue higher education and get a degree that is putti ng effort into the wrong place. A particularly strong theme in the ethnographic record was the belief among BSW students that all individuals are completel change their lives. One of the reasons that so many students were more interested in the plight of children than the plight of adults is because they felt sorry that the children

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333 are caught in situations that they did not choose, unlike adults. Children are victims of a better life for themselves. There was a strong sentiment that in the U.S. our level of legal freedom translated int o freedom from social forces and any possible constraints of the social structure. This was not always the case in all of the interviews, as there were a few exceptions. Jana, for instance, rejects this logic: I n social work programs what we are learning i s the whole systems perspective. I f you are a caseworker and you are not trained in that perspective or have never heard of that perspective, you want to fix the fix. And that is probably why there is more burnout, because if you fix the fixed anything for that person. I am not just looking at the person, I am looking at the person because that person is like a spider web, right? It is like the center of the spider web and it touches all these different things within his or her environment. Which, if you have an issue you cannot just fix the person you actually have to fix all of the th reads that connect that person. While Jana is clearly an exa mple of the fact that not every BSW student ignored the role of social forces in the lives of both children and adults, Jana was in the minority. My conversations with Olivia provide some of the best examples of this perceived notion that people can overc ome almost anything by making the right choices. In this particular conversation she was discussing some of the root causes of poverty in the U.S.:

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334 I believe we attach these stigmas and that is very structural, but I also agree with individualism a lot, the individualism viewpoint. I understand the system has been very unfair to you, I agree with that and that is why I agree with structuralism the most. The system has been unfair, it has put you in this place, but you are still a person. There is still th e personal responsibility factor. And while all these things maybe are against you, if you give into the system it is your choice. I understand that I have never been in that position, so it is a lot easier said than done. Somebody very close to me, his da d is a cabdriver and his mom has a similar low income job. But they are putting him through college. I am a firm believer that it is about the decisions that you make. giving in to the system is a personal decision. Olivia acknowledges that poverty an d welfare need may be the result of bad luck, being chances, she goes on to say that if you fail it is still your fault; it is up to you to make the supporting welfare as long as people change their behavior, and the belief of her and her family that they were never given anything: People should get welfare as long as they're making a change in behavior. I am from a middle class family. My family did not receive any government assistance. My parents did not receive any assistance on my FAFSA, they pay for everything out of state for me. I am graduating without any college debt and I really appreciate my parents for doing that. It is amazing. I think it is unfair to ask people to give up money that they have earned. Why do I have to give that to everybod y else? I agree that is unfair especially if that person is not making an effort to change. I also think a lot of times there is a misconception that people are not making an effort to change when they are. as long as it is proven in the long run that you're making that change. After so many times though, I hate to say that, but if you are not making an effort to change do you really deserve to receive this assistance? Because you don't seem to be appreciating or using it and really feeling like it is h elping you. So I agree philosophically as long as it is structured the right way and people are making changes in their lives. Olivia and her family strongly believe that they are individuals unaided by the social structure, surviving and thriving in the world because of the individual level decisions

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335 that they have made; given this and given their upward mobility, they do not see any reason why everyone else cannot simply follow their lead. When I asked Olivia about possibly having to use welfare at some point in her life, she reported that it would hurt her pride deeply: Yes [it would hurt my pride], because I have never had to before. I think it would hurt my pride for me to have to go into an office and say I need the government to do this for me. Esp ecially because I am a very driven person, so that would also come with the sense that I had failed in some way. So I think it would really hurt my pride. Me receiving that help from doi ng enough. Because I would be doing everything in my po wer to get off of that welfare. Olivia believes she has remarkable drive and self determination, so if she somehow failed and had to turn to welfare, it would be an indictment of this notion. She also firmly do everything in her power to leave welfare behind as quickly as possible. if you work hard, and if y ou make the right choices, you can actually no matter how society throws at you, you certain people are just not smart enough to make the right choices, ignoring how the e ffectiveness of choices and availability of particular choices might both be constrained by structural conditions:

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336 have not had an opportunity to learn mily right choice. Probably if they genetically they exposed in that way, t help themselves. They reason i s that they just not motivated. She believes that outreach into the community is the best way to solve poverty because people will not help themselve self children were a choice and the fact that poor women should not (a) make the choice to be in poverty or (b) make the Allison was talking to me one day about how using welfare would hurt her pride were helpless. Allison did not seem to be using this criticism on other people, instead revealing a deep ly internalized belief that people who are not economically successful have failed in some way to help themselves. Terra believes that social workers should teach welfare recipients to help themselves. She believes social work is an individual oriented fi eld because: We practice self determination meaning you get out of life what you give. We are taught to think more like not to think poverty. Sort of helping individuals fix their probl ems, do for themselves.

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337 Terra believes that contemporary Americans have it a lot easier than in the past, and because of this, there should not be as many excuses for not achieving educational and economic success: with excuse if you want to go, you can go now. For Terra, economic capital was all that mattered, ignoring the critical roles of cultural and social capital, as well as in the influence of the intergenerational t ransmission of poverty, firmly focusing on pathological patterns of poverty in families rather than any structural considerations: I would say yes for drug testing. anything above marijuana then they should the children should be They could be helped and then we have a vicious cycle of then those ch addicts, so if you can break that cycle and intervene, then pe rhaps they Corinne talked about her path to social work and how she was motivated in part by wantin you get to get in there [in social work] and get your hands dirty with the participants, or help revealed how social workers in the field also focus on individuals, while also reinforcing her own focus on individuals:

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338 I decided to do my internship [with a social servi ces agency], and I was really disappointed in that experience. So many of the social workers were just burnt out, and they were just they had very little compassion or empathy for the people they were serving. The children a little but mostly the parents. disgusting. But not just like, how can we fix this, or what can we do to help them [be] better? A particularly interesting part of that quote was when she said that the social workers had very little empathy for the people they were serving, the adults in particular. This was a common thread in the e thnographic record, this notion that while children were victims of social forces, adults were not. In ignoring the strong role that social forces play in the lives of adults both as adults and also their entire lives up to that point, it helped to explain why so many of my participants were individualistically oriented. In another conversation about poverty, Corinne (while equating poverty with social structures: At least with my experience with the homeless population, like, the father is homeless, has very little education and is homeless, and therefore his children have become homeless, and they have children. So they are sort any different. A lot of it is they She went further to talk about how to address poverty: I think educating the family, because I think you can do all you want to with children, but if they go home every night and are in this situation, to like the foster care thing, if think that would b e where we would need to start.

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339 Given he r previous explanations of poverty, it was not much of a surprise that the Culture of Poverty perspective was particularly attractive to her: I would definitely say Culture of Poverty [explains poverty] for sure, that is a clear ecause yes, your choices determine choices, so I would say the least all totally tie together, but Culture o f Poverty for sure number one. When discussing family caps Corinne believed that (a) having children is always a choice, and (b) poor women should not have such a choice. She supported family caps escape p overty, then they should not have children; the only logical explanation is birth control. Melanie and I had a discussion about welfare and whether she agreed with the basic arguments in support of welfare. She agreed, and in agreeing, revealed her though ts on poverty: Yes [she agrees philosophically]. I would use it if I had to for a short period of time. I believe that it is there to help people get off of their feet so that they can support themselves on their own either again or for the first time. I w term when I was married to a healthy person and I was a healthy person, and I could eventually support myself. I wa comfortable being on it any longer than I had to I think I would feel guilt that somebody else prob ably needed it more than I did. Melanie believes that there is something inherently wrong with welfare use, espec ially long term welfare use, because it signals that you are failing to help yourself. I asked her if she felt any stigma when she had to use welfare as a teenage mother:

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340 that it using it for stuff for myself. Her answer revealed her feelings that welfare is not normal (and that somehow poverty only on necessities. In talking to her I felt this was both defensiveness against perceived criticism she might receive for using welfare as well as her own belief that she was not Noreen and I had a long discussion about what she believes the answer is in terms of addressin g poverty. She believes that everybody should receive equal access to education and that educational funding should be equalized. Once that happens, she believes, there is no need to focus on social forces anymore that might contribute to inequality; educa tion is all you need to address, and after that, we are all on our own. She also ignores how equal access to education might not address social forces that fail to prepare everybody equally for that education: not a socialist, but a more equal distribution of education funds [is the key]. Everybody is to some extent responsible for their own personal success. Let me put it to you this way: education being equal, if every single person has the same access to the same quality education, if the science classes in the schools in the inner city are the exact same science classes with the exact same equipment and textbooks and teacher qualifications, you know, as we have here in the suburbs where there is a bunch of mo onsible for making our own way. Being politically Obama/Biden campaign shirt during out interview), having had more (perceived) life

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341 the complex explanations for social problems were all influential, salient parts of revealed a rather underdeveloped theoretical and empirical understanding of the many explanations for social differences. Noreen supported family caps because to her children are a choice and poor whatever reason, in a position to even maintain yourself and what you have then you the answer for poor women is birth control. She went so far as to suggest putting the children born into poverty into foster care until the parents had more economic success, Peter believes a big explanation for poverty is in the motivations that individuals have to be successful. He explained the stereotypes that he used to believe about the Hispanic/Latino population in the U.S., and how these stereotypes were reinforced by person al experience with Hispanic/Latino friends:

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342 I used to live in a place with a big Hispanic population and I used to speculate on illegal immigration and people who stand outside Wal Mart looking for under the now, the being in the shelter and b eing a social worker and having all these perspectives and theories brought to light, it has changed my views on a lot of th ings. I used to walk around [the city] and you see all the homeless ember when So to know more, o the plight of people in need. Peter is individualistically oriented to a significant extent. He remembers always having such a worldview, shaped by his life experiences, and does not believe the BSW program can change th program] has changed my views that much. A lot of the views I have are from being in perspective, but he is individualism):

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343 my parents at all. I moved out when I started community college and had my own apartment. I worked three jobs to try to pay for everything and that ut. I went into the [U. S. Armed Forces] so I could pay for way I of my military training. And sometimes I hear people talk about stuff in people do this, I want to he of people [BSW students] eaten out of dumpsters, and when you have been through those things, you were t he lowest of the low and then you go through the ranks, you get promoted, by the time you reach management position, you are the best at everything because y When discussing poverty, he stated that people are poor not becaus e opportunities do advantage of realistic opportunities that do exist. He said that people overlook the jobs not pay wages that they Everyone wants that one job that pays more than enough to live off of so job at McDo nd a job is better than no job. a living wage, rather than any possible unju st distribution of this bur den. He used his experiences as a child in Asia to drive home this point:

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344 When I was growing up in [Asia] if you converted the currency, people screen TV. evening, and we bought food and we cooked it fresh. We had no centralized heating. I remember as a kid my job was to go down stairs and lives in a rundow they always want more. Also I personally think, what keeps the perpetual If You Give a Mouse a Cookie you give someone one thing and they ey have to have more. Peter believes that the availabilit y of a minimum standard of living to many people in the U.S. (a minimum standard that is enviable in many parts of the world) is proof that society is organized in a socially just manner, failing to address the possible unjust distribution of positions in the social hierarchy. Peter assumes that everybody is responsible for their own success or failure; and in assuming this, he considers it a great privilege to live in a country that affords this standard of living to people that may not have earned it. Pe ter believes the answer to poverty is to have educational institutions work hand in hand with private corporations so that people train specifically for the skills needed for jobs available at the moment. Peter believes that welfare has too many loopholes unemployment benefits. Peter believes opportunities exist for all who want them, and those who rely on welfare for too long do so out of an individual rather than structural

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345 failing. Discussing people who use welfare for an extended period of time, Peter says, Ashley discussed her internship e xperience and how it opened her ideas to some of the non individual level explanations of poverty. What was interesting about this is that this happened only because she saw middle class people experiencing poverty due to the most recent economic downturn (and made me question whether her eyes would Now that I have seen that [her internship experiences], I wish people ys correct. I definitely came into the situation feeling that homeless people were there through matters of their own doing, that they were drug outreach, you find, especially in this economy, that a lot of people were making six figures and it all fell apart. Especially this one family I was working with. Both the husband and the wife together were making a wonderful amount of money, upper middle class, if not upper class. They bo th lost their jobs, and it was a lot of self determination and hard work that got them to where they ended up being, which is employed again. Her answer did not address her feelings about the people who were poor and/or homeless and not recently middle cl ass. Her answer also revealed how she was sort of them escape their circumstances, speaking to the strong belief in individualism and self nd family identity: I think if you look at my religious views of self reliance and self sufficiency, they go hand in hand [with her beliefs about poverty and inequality]. We believe very strongly that you should be self sufficient, that you need to depend somebody else to bail you out. Ashley and her family are such strong believers in self sufficiency, hard work, and the idea that life is a meritocracy because of their own upward mobility:

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346 It [the U.S.] is absolutely a meritocracy. I see my father and his life as a perfect example. I think all of my family gets very frustrated when people say that you can never rise out of poverty. Seeing my dad really work from the bottom up I know it is possible. We went from povert y to the upper class in one generation. I think there is a lot to be said about working hard and being able to achieve success. Ashley believes that education is the key to addressing poverty because it can help individuals be self sufficient, the primary education you can prevent a lot of problems that come down the line with people as wants to grab them, so long term welfare use is a sign of personal failing to her. She explained: I have friends that have been in situations where they have sought welfare. But I think the key difference is [if she were to use welfare] I would not depend upon it in a long term situation. I would receiving welfare would be to get off of it, not depend on it forever. She said that she would be ashamed to use welfare in the affluent area where she lives, bu her beliefs that much of welfare use is largely unjustified. Jenny does not believe that economic success can come to everybody by effort alone. Her parents believe this strongly, however, and attempted to impart this re poor when they came to the U.S. and experienced rapid, significant upward mobility in a very short period of time. On the surface, it appears (at least anecdotally) that their ideas about hard work and economic success are true. What is interesting, how ever, is that the Phans (her parents) arrived in

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347 the U.S. with little money but many other important resources. While they did not have much economic capital, they had cultural capital (highly educated in Asia ), social capital (socially important in Asia a same culture social network upon arriving), and all of the informal knowledge that comes along with having been wealthy and prestigious in Asia In feeling that hard work is always rewarded, overlooked many of the contributing factors, along with hard work, that likely helped them achieve success in the U.S. Jenny notes that: My parents believe that poor people can just get up, get out, and get a job. Because that is how they got their jobs a nd how they got their success. But I know that you can put as much effort and as much hard work into it and things might not work out well. I think most Americans would agree with my parents. I think most people that disagree with me disagree because their ideas about laziness and lack of motivation among the poor. Some of them are indeed lazy. success comes through hard w ork alone, she does believe that was the case for her parents. She says that poverty is solved by getting a job, like her parents, and ignores any possible non merit resources or events that might have contributed along the way for the Phans. Tom rejected psychology and psychiatry as college majors because he did not want to hear people complaining about problems that they should be able to solve themselves, saying: need help, if you I would never go seek help because you should be able to Not only does Tom believe that people can solve problems largely on their own, but he believes this for himself as well. Tom is fro m a privileged background so it is no doubt

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348 true that he likely has many opportunities and resources to solve many problems that arise in his life without much direct assistance, but this discussion of his own privilege never happened. In a later conversat ion Tom and I discussed poverty, and Tom immediately cited the family as the cause of problem, ignoring any possible relationship between families and social structures: One answer that comes to mind immediately as the root cause is family. Before I ta lked about the cycle of poverty a bit, so if a family member can see outside themselves and their current situation they have the opportunity to change the dynamic of the family si tuation. ee outside of and if it would hurt his sense of pride to use it, which he responded: Like pulling out food stamps and an EBT card at the grocery store in front of other peo ple, my ego would just be shot. I feel like a reasonably intelligent individual, so if I got to that place I am sure I would be really depressed. Depressed to an extreme, and just embarrassed and disappointed. And so all of that would factor in to my abili ty to function, ust what I could see happening. Tom believes that people are responsible for their own success of failure, so it makes sense that he would talk about embarrassment and depression given that self sufficiency is such a big part of his personal identity and economic worldview. When I asked Natalia why she believes poverty exists, she surprisingly said that she has never really thought about the topic much, and that it is only addressed infrequ instant gratification:

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349 I haven't really thought about this question a lot. It does pop up in class sometimes but not so much in my free time. I get the feeling that a lot of Americans have the big dreams, they want the big house, the big cars, and I think a lot of people want whatever they want here and now. They don't always think of, well what if something happens? I don't think that they think ahead. I am also one of those people, but again I think finances. Like, instant gratification. I think it is an American thing like uniquely American. For Natalia, her own sense of pride would only allow her to turn to welfare as a last resort, even saying that she would have to spend some time in homelessness first: I would not feel comfortable. To me I feel that I am too proud to accept welfare. It would have to be a very, very, very, very last resort. I would probably go to the streets for a little bit befo re even thinking about welfare. She said that she would hate herself for turning to welfare and not trying everything that to choose welfare and it was the absolutely last resort a part of me would still say no. A part of that I could bring myself to go onto welfare. I would feel like I am weak, helpless. And I have felt helpless and een in that helpless child phase where I, even when I was put in with a family I still felt is a part of me that would hate myself becaus e I have already been helpless. Fo r Natalia, having to resort to welfare makes her feel like a helpless child. My conversations with Natalia were interesting, and the imagery that she used to talk about her own identity and sense of pride were very colorful. It was no surprise that, given her structural arguments concerning welfare need:

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350 I think welfare should kind of get them on their feet, provide them with enough resources, and then kind of push th em off. Because I also feel that a lot of people get dependent on it. If you really want to get off welfare, then you will make yourself get off welfare. If you let somebody continue to tle feeding into the system. Let the people go on welfare, but if somebody abuses it, then have repercussions. If there is a mom who is on welfare, and starves her kids but buys a car or nice things, go talk to her. Go make an example of her. I am not trying to be mean about it, but I just think th at that would be the more fair way of doing it. Natalia clearly believed that poverty was the result of bad luck and temporarily difficult circumstances, but any long term poverty and welfare need was a sign of individual failing and dependency. Deservin g C hildren, U ndeserving A dults There was a significant pattern in the ethnographic record of BSW students believing that choices alone could overcome social forces and structural constraints. Because of this belief, many of the respondents either explicit ly or implicitly signaled that they cared more about and/or sympathized to a greater extent with poor children result of their choices, while adults where responsible for their poverty 18 There was little discussion of (a) the adults that these poor children would become, (b) the way that childhood experiences stick with us and influence us throughout our lives, or (c) the continuing influence of social forces throughout ou r lives. On multiple occasions I 18 Adults were either responsible for their poverty because (a) they made choices which initially resulted not h ave initially been their fault. The participants tended to believe that poverty could be overcome, even if not initially the fault of the individual, by individual choices alone. In this way the participants believed that individuals are free from social f orces.

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351 participants assumed individuals were largely free from cur rent and past social forces once they reached adulthood 19 Many of the BSW students singled out children in particular for their concern and sympathy and either explicitly or implicitly excluded adults. Allison originally wanted to work with children an d now wants to work with either children or teenagers. She does not explicitly say it, but I sensed that she wanted to work with children because she believed she could make changes in children more than adults: en, but probably adolescents I think b critical point in their lives. You can have a big impact on them. working with them so that blems, to try to resolve them. Peter o riginally wanted to be a teacher before finding social work. During his senior year of high school he worked in a daycare center and his positive experiences confirmed at be a teacher: 19 made based upon the intersection of field observations and implicit messages contained in the interviews. I truly believe that many of the r Unfortunately, I did not make this connection in my analysis until after I had left the field and never had the chance to develop a formal interview question to explore this in greater detail. Because of this, I am left to speculate about this connection here and I am left to make claims for which I wish I had stronger support.

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352 After coming out of the military I thought about the teaching thing. And what I realized was that as a teacher, you get to see the students for the d uration of the school day. But ultimately you have only one year. You to l eave a bigger impact than that. The bigger impact that Peter is referring to is to be able to fix deficiencies in people, a task he does not believe can be achieved in only one year. He believes professionals that spend more time with people, such as from underprivileged backgroun ds, saying that providing therapy to such children would working with children, saying, games with them, working with them. Still to this day I love running around and playing that are more difficul t to make with adults. She remembers babysitting when she was younger and has worked for many years at a summer camp in her hometown. Nancy, unlike many of the participants in this study, wants to pursue a career in Child Protective Services (CPS), saying, Services. I guess I want to do case management and work with the families, set them all where she can h elp people and thought about going into the nonprofit sector. Her personal experiences pushed her towards social work, however, with a focus on children, saying:

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353 have been babysittin g ever since I was probably way too young to be babysitting, like sixth and seventh grade. I just love kids and that was a big factor in becoming a social worker, too. is where she can make the biggest impact to ensure that they grow to be successful how the rest your life is going to work out. I mean they cannot do it for them selves, affect serious change. Competition over Equality One of the strongest themes in the ethnographic record was the notion that the BSW students took the s ocial structure for granted. When discussing social problems, it was largely assumed that the general rules of social organization in the U.S. were desirable and/or unchangeable, such as: the organization of a capitalist economy, the organization of work, the manner in which resources are distributed, etc. Social problems were largely discussed within the context of the current social structure, discussing ways to address social problems after they happen rather than organizing society in a manner that prev ents social problems in the first place. One of the strongest examples of this was the attention that students gave to education. For most of the BSW students that I spoke with, education is the primary method for addressing poverty. The students largely f elt that education is a way to prevent individual level within students when they are young, then we can assure that they will not be poor and/or contribute to soci etal problems when they are older. This of course assumes that

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354 makes no mention of whether we can change the social structure and if such changes might be a socially just method of attacking these social problem s There was nothing inherently wrong with this individual level and competition centered approach, but most of the discussions left out the role that the social structure plays in the first place. Why are these personal characteristics of marginalized people considered deficient? Why do an individual level problem, how do we explain the significant unequal distribution of poverty and inequality across racial lines? What is justifiable about the rewards attached to certain personal characteristics? Why is it assumed that we must operate within the current social structure? 20 Who ional and economic competitions, and how do we know that the rules of these competitions are socially just? Most of the students who spoke about boosting the skills of poor in the educational competition are forced to live with the consequences: low wages, little to no benefits, insecurity, etc. These answers took institutionalized competition for granted; students assumed that this competition was desirable and that soc iety either could not or should not entitle all citizens to a decent quality of life despite their personal characteristics. This assumption seemed to be why so many students focused on education as the answer to poverty. In giving these educationally cent ered answers, 20 I was particularly puzzled that students had such a hard time thinking outside of the current social structure in ou r interviews. It is somewhat understandable once these students become social workers in the field that they will look to fix problems from within the current social structure; after all, the real power that they will have in the field will be in empowerin g individuals to navigate the real world as best as possible, not in making major changes to macro level structures. But in our interviews they were free to as they pleased, yet most still chose to talk about society as is rather than as they thought it ought to be.

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355 students also ignored non educationally centered social forces that play a significant I asked all of the students that I interviewed (a) what they believed the root causes of poverty are and (b) how they might addres s them through either governmental or non governmental means. A common theme in their responses about poverty solutions was enhancing competition rather than ensuring equitable distribution of resources: competition over equality. There was a strong belief that if we simply increase the credentials of all people (through education, job training, etc.), then poverty and inequality would disappear. There was very little discussion of ensuring that the social structure ensured some level of equality, but mostl y a focus on giving everybody probably value the idea that everybody should be as educated as possible, it does leave one wondering whether that alone would cure poverty a nd inequality. Sarah believes that education is a way to mitigate the impact of genetic flaws in individuals on their life chances and also a means of battling the deviant poverty n to help might be genetically transferred across generations, and that education might be a way certain consequences in the first place.

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356 Corinne believes educating the entire family is a way to battle the deviant subcultural values of the poor and a way to help poor people understand how to make you can do all you want to with children, but if financial success. Melanie believes that it is the moral obligation of those with resources (the m iddle and upper classes) to help those without resources. She also believes that those who are successful should educate the less successful in how to make decisions [the answer to addressing poverty] education of those who can help and edu If those who need help really understood fully what they were capable of, what kind of opportunities there were out there for improving their lives, the n I thi nk they ung will prevent omethin term, something that we put money in Ash ley and Noreen both believe that education is the best way to address poverty and both assume that equality of educational opportunity would ensure less

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357 lived they would have equal opportunities to education. Education would be an equal playing field for all. I think with education you can prevent a lot of problems that come method of combat education, certain groups of people will not have the skills to join the middle and/or upper class(es). educational op portunities were to be equalized then there would be no excuse for those who failed financially. Noreen explained this notion further: Let me put it to you this way. Education being equal, if every single person has the same access to the same quality educ ation, if the science classes in the schools in the inner city are the exact same science classes with the exact same equipment and textbooks and teacher qualifications, you know, as we have here in the suburbs where there is a bunch of money, onsible for making our own way. resources and social positions are taken for granted; it is assumed that in order to fix social problems, people have to be fixed, not structures and institutions. Ashley and Noreen believe that (a) everybody is ultimately responsible for their own success or failure, (b) competition is desirable and inequality is a justifiable outcome of comp etition, (c) equality of educational opportunity assures that all other social forces (social

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358 success or failure, and (d) education prevents people from harming themselve s, financially or otherwise, as adults. Peter believes that competition is desirable and that education is the key to combating poverty. He takes the social structure for granted to such an extent that he believes people should only be educated to match t he exact needs of businesses in the economy at the moment. There was no discussion of (a) whether this was socially just, (b) whether businesses should be given this power, (c) whether this was short sighted, or (d) all of the social forces that might prev ent people from participating in his college based system 21 He explained his answer to addressing poverty: I think having those [education business partnership] programs where you work with companies and I guess you kind of cater the curriculum of those pr manufacturing company that needs workers. So that way the client has to commit to the program. But by committing, your chances of getting that job is substantially higher than giving you a generalized program where you take it and then you have to go apply for a job. And I just think the criteria in which you admit people into those programs will be stricter. But the thing is the turnaround rate, in my opinion, would be higher because working hand in hand with the people who actually want the jobs. businesslike. You can almost guarantee this company that these people in these programs, we have them catered to what you needs. So as soon as as the answer to poverty. Amanda explicitly acknowledges that success in the social structure is the result of competition and the 21 When analyzing the data after I left the field I was struck by how many students believed that access to college (affordability of tuition, student loans, etc.) meant students could go to college. This assu mption ignored whether students were ready for college academically or intellectually. Had I discovered this while answer to how to cure poverty c entered on those ready for and enrolled in college. How this would combat poverty for the poor who are likely not as successful in getting into college and in doing well once they are there relative to the middle and upper class was left unaddressed.

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359 fact that some people have an advantage over others; rather than addressing this social advantage in a manner that ensures m ore equitable outcomes, she suggests keeping make sure everybody gets adequate education, and then further education into college should be available to people even if the y cannot afford it. You know, equal access to once they have the financial means t o attend. Nancy believes that growing up in a poor family prevents people from acquiring the educational resources that they need. Excluded from her answer was the possibility that resources might be delivered in a manner other than educational attainment. She level ganized differently to change this and/or (b) why she focuses specifically on the labor market as a means for resource distribution; she instead reinforces this notion of educational and in this little bubble and if it is a bubble in a poor neighborhood that is all you know. That is all you overned by already existing structural constraints. She gave a similar answer to a question about work wage labor market in this compet ition.

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360 Isabel supports the DREAM Act as a means to combat poverty, lamenting the dearth of opportunities available to many immigrant children after high school. Her answer does not frame this lack of opportunities as problematic, only the personal charac teristics of those unable to grasp these opportunities. Discussing poor opportunities after they graduate from school. I think it is just creating more poverty and creating a income immigrants, she soc iety might mitigate the effects of unequal educational credentials. Framing poverty as a social problem that has to be addressed within the current structural framework, mo to prison qual playing field for people to make something of poverty and inequality, ignoring the substantial amount of empirical evidence to the contrary (research that she actually seems to be aware of). She said of these studies, an the current social structure answer aimed at preparing children to encounter the world

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361 as it is rather than adjusting the social structure to respond to the needs of the population as they are. Like so amount of research suggesting many children may not be ready to succeed in schools even if presented with equal educational opportunities, or the possibility of decoupling financial success from educational credentials. He also relies on the school funding zip code that tells you a lot about how many tax dollars are being spent on your education, I think equalizing that Karen, Jenny, and Allison signaled that they believe d competition and the inequality that results is inevitable. Karen believes that all human beings are genetically predisposed to be competitive, and does not believe that society can do much to address the consequences of this competition. She believes tha t it is the moral obligation of those with resources to help those with little resources, but suggests that most inequality is just a natural, inevitable result of competition. Of poverty and inequality, Karen said: I think it's just the nature of mankind It stems from competition, logically it makes sense that there will always be somebody at the bottom. If you look at history there have always been poor pe ople. Karen never identified any possible ways in which society might be organized to mitigate th

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362 used her religious views as support for this assertion. Jenny said that, based on her Bu Allison are always people that need to fill certain jobs where bably not going to get ards was left unaddressed. Setting Themselves Apart nuanced knowledge of social proble ms compared to the rest of American society. For most of the students that I spoke with, they found it important to tell me how they differed from most Americans in terms of their political ideology, awareness and knowledge of social problems, compassion f or populations in need of assistance, and overall worldview. Most of the students explained multiple times in the interview how part of their identities as people and as social workers They also tended to explain in multiple answers how they were more aware of social problems and had more accurate knowledge about these social problems than their fellow citizens. Most of the students that I spoke with explained at l ength how they were more compassionate about populations in need than the average American, something that led them to the study of social work (and it was this perceived moral superiority that drove much of their willingness to help instead of a nuanced a cademic understanding of social problems,

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363 was taking place in most of the interviews was never starker than when the students explicitly talked about what they beli eved to be flawed American knowledge of and cultural beliefs/values related to social problems. Allison gave a typical explanation of American culture, saying that most on to explain further: I think Americans tend to think of poverty as something that is more o f an issue with individualism. People the country that values har d work a lot, see the results. If you work in a lot of cases, you see people driving nice cars and t his and that, because they put in a lot of hard work, went through all t hat student debt and all that. Maybe they might not agree with me as much. issues among most Americans be cause she says she had similarly undeveloped ideas about social problems before college: I would say the majority of them [Americans] are probably as ignorant, as intentionally ignorant as I was before I studied social work. I think a lot of people just ki nd of put it out of sight, out of mind. Most people I know it themselves. Noreen says Americans tend to see the circumstances that poor people find American politics focus too much on poor people and personal accountability and that

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364 Jana, who comes from a democratic socialist family and a much more structurally oriented European culture with an expansive social welfare state, says of American culture: I think it is so sad in the United States that people here think that poor peo ple don't deserve social welfare. I just don't understand this meanness against poor people. It is not like they want to be poor. And so I think that is another big push for me, I just think that this country really needs as many voices for the poor pe ople as possible. I am shocked. It has a lot to do with my upbringing and seeing it fro m a different perspective, too. believes that every human being is entitled to a decent standard of living. Of universal Everybody should be able to take a sick kid to the doctor and have the doctor make the kid better without being called an abuser of the system or a freeloader or whatever. I just get very irate Presidential campaign and the popular rhetoric used at the time by some that framed government aid as a transfer of meritocratically earned money from the rightful earners to undeserving recipients rather than a m eans of addressing structural imbalances, she says: and Ryan talk about. I just think how dare you tell other people that they're freeloaders. It is never a choice to be poor a nd be a freeloader. I'm pretty sure if you ask any person who is poor and on public assistance, if you ask them if they would rather have a job or stand in line at the food bank. It is sickening. ng view is that if you studies have helped him to understand the flaws in this view and gain a more nuanced I study and learn is that

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365 there are so many other factors that go into it. It is not just that they are not trying, it could be that that is just the situation. Maybe it is institutionalized racism, maybe you specifically if he differs from the average so many of his colleagues, it was crit ically important that he differentiate himself from the rest of the population in the identity that he wanted to project to me. For most of the students I spoke with, this was an important part of their identities as people and as social workers. Jenny believes she has a more accurate and more compassionate view of social problems than most Americans, saying: people can just get up, get out, and get a job. Because that is how they got their jobs and how they got their success. But I know that you can put as much effort and as much hard work into it and things might not work out well. I think most Americans would agree with my parents. I think most people that disagree with me disagree because their ideas about laziness and lack of motivation among the poor. I mean sometimes it is Some of them are indeed lazy. ght into not only the individualistic nature of American culture, but also the manner in which this is inculcated into our worldviews through socialization in families. When I asked Amanda if the average American citizen would agree with her thoughts on p

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366 success as l disagrees with. p eople think that poor people have poor values, poor morals, make bad decisions, etc., had to turn to welfare she believes it should not hurt her pride based on her be liefs but that it probably would because of the judgment of her fellow citizens based on their but still society's view on welfare is negative. It would not hurt my prid e or my sense of self, but the judgment from other people would be hurtful. I would definitely be aware based on negative cultural judgments of the poor, and rejects we lfare drug tests poor. Marena commented not only on the problematic nature of American individualism, but believes that it plays a critical role in the existence of po verty in the be poor and it's your responsibility to make something of yourself. That's what I think obligation of those with sufficient resources to help those without them, and that the main reason that there is poverty in the U.S. is because Americans are too individualistic and fail to fulfill this on poverty in this society so they

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367 are not really there to help people who are below them, it's more try to get yourself up stereotypes that she used to believe before stu dying social work and changing her Isabel was bothered both by American cultural narratives about poverty as well as negative attitudes and stereotypes abo me when politicians ridicule immigrants, talk badly about immigration. I mean I can see both sides, but then also I see the good side because I am on the good side of on than social work students: They [non BSW college students] think differently. For example, I have spoken to other people that are either electrical engineers, accountants, other fields. They think like me a few y ears ago, that people do not take advantage of opportunities and that is why they are poor. Most MAU students would disagree with me. They fault laziness, individual problems, lack of effort, etc. an be in shaping our worldviews and the role that she believes her experience in college has played in helping to change those views. Laila believes that there is a significant amount of negativity towards poor people in the U.S., although she believes it is not universal and depends on the person and place:

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368 If I was talking to a Democrat in a different place, actually this happened recently, now they are a Democrat also, and we are talking about poverty and we are talking specifically about African Ameri cans who are poor and me was they had seen poor people in these lines for the soup kitchen instead of looking for work. And it was so much different than the other Democrat that I talked to previously. And then Republicans [laughter], hink they get it quite as much. For Laila it is not only important to differentiate her views from those of other Americans, but to project an identity that is thoroughly politically liberal/progressive; this emphasis on her political identification, in her mind, seems to signal to the intended audience that says negative views about these populations are commonplace, saying: America is mostly conservative so you have a mostly conservative country and a pretty liberal field. I think that means that most people in this country would disagree with a lot of the ideas that we have. Our society is heavily based in individualism, I have heard it from my parents, you hear it all over television. You know, work hard and you can get what you deserve. It's the premise of the American Dream. I just don't think our society cares to look into things that they don't understand. I think we live in a really judgmental society, and I think Americans see somebody who is in a totally different situation from them and they don't give them the benefit of the doubt or try to understand where they're coming fro m. Most Americans, it is all about the individual in terms of how your socia l class is determined I guess. Karen believes that, unlike most Americans who fail to investigate social problems below the surface, social workers deserve credit for taking t he time to truly understand social problems. The liberal and compassionate nature of social workers is a positive way in which she believes they are differentiated from the more politically conservative

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369 and less compassionate American public. She believes that welfare policies based on these negative judgments and stereotypes of the poor, such as drug tests, are Olivia believes that American cultural assumptions about the poor perpetuate stereotypes and stigmatize poor people: The American Dre am kind of perpetuates the stigma that you [poor people] are not doing enough [to escape poverty]. And in some cases it Stereotypes come from some truth. But at the same time a ste r eotype does not fit everybody. Olivia criticized the strong role that certain capitalist principles such as efficiency and market forces, play in American economic cultural values. She laments the fact that these beliefs about how the economy should wor k are allowed to prevent deserving individuals from earning the living that they deserve. Olivia used a story about her internship experience to highlight this concern: There is one client for instance who wants to have a music career, and I have never hea rd him but apparently he is very talented. He also struggles with a mental illness. He wants to get a job but the jobs that are available to him are like janitorial jobs. Why is that the only job that is available to those with a mental illness? But I feel like we are in this fast paced world of we want efficiency and we don't want to have to spend five minutes at a cashier because that person just does things a little bit slower than everybody else and has to focus is little more. And maybe they can't alwa ys have the perfect people skills. I definitely feel a sense of frustration for them that that is the j obs that are available to them. The Stigma of Welfare very aware o f the stigma of poverty and welfare use in American culture, and were also highly critical of it. I asked the students if they were aware of welfare stigma, particularly

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370 when recipients are forced to reveal their welfare need in public (such as at the groc ery store), and what they thought of welfare stigma. Noreen and Nancy both shared vivid firsthand experiences with me concerning welfare stigma that they either experienced or witnessed. Noreen used WIC as a young mother and experienced negative treatment related to her welfare use at a grocery store; she explained the stigma that she felt and how she rejected the assumptions that denigrate me and make me feel like I was somehow taking welfare like I was garbage. and pain that can result from the public revelation that a person is a welfare recipient. Nancy worked at a grocery store whe n she was younger and remembered a situation where a customer could not afford her groceries, having to put most of them back. I felt so bad for her. She was ob Nancy and her colleagues did their best to make the situation better for the women, but she remembers how the situation crushed the spirit of the customer. Nancy also remembers an informal, impromptu gr oup conversation about welfare she was a part of silently in horror knowing his famil y depended on welfare to make ends meet. Nancy remembers both the grocery store and welfare discussion experiences to be very ng what she knows about how many

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371 people view welfare and how poorly they treat welfare recipients, she said that welfare would be hurtful. I mean if I was using something like food stamps in the grocery store I Corinne and Peter both discussed the negativity that sometimes results from the public use of welfare. Corinne has seen the negative treatment of w elfare recipients at People pulling it [food stamps] out, or people judging what oth the stigma if he had to use welfare in public, especially t he way in which welfare (such as food stamps and WIC) restricts what you can purchase. Peter explained how he disliked that aspect of welfare as well as the scrutiny that non welfare recipients give to the decision making of welfare recipients during publi c welfare use (such as analyzing what you have placed on the belt at checkout). Laila discussed how welfare use in public would not bother her unless she was shopping in the wealthy area surrounding MAU, and how if she experienced negative judgments she w that stigma unless I was shopping here [in the wealthy area around MAU]. I also ciate struggle and poverty and that sort of thing with failure. I feel like this is

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372 Regulating T he Poor I asked the study participants whether or not they supported three different broadly defined welfare policies: work requirem ents, drug testing, and fertility limiting policies (such as family caps). Once the participant reported whether or not they supported each of these policies, I then asked them to provide the reasoning behind their answers. These questions were designed no t only to gauge their support or nonsupport for these policies, but also as a means to get them talking about much larger themes related to poverty and poor people. There was strong support for each of these policies (in some cases overwhelming support), w ith a majority of students worldviews and assumptions about welfare, poverty, and the poor. Work Requirements The study participants were overwhelmingly in favor (84% support) of policies that require welfare recipients to work in the paid labor force in order to receive welfare benefits. Most of the students who voiced their support for work requirements (a) framed work as something that is available to all who want i t and (b) framed unemployment as a personal failing. Many of the students thought that, without the proper motivation (such as work requirements), welfare recipients would have little incentive to grasp the (endless) opportunities available in the U.S. lab or market. Terra suggested that without such a

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373 I feel like you need to be contributing to your own success, and you need to be always trying to better yourself. So, I mean, yes, I agree. I think success, and y Tom also thought that welfare recipients need motivation that they are otherwise lacking: As an over arching policy I think the intent is a good one. It would encourage an individual to meet the requirements and therefore cr eate or impose a motiva tion when there may not be one. Peter attempted to strike a compassionate tone but still reinforced his individualistically oriented notions concerning poverty. He was compassionate in wanting to give people time to find a job, but suggested that too much time out of work is not a function of a bad economy or restricted opportunities, but a personal failing, saying: I would say yes [to work requirements] but I would like to say that it should be delayed. and I think if you were to use those programs, you should give the recipient not a lot of time, but a brief period of time to be inducted into the program, get the benefits and stabilize their life before having the three months, and after three months, if you still want to use this pr ogram, you Ashley believes that no matter what situation people find themselves in, they should be working. Her response did not address situations where people mig ht not be able to work or find work, instead assuming that people are not working by choice when they should be: I feel that working is something that, no matter what your situation, it should happen. Especially if it is full time work. I know, for example when I worked at my internship it was really important for people to either be working as hard as they could or to be volunteering, because there is something to be said about whether it is working for money or just working to help yourself realize that hard work needs to be involved with receiving things. A nd so that would be my answer.

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374 Ashley and I went further into our discussion of work requirements to talk about mothers with young children; Ashley believes that they should be in the paid workforce as well: I know there are people that say mothers should be able to spend time with their children, I think at the same time sacrifices have to come instead o stay at Na ncy also believes that unemployment is a sign that people are not trying to help themselves, and that only the recipients can pull themselves out of their disability or something like that. That is how you are going to get yourself out of the For Natalia, unemployment is a sign that recipients are abusing the system; people who cannot find jobs are making a choice and refusing to help themselves: I think t hat they should have to work. If they are not full time at least start the system. If they were somewhere and then fell into welfare, or needed it, yet they need to get out, then t hey need to push themselves to get out. recipients, saying: I think in order to seek [welfare] funds you need to be looking for work, you have to look for work. Because, you know, you are taking all of that money, and somehow it has to be repaid, so if somebody else like you needs that money then we will have money to give them. So I think they should be working or trying to get work. Jennifer was also concerned with this notion t hat people were being given money for nothing, focusing on individual failings rather than possible structural explanations:

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375 they have to have a full time job, but maybe part time or at least be looking. But not if they have been looking for an extremely long time and t necessarily looking. and that the lack of a job was a sign of an individual failing: Yes I agree with welfare work requirements. I think if you are staying home and getting help from the government it's not really helping your case. I think that you should definitely be working for something because you are never going to get out of your situation if you are not working for what you are trying to get. You don't get free food, tha t's not how it should be. I think even mothers with really young children should be in the workforce. I mean it's just like a dad if he was going into the workforce it should be equal for women and for men. There reall y should not be any exceptions. Isabe l believes that work requirements are a good policy, one of many that might I think it is a good idea, a good policy. Because I have seen some people who just keep receiving the benefits and there is no change in thei r behavior. I think if there is more employment, there will be more willingness for them to change things or to c hange their situation. punish ing them for having children while receiving welfare (such as family caps, policies which forbid families from collecting additional benefits for children born while a family is receiving welfare assistance) were very popular among the participants (68% su pport for family caps). There were of course some students who objected; Allison, for instance, was bothered by these policies because she believes they unfairly target poor children:

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376 No [she does not support such policies], because I feel like at the end of the day, they might still have children, and the child is going to be the one affected. But I do think they should we should help them understand I told how many children they ca keep having children. But no, just because the children would be affected. fected. They wo uld benefit from that increase. responses supporting fertility limiting po licies. She believes the policies are unfair because they target children, but largely ignores whether it is unfair to regulate the fertility of people simply because they find themselves at the bottom of a social hierarchy with many structural constraints keeping them there. Nowhere in this answer the first place; limitless opportunities were largely assumed, and it was largely assumed that it is permissible to regulat e the fertility of poor people since they got themselves into poverty in the first place. If I were to set up a game of musical chairs (Rank 2003) in a kindergarten classroom and force all the children in the classroom to participate, most people would lik ely find it particularly cruel if I had some harsh punishment for the losers. After all, they were forced to play, and the game guarantees a certain number of losers regardless of the effort of the people in the game. A game full of talented musical chairs players produces the same amount of winners and losers as a game full of musical chairs players with no musical chairs talent; merit does not affect the number of winners and losers. This notion was lost on my participants, who assumed that we are all wil ling participants in a game that has no such restrictions, and if you happen to be

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377 losing at the moment, the government has the right to interfere in your life and family decisions. Twice as many students supported fertility limiting policies as rejected the policies. I asked the students the following question: Do you support welfare policies that attempt to limit the fertility of poor women? Do you believe the government should develop policies to attempt to regulate how many children welfare recipients have? One example is a family cap, where a state prohibits a poor family from collecting additional welfare benefits for a child born while that family is receiving welfare assistance. Please explain why you do or do not support such a policy. Common beli efs among the study participants were that (a) having children is mostly a choice, (b) a decision to have children should be based on family economics, and (c) one should not choose to bring a child into poverty. Many of the answers that students gave were based on the individualistically oriented logic that poverty was not structurally determined, and that a poor family should never have children if they never escaped poverty (because being there was a result of their choices/actions); this logic means tha t the long term poor should not have the right to ever have children. There were also a surprising number of participants who worried that too many welfare recipients were having children to receive more welfare benefits. Sarah and Terra voiced their supp ort for fertility I would [support them], definitely, because you want people to be more responsible. If when asked to say yes or no, sh

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378 Corinne completely ignored any possible structura l reasons for poverty and Yes, as long as it is up front and people have birth control access. Yes, I free birth c be adding to your family when you kids to get more money. You have to be responsible and so there has to be maybe some opportunity for birt h control. For so many participants like Corinne, her answer takes individualism as a given assumption. If you had any notion that the game might be rigged to ensure a certain number of poor people, regulating the actions of the poor would make little sense; poverty is a reality because of the way the game is structured, so we should not penalize and interfere with the lives and aspirations of people f acing strong social forces research to the contrary, she argues that poor women hav e children to get more money anyway, another strike against the fertility rights of poor women. Noreen was a bit ambivalent about the policy, but gave a very revealing and somewhat frightening answer:

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379 atever reason, in a position to even maintain yourself and what you have then you have no business having more children. I mean, if you have access to in any way mentally impaired wher no accountability on your part. I definitely understand that and I do support that. Again, we could say, you know, at least consider that the agreement would be that if you have more children then some other arrangement needs to be made. In other words, f oster care or something. There has to be a consequence to you for making this [decision] and for not being responsible enough to know your own situation and not think that somebody is gonna come in and bail you out, basically, you know? There has to be som e kind of a consequence to the parents, not just the mother, and see this falls mostly on the mother. And so, you know, that has to be part of this whole thing, that you should have to agree with some kind of consequence. Hold the parents accountable. Beca use the kids get hurt, okay? If the mom is in poverty because she just embraced some sort of that put her i onna be getting what they need. believes that people who find themselves in poverty have a right to be regulated. She argues that it is inexcusable for poor women not to use contraception, suggesting that they have no right to have children. She believes that it is the role of the state to hold because she goes so far as to suggest that poor families who have children in poverty deserve to have their children taken away and put into foster care. She also strongly argues th at women who have children while in poverty and/or receiving welfare are likely living wild and irresponsible lifestyles while neglecting their children.

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380 Peter and Olivia spoke of abusing the welfare system and personal responsibility, respectively. Peter supports family caps because he believes that children are a means for poor people to game the system to get more welfare benefits: is program to put yourself back on your feet. And yeah, I would vote just purely on principle. For Olivia, children are completely a choice, and if you choose to have children in poverty you deserve what is coming to you: I am okay with family caps, beca use I think that goes back to an individual should be a drain on everyone else. I think you need to think about what h to have another child out of the desire to have a child. I think the responsibility that comes along with having a child is having the envi ronment to raise that child in. Other participants shared sentiments similar to Olivia, ignoring the possible rigg ed nature of the game and also failing to confront the possibility that if some poor women wait to have children until they are economically stable, they may miss their chance at children altogether. Natalia and Tom support fertility limiting policies bas ed on notions of personal responsibility and individualistically oriented beliefs about the existence of poverty. Natalia has a problem with government money being given to people making poor decisions and believes childbirth to be completely a choice: I w ould support them. Not to deter people from having children, but especially if there is a set limit of income that you get, and you know that, I think that falls on you. If you know ahead of time, that falls on you. If you want to have another child, that government is responsible for that, to give you more mo ney for that choice.

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381 Tom believes that it is okay to implement such policies as long as people are told ahead ng as the policy was clearly discussed ahead of time with the recipient. I object to the idea of continuing to foster a method of accountability and personal responsibility, a nd this came into focus here. He believes that as long as you notify people in advance that they will be punished then the punishment is socially just, eliminating the possibility that the social structure might be unjust in limiting who will be financiall y successful and therefore who has the right to have children. (perceived/assumed) fact that poor women have children to receive more welfare benefits. Jennifer supports family caps because she believes you should not bring children into a poor environment and should not use children to gain more welfare benefits: If these people are already in povert y then having another kid would just more money, I have heard of that before, I have seen it in different are as, fair. I think those policies would discourage that. Marena also expressed concerns about bringing children into poor environments and people using children to get more welfare benefits:

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382 I think if you are in a situation where you need enough help for your family from the government you should not be having any more children. That is not going to help anybody. You shouldn't get more benefits for having more children. I think the se policies would make you realize that adding on to your family isn't going to add on to your resources and discourage people from making these decisions. It would make you realize that you are already trying to help your family that you have right now, h ow much better is it going to be for you if you add another life that you need to take care of ? Isabel relies on anecdotal evidence to support her belief that people should be aware of their environments (not that we should be aware of the production of s uch environments): I would have to agree with them. Maybe because I have been exposed to many of my friends back home when I was younger who had children when they were very young and they were receiving welfare assistance. But also this has to be with the cultural aspect of it. With this person that I am telling you about, she lives in a two bedroom apartment with ten other people and she is planning to have more kids while she is struggling. Kids are very demanding. Even myself, I think right now I am not ready to have kids because I want to be more financially stable. Definitely I would agree with that [fertility policy]. In general I would agree with those policies. I think it would be good for most programs, not just TANF but food stamps and other progr ams. In general this is a good policy. Most of the study participants, like Isabel, do not stop to think that maybe children are not entirely an economic decision for many people, that most people hope they will not be in poverty forever and want to grow their family with that hope in mind, and that such aspirations might be justly deserved for all despite their position in the social hierarchy. Karen objects to family caps but only on the grounds that she does not want to punish people for having kids by mistake, not because of any desire to justly distribute rights and aspirations to all people in what might be a rigged game:

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383 I would say no to something like that, it has so many problems, so many things can go wrong. Somebody could not be using protecti on when they have sex and end up pregnant, somebody could be raped, somebody could just be irresponsible, or somebody could just no t have access to birth control. For Karen, it is not the regulation of poor women or the structural contribution to poverty She attempts to sound compassionate by saying she does not want to punish doing s responsibility for their plight. Drug Testing the Poor While the number of participants supporting welfare drug testing was smaller than the overwhelming support for work require ments and the significant support for fertility policies, a strong majority (60%) of students supported welfare drug testing. Students were concerned about (a) welfare recipients using government money for drugs instead of basic necessities, (b) welfare re cipients committing what they considered immoral acts, and (c) the government enabling drug use. There were also many students who explicitly or implicitly assumed that a disproportionate number of poor people were using drugs, and that poor people were in herently morally suspect. Most of the students did not stop to think about social conditions that lead people to drug use in the first place, or what kind of message it sends to the majority of non drug users that they need to be tested (particularly if game or structural causes of poverty). If there are structural causes of poverty beyond the control of individuals and certain levels of poverty are inherent in the system, it seems unjust preaching morality to the losers of this rigged game. For most of the

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384 students, however, this was not a concern, and drug use was assumed to be prevalent among a suspect population. As I mentioned, th ere was less consensus than the other policies we talked about, and some students had a more nuanced understanding of the issues. Noreen, for instance, was ambivalent about drug testing, based upon her inner struggle to understand the social forces behind social problems and drug use: difference after 30 years or whatever, okay, and just eradicate drugs. But m not sure that it actually addresses the problem of why there are people in need of social services in the first place. Is it just because People will take money that should be goi ng toward legitimate things and buy drugs with them. You know, that absolutely happens. But what are the unintended consequences to that? Are you depriving them or their kids? Are there other things going on there? And a third thing is that addiction is ad as simple as yo ur choice. Noreen was one of the few students that thought about this issue beyond individual choices and thought about the cause of the social problem of poverty with drug use being a consequence rather than a cause. Very few students thought about the basic issue of why we were testing poor people for drug use: because we have negative assumptions about them in the first place. Karen was one of the few students who id entified this key point: I t [drug tests] is kind of offensive to people who are on welfare. They're struggling enough with their own problems and the stigma of being on you are probably on ally offensive. I would say no. government money should not be used to buy drugs:

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385 if their test is positive, drug positive, they might use them for buying drugs, and probably more b ig of a deal if we provide those cash assistance to those people ethical either. So we want to make sure that those money will be used in the right way. When students voiced support fo r drug tests based on the idea that government money should not be used to buy drugs, I often pushed them further to think about other government money: student loans, subsidies to private sports teams, middle class tax breaks, etc. Would they also support drug tests for college students receiving federal loans, or wealthy owners of sports teams receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in public subsidies to build when pressed to extend her logic to other people in similar situations to welfare recipients (receiving taxpayer m oney), they were all of the sudden unsure, realizing that logically they could say yes but knowing that deep down their objection was not based solely on it being taxpayer money. It seemed that they knew they had some deeper objection that was related to p oor people themselves, but either could not articulate that or were uncomfortable acknowledging that deeper objection. Terra supported drug testing for the sake of poor children, while Corinne was concerned with homelessness and mental illness. Terra did not want the government to enable drug users, and was also concerned about children growing up in environments where drugs were prevalent:

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386 I would say yes for drug testing. The government would be enabling those individuals, and they could be using that mo ney for drugs as opposed to feeding their families, so I completely agree with drug testing. Maybe get I s hould involved and not remove if you can find that they should be temporary kinship care or of they could be helped and then we have a vicious cycle of then those addicts, so if you can break that cycle and intervene, then pe rhaps they n welfare. Corinne supported drug tests because she equated poverty with homelessness, assuming that if you are poor it means you are homeless, and she did not want homeless individuals with a mental illness to self medicate with drugs: m not a psychologist, but working with the homeless population, one thing that I noticed, probably 75 percent of the time it seemed like there was a huge amount of undiagnosed mental illness. And medicat e because So, I mean, if that is addressed, and something can be done for that it would be great. I mean then I agree with that. But if there is mental illness, and they need to have the healthcare and they need everything else ny things. getting these drugs, and people are going to pay you to give them the drugs, then you have a roof over your head for the night, whatever. You know, it kind of anyway. I would v ote yes, but in the case of mental il lness, you know, its different. afford to purchase food. Why everyone would need to be drug tested was left unresolved. She was fine with welfare drug testing because of the negative assumptions she had about drug users, but did not stop to think what message you are

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387 sending to the poor and how socially just it might be to test an entire population simply because they are poor: Yeah I think I would be fine with that. I actually have read articles about can afford food or whatever else you n eed. I asked Melanie if she supported drug testing for things such as student loans, farm subsidies, private sports subsidies, etc. Even though we talked about more than just student loans, it was that particular example that bothered her and pushed her t o reject my proposal: maybe like forty dollars, fifty dollars, maybe one hundred dollars here and gonna say no, beca student loans, but all of the other things I can think of are just free money. disability, you know, in order to get disability you had to have p aid in to it to get money back. a socially just redress of structura l injustices. I tried to push Melanie further to extend be paid back? What about money given to professional sports teams to build private stadiums? Would you drug test t testing sports owners. Peter supported welfare drug tests once rehabilitation had occurred for the initial drug problem, ignoring how social conditions and a history of addiction might influence future drug use, whether it is socially just to drug test people because they are poor,

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388 and whether people have a right to minimal government support despite personal actions: Addiction is a hard thing. They might have been personal choices in the beginning, to do dru be able to get on a rehabilitation program. But you make stringent requirements. You have to drug test to maintain benefits. Ashley supports welfare drug testing because she does not want taxpayers to behavior. She ignores any discussion of whether poor people deserve to be drug tested simply because they are poor. Ashley not only supports drug tests, bu t believes that research that questions the efficacy of welfare drug tests is pseudo science and liberally biased:

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389 I would vote yes for drug testing. I feel that that would be important ng the tax payers, to have to feel like taxpayers have to feed an addiction. And I think it would also bring additional awareness to their problem and the way that it affects their children. For example TANF, it only goes to families that have dependent ch ildren. And so if we are helping people pay for something where they could get out of their addiction, if we could bring because they are dealing with something that is feeding into th eir poverty. I think it would have a long was for employment are being blamed, you know, playing the victim. Recently I had an impromptu debate in my class about whether we should drug test welfare recipients. I feel strongly that the research is biased. I know this policy has welfare payments when there really isn't enough money to pay everybody. So I said there is a need to decide who is the most worthy, as horrible as that sounds we hav e to decide who deserves the money more than others, because there isn't enough money to go around. But the research is very liberally biased, slanted, whatever you want to say. It is biase d to say that it hasn't worked. Ashley believes that because we ha ve all been drug tested in our lives for our jobs (which I noted to myself privately during the interview that I actually could not remember having been drug tested in my lifetime), it is okay to drug test welfare recipients. She of course ignored the very obvious and documented reasons for drug testing welfare recipients (see the political rhetoric/debates surrounding these policies), a policy largely based on negative judgments of the poor (such as assumed immorality). For Olivia, drug testing seemed lik e an excellent way for poor people to prove that they are not immoral, a charge she believes rests on the poor to disprove: Yes. I think it is a good way of proving to people and removing that stereotype that people are receiving welfare benefits without m aking a change. I understand that having these tests can waste a lot of money, we were just talking about that in class the other day. But I think it is important to change the stereotype and the stigma attached to welfare. It helps the i mage of all welfar e recipients.

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390 Olivia did not question whether the stereotypes and stigma attached to welfare use might be unjust, but instead thought that it was the burden of welfare recipients to prove them wrong. Olivia believes it is the responsibility of the accused to prove the accusations incorrect, not the other way around. system, focusing on drug users rather than the larger issue of testing people simply because they are poor: I w ould say yes welfare recipients should have initial and routine drug tests. I think it kind of goes back to the person on welfare to not abuse the system, that is kind of where that comes from. If you are a routine drug addict, if what you want ou are a full out heroin addict go into the system so you can pool t he money you have to buy drugs. When I pushed Natalia further to consider student loans, farm subsidies, and private e not for student loans, larger population being tested because they are poor: I ag ree that you need to pass a drug test to receive welfare benefits. I on welfare. If you are taking money from the public you should abide by the laws. People should be receiving tha t money to improve their lives. It is public money and I think if you are applying for welfare and you have a drug addiction there should be a program that you can go to get clean and receive that welfare. It was unclear why it was assumed that a person s eeking welfare assistance was poor people needed to be strictly regulated to abide by middle and upper class morality

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391 simply because they received government money, con sidering that all people in all social classes receive government assistance in one form or another. Jennifer was rankled by the perceived immorality of drug use as well as the thought of taxpayer money being spent on drugs instead of basic necessities. S he paid little attention to why it is the morality of poor people that we are so interested in in the first place. She voiced her support for welfare drug testing emphatically before I could even finish the interview question: Yes, most definitely. If I we re in charge, anybody applying for any government money or benefits would have to be drug tested, and I mean they could possibly be spending that money on drugs. If you need food, I will be happy to get you food. I am completely against drugs, so morally I think it is wrong. The biggest thing is government money should not be spent on that, if it is for food it should be spent on food. I am very big on rules and stuff like that. Ma money being spent on drugs instead of basic necessities: I think that it would be good just because if you have any enough money to be buying drugs then you definitely have enough money to be filling your closets with food. My main objection is that they should not be using government money for something else like drugs. Welfare Morality use welfare; while most students did not espouse all of the themes in the espouse some beliefs about welfare morality (and typically more than one). Many of the students took great pains to convince me that because they would us welfare the right way (unlike other welfare recipients). The students who participated in this study were highly critical of what they deemed to be

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392 the immorality of many welfare recipients, and reveal a sort of code of conduct or belief in moral welfare use. Providing one of the best examples of this concern over the recipients to change their ways. Discussing recipients who fail to correct the personal effort to change do you really deserve to receive this assistance? Because you don't seem to be app of the participants that I spoke to, welfare recipients had a moral obligation to appreciate what the middle and upper e the data concerning welfare morality. Welfare is Wrong One strong theme in the ethn ographic record was the notion that it is inherently inherently immoral about welfare use. Jenny, for instance, begrudgingly identified a situation where she might turn to welfa responses. Melanie had to use welfare when she was a young mother, but lamented that she was too young and nave t in order to need welfare, and she would hate admitting to herself that she was one of

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393 Welfare Dependency Many of the stud ents spoke about their concerns about welfare dependency. This concern highlighted their individualistically oriented beliefs that limitless opportunities exist, and if you turn to welfare it must be because you need to depend e first thing Melanie said in her answer of whether she believe that it is there to help people get off of their feet so that they can support themselves on their on it any longer than I had to. if I could do it once [be self sufficient], then I could do it again. Dependency was the absolute first thing Melanie thought of when discussing welfare, and her beliefs frame dependency as an entirely individual level issue; for Melanie, the fact that s he could not provide for her children who be an indictment of her as an individual. characteristics and belief in self (tempora she could t o exit the welfare system and escape poverty.

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394 When Peter discussed welfare, he highlighted his concerns that (a) poor people Discussing an example of a person in his fami for what he deemed to be an unacceptably a long recipient not a lot of time, but a brief period of time to be inducted into the program. t three months, and after three limitless opportunities are available in society, and to allow people to receive welfare benefits for more than three months is proof that t hey are illegitimately depending on welfare in an opportunity filled world. Ashley believes that the current government is encouraging welfare dependency, saying: There are a lot of opportunities for people to depend upon the government right now, I think it is so freaking scary. I saw this in my internship I think it is very scary to have someone not willing to work because or unemployment. If unemployment is offered to you for 18 months and it is greater than the amount you can get at a part time job or a full time job, why not take the unemployment? And it will last you longer and offer more security in that way. But of course it doesn't take you above the poverty line. I mean it will it will help you be somewhat self sufficient but not adequately enough I think long term I think there's always going to be poverty, there's never go ing to be enough for everybody. The structural concerns she raised about the scarcity of resources and the inadequacy of the low wage labor market in terms of income, benefits and security were lost in

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395 choose a non living wage, little to no benefits, and insecure job over welfare. Ashley if she had to turn to welfare and other welfare recipients] is I would not depend upon it in a long term situation. My goal in the beginning of receiving welfare would be to get off of it, not depend on it any ways an illegitimate transfer of money elfare should kind of get them on their feet, provide them with enough resources, and then says if a poor person receiving welfare really wanted to get off of welfare then they encouraging people to depend upon something that they would not otherwise need i n a world of limitless opportunities. Jennifer took our discussion of her internship as an opportunity to discuss what she perceived to be rampant welfare dependency:

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396 I saw it [the stupidity of poor people] all the time at the homeless internship I did. A lot of those people, they were all homeless and their own homes. So they would get on this list to get a home and so now they have this home because it was their time. But instead of t rying to make their lives better, like trying to go to school or trying to get a job or their feet and have them do the work to stay there but they got really comfortable. It was really, really frustrating. No matter how many times a his or For Jennifer, there is an appropriate amount of time to rely on welfare assistance, and if There was no mention of how structural forces in the low wage labor market might Isabel believes that t he U.S. welfare system is more expansive than most other and believes the primary problem with welfare is just keep getting the same benefits or the same assistance. My family got this, your family will get this, and your k generational transmission of poverty and welfare breeds dependenc y but also a culture of poverty and welfare use across generations.

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397 Terra lumped poverty and drug use together, and assumed that the intersection believes it is the govern Olivia believes she is a highly driven and motivate d person, and that she would not fall into the dependency trap that welfare recipients often find themselves in. She e doing everything in my power who do become dependent need to try harder. Personal Responsibility and Self Sufficiency One of the study participants, Ashley, believes that poor people and welfare recipients need to be educated about the value of hard work, saying that poor people a solely personal issue with no connection to the social structure; those who fail to earn a living wage are irresponsible people who hav e failed themselves and their families. Students who used these terms assume that poverty is a personal failure to grasp limitless opportunities that exist for anybody willing to seek them. These assumptions posit that people who fall into poverty and/or n eed welfare have personal characteristics that prevent them from being self sufficient, and failing to be self sufficient is typically framed in moral terms.

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398 Ashley cited her religious views when discussing her beliefs about poverty, ou look at my religious views of self reliance and self sufficiency, they go hand in hand. We believe very strongly that you should be self sufficient, that you She belie ves that the U.S. is a meritocracy and her family is proof. She said her family their self sufficiency and upward mobility is proof that we can all be successful if we t ry hard enough. Implicit in her answers is the notion that the only explanation for economic T I would never go seek help because you should be able to resolve an issue on your When discussing his tenuous support for fertility policies aimed at the poor, Tom I object to the idea of continuing to foster a method of no responsibility but also do not want that refusal to result in something far worse like the death of a chil d. frames fertility as a personal choice and poor families deciding to have children as ning society) may be unfair to some poor people, but failure to overcome that unfairness is solely the responsibility of individuals. maybe are against you, if you giv e into the system it is your choice. Giving in to the

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399 decision, and that th e decision to have a child while you are poor is a personal failing having children) are ignoring any possible structural explanations for poverty. Olivia assured me that if she had to use wel Karen believes that her personal characteristics make her self sufficient, and if she had to turn to welfare these characteristics would help her to escape poverty and exit welfare quick I was raised to be very self sufficient so I would want to get off of it. I know I would not Terra believes that the field of social work is based on a foundation of individualistically determination

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400 is to help welfare recipients become self Nancy, Isab sufficient, and escaping poverty. Nancy framed work as an individual how you opportunities exist for most people who want to grasp them. She believes that anybod y who wants to be self would be a good way of teaching recipients personal responsibility and self sufficiency. nd not self that I could bring myself to go onto welfare. I would feel like I a m weak, helpless. And I sufficient now, and if she ever had to turn to welfare she would rely on that belief that she is self sufficient to help her avoid accepting assista nce. Further supporting the notion that the self

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401 suf ficient and get out of poverty if they will not do it themselves. She supported fertility limiting policies based on the assumption that poverty is an individual level problem and that responsible and self sufficient people do not bring children into pover individually. Noreen supports fertility limiting policies for female welfare recipients because she believes it is their responsibility to be self sufficient before having children. She not, for whatever reason, in a position to even maintain yourself and what system. She even goes so far as to suggest that failing to establish yourself as self sufficient is grounds for removal of children (who were born while in poverty) from the consequence to you for making this and for not being responsible enough to know your own situation and not think that somebody is gonna come in and bail you out, basically, fact that Noreen holds s ome very structurally oriented views, she also believes that sufficiency is in large part the responsibility of the poor; if they fail to take care of themselves financi has a right to punish them. Peter and Jennifer both believe that the self sufficient succeed in a land of plenty. Peter believes that the U.S. is a meritocracy and that people who are self sufficient

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402 based on the assumption that success if available to everyone, and t hose who are truly self sufficient will put the necessary work into life and succeed. Jennifer struck a similar For many of the students personal responsibility was particularly salient when lamenting the birth of children to poor women. Sarah supports fertility limiting welfare ot be adding to their families if they are poor, calling poor parents irresponsible for considering such a thing. they make while in poverty as solely occurring at the indiv idual level and proof of the irresponsibility of poor people. Why Would I Need Welfare? When I asked the students if they would ever turn to welfare, many of them answered that they could not see themselves ever needing it; for these students, they believ ed that they had the characteristics of a successful person, could not possibly ever need welfare, and would not feel deserving if they needed it given their (positive) personal characteristics. When I asked Jenny if she would ever turn to welfare, she cou and what I know that I could support myself without receiving welfare and leaving it for need as something that could happen to anybody, she could not fathom ever being in such a

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403 money and I have an education that can get me a job. So I think it is wron g for me to go the personal characteristics to be successful; welfare is not some thing people are entitled to simply because they need it to survive. because I am a very driven person, so that would also come with the sense that I had failed in some wa has the individual characteristics of a successful person; turning to welfare would make her doubt this notion. It is difficult for Olivia to envision a situation where she would need Jennifer said of her hypothetical welfare would n ot be complacent in her welfare use and would use her skills to escape poverty level social problem that can be overcome by people with her personal characteristics. Nata lia believes that her life and adoption journey from eastern Europe to the U.S. has made her a very strong person, and it is very difficult for her to imagine how a to did not really try everything in her power to succeed financially. She also believes that turning to welfare would contradict her belief that her personal strength would help her

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404 avoid ever needing welfare. Natalia said that turning to welfare would mean she was t to feel need. is that he considers himself to have the pe rsonal characteristics of a successful person, and strongly believes that success or failure is ultimately the result of the decisions that assistance] I am sure I would be really depressed. Depressed to an extreme, and just situation where he would become depressed to the point where he would not have the ability to function or take care of himsel Welfare as Last Resort When discussing whether they would turn to welfare, many students revealed to me that they believe that recipients are only truly deserving if they are either almost homeless or homeless; people who turn to welfare before they have lost everything are

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405 would establish some sort of debt threshold over which she might consider turning to welfare. o struck a similar tone, becoming defensive when I asked her if she would ever use to this question, framing their answers in such a manner as to assure me that they possessions left. Natalia, discussing whether she would use welfare, said: I would not fee l comfortable. To me I feel that I am too proud to accept welfare. It would have to be a very, very, very, very last resort. I would probably go to the streets for a little bit before even thinking about welfare. I think a part of me would hate myself if I to choose welfare and it was the absolutely last resort a part of me would still say no. You are going to fight it. The rational part of me would still realize that I have to survive. So as much as I would hate myse lf for again having to feel that helplessness and not being in control of anything in my you are going to have to do, deal with it. For Natalia, we lfare is reserved for people who are either on the brink of homelessness or who have been homeless; it might be assumed from her answer that people above that threshold are suspect for accepting welfare assistance. Government Waste and Stealing Middle Cla ss Money There was significant concern among the students about the perceived tendency for welfare programs to (a) use government money unwisely and waste taxpayer money, and (b) transfer money from hardworking people to undeserving people. Karen,

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406 for ins tance, framed welfare as a transfer of hard earned money from earners to non not because it is welfare but because it is somebody else's help. I was raised to be very self unfair to ask people to give up money that they have earned. Why do I have to give that to prove to those assistance? Because you don't seem to be appreciating or using it and really feeling like eople have children while on welfare to receive more benefits, and said that people have a right to have children but Marena agrees with work requirements because she views welfare assis tance as a transfer of money from earners to non earning recipients (instead of a means of help from the government it's not really helping your case. You don't g et free food, good just because if you have any enough money to be buying drugs then you definitely have enough money to be filling your closets with food. My main objection is that they that w e need to spend more money and throw money at people, throw more money at level problem that can be

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407 more wisel y; sufficient resources are there, Ashley believes, if people would choose to address the problem of poverty using smarter methods. Ashley supports drug tests because she believes that giving money to poor individuals with drug problems is wasting taxpayer have to, as a taxpaying person or representing the taxp ayers, to have to feel like taxpa Jenny believes that welfare recipie nts, in taking taxpayer money, have an obligation to live by middle class moral standards. When discussing her support for drug tests, she said: I agree that you need to pass a drug test to receive welfare benefits. I those sorts of things while you are on welfare. If you are taking money from the publi c you should abide by the laws. There was no discussion of (a) if it is unjust to assume poor people are drug users, (b) the validity of middle class and upper class mo rality, or (c) the contribution that structural forces make to drug use in poor communities and the difficulties dealing with the intersections of these social forces with race, social class, addiction, etc. When discussing work requirements, Jenny said sh e believes that the money that people ney, and somehow it has to be repaid, so if Sarah, Melanie, and Natalia were concerned with the government wasting money for immoral purposes. Sarah supported drug testing, fo r instance, because she was

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408 worried that poor people would waste their money on drugs. She said that buying drugs drugs, then you can afford food did not extend her government waste argument to the non poor who receive government money). Natalia discussed how we should prevent drug cerned about people abusing the welfare system, but her concern was only with poor people. When I pushed Natalia further in our discussion of drug tests to consider drug testing for other forms of welfare (student loans, farm subsidies, middle and upper c lass tax credits, private illegitimate purpo ses, but only expressed this concern for poverty targeted welfare. Jennifer money or benefits would have to be drug tested, and I mean all drugs. and make sure that they are spending taxpayer money wisely: possibly be spend ing that money on drugs. If you need food, I will be happy to get you food. The biggest thing is government money should not be spent on that, if it is for fo od it should be spent on food.

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409 She also believes that poor people should live according to he am completely against drugs, so morally I think it is wrong. I am very big on rules and order to boost their monthly welfare benefits; disc ussing her support for family caps, she I have seen it in different areas, not just that but other things. Having babies to get more requirements was based on similar concerns about using government money unwisely, There was a strong concern among the participants with broadly the first concern they raised about welfare, the minority of people who abuse the system, rather than the problems that face the majority of welfare recipients. It w as a bit shocking to see how many students focused on the smaller problem of welfare abuse, focusing on their notions of welfare morality rather than the good of the larger population of recipients. Jenny, for instance, spent a considerable amount of time talking about welfare abuse and what she would determine when abuse has occurred and e xact punishment on those people, would make a board and see who should be punished see who should receive I never asked Jenny any questions about abuse or about punishing undeserving welfare recipients; this significant focu s on abuse and punishment in the

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410 interview was completely participant directed and revealed a lot about her underlying assumptions and concerns. I asked students to tell me the biggest lessons that they took from their internship experiences. Off all of the possible positive or negative lessons she could have reported, Nancy chose welfare abuse (which she admits is a problem in a minority of welfare cases). This attention to a problem for a minority of recipients revealed a lot about her personal assumpti ons about poverty and welfare. Of her i nternship experience, she said: I guess I have learned that welfare recipients can be very manipulative. And then you go to their apartment and they are stocked full of food. We had this one family come in and they were cycling through the different shelters. They have been in our shelter alone three times. They showed up with no clothes or anything and. just the circumstances, it was definite ly kind of fishy. I mean what happened to those clothes? We were not sure if they had left them somewhere else or if they literally had no tive experience. I am really idealistic, I like to believe that people are in it for the right reasons. I want to believe that they're not trying to abuse the system, but seeing that shocked me. I mean, I knew it happens but I actually witnessed it and tha t was kind of tough. It wasn't the majority of people but it was pretty significant, maybe 30%. No Handouts Many respondents were concerned the government ge to prove

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411 hard is a part of receiving welfare assistance, and that being unemployed and receiving free home. It needs to be something that they work for, a nd it needs to be something for handouts at her internship. She said a common theme for the poor that she saw Some of the students focused on how they would not abuse the welfare system, about her own welfare use when she was a different, as outside of the norm in society. She made considerable effort in her answer I feel advantage of the system as much because I know some

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412 advantage Poverty = Homelessness There were a significant number (but a minority) of students who se emed to equate poverty with homelessness. In most areas of the U.S. the federal poverty threshold is high enough to include housing costs. For these students, however, their answers explicitly and/or implicitly questioned these thresholds, as they equated poverty with having almost no resources whatsoever. It was unclear to me if these students simply had an inaccurate perception of where the federal poverty thresholds are set or if their perception was accurate and they simply disagreed with them; whatever the case may be, the students clearly personally associated poverty with a standard of living Sarah explained this perspective: word. Poverty says you have nothing there. You might not be rich, middle class, but if you work hard, and if you make the right choices, you can actually no matter how society throws at you, you can actually live minimum. When I asked Terra why poverty e xists in the U.S., her mind immediately went to homelessness. She believes that the main causes of poverty (poverty = homelessness) are mental illness and substance abuse: I think a lot of the reason why we have homelessness is a lot of substance abuse. Also mental illness, untreated mental illnesses. The main cause? I guess mental illness and substance abu se, I would lump them together. Natalia, on the best way to address poverty in

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413 a lot of people, there are a lot of homele ss people because of mental illness. They can't support themselves, or financial issues, or they have always been in poverty. So it is the homelessness, and in this assumpt ion, was concerned about how drug use caused poverty/homelessness. Her support for welfare drug testing was based on her desire to prevent homeless individuals with mental illnesses from self medicating. One of the first things she associated with poverty homeless population, one thing that I noticed, probably 75 percent of the time it seemed caused them to be homeless, poor, and tr apped them in poverty because they needed drugs to self

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414 CHAPTER 7 FURTHER DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION This study developed out of my interest in the way in which culture contributes to the existence and nature of poverty and inequality in the U.S. I wanted to explore a group of people involved in some manner with issues related to these social problems (preferably in a helping pr ofession directly related to these issues) and how they struggled with American cultural values. I chose social workers because I was looking for a helping profession that might have been in a position to resist dominant American cultural values of individ ualism due to their interest in helping marginalized populations; I thought that their interest in helping these populations would make their struggle with individualistically oriented American values particularly unique and noteworthy. Which of these valu es did they internalize, and which ones did they reject? How were their worldviews the same or different compared to dominant American culture? Did they reinforce the status quo, or challenge it? What does this say about the strength of these values and th e power of socialization to perpetuate (or undermine) certain forms of social organization and hierarchy? How might their worldviews play a role in either perpetuating our current poverty knowledge or helping develop a new understanding of these social pro blems? Society and social institutions exist in a certain form, it can be assumed, because most people (at some at least minimal level) give such social organization legitimacy. Social workers must grant some legitimacy to ideological assumptions of their profession and the policies that govern it, otherwise it might be assumed that they would conflict with authority figures in their field rather quickly and find themselves looking for a different line of work. A doctor in a hospital in the U.S. who disagre es with the major

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415 foundations of Western medicine will not likely last very long in their chosen profession; likewise, I assumed that social workers must agree on some level with the individualistically oriented foundations of welfare policy, even if they wish to reform such policies. This study was designed to gauge their level of agreement with such assumptions, and what the implications of this level of agreement might be for poverty knowledge as well as welfare policy and practice moving forward. The r esults of this study suggest that most of the social work students in the program that I analyzed, despite making great efforts to express their beliefs in a compassionate manner, believed very strongly in many of the tenets of American individualism; I ca This worldview largely supports many of the individualistic assumptions about poverty, inequality, and welfare in the U.S. While this brand of individualism may be a bit more structura l than dominant American beliefs, the real difference between the two belief systems seems to be the manner in which the BSW students sympathize with and care about helping the poor; the underlying assumptions about the causes of poverty and inequality are expressed. The answers that the students gave during our interviews were revealing in many ways, both for what they explicitly and implicitly included and excluded; what the student s chose to include in their answers and what they chose to exclude from their answers revealed their beliefs about how the world does and should work, as well as how the world does not and should not work 22 The first major finding is that it is clear 22 T he way in which most students both explicitly and implicitly took the principles of the American economy for granted is a prime example. In doing so they (a) gave a particular version of how they

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416 that individualism is the most popular perspective among the BSW students for analyzing social problems such as poverty and inequality (despite many students having inconsistent and contradictory beliefs, this was the overall trend). Most students did not know how individualistically oriented they were and often mistook individual level explanations for structural level explanations 23 (and often used similar arguments to ones they claimed they rejected and mistook them because they were framed slightly differentl y 24 ). Most students who self identified as structurally oriented were not. For the minority of students who did not espouse individualistically oriented worldviews, both individualism and Culture of Poverty 25 explanations were still significant parts of thei r worldviews. Only one student had a worldview that was clearly structurally oriented. believed this economy works, (b) revealed whether they belie ved this was the way the world should work, and (c) revealed the ways in which the world does not and should not work. If a student discussed benefits withou t calling such social organization into question, they reveal their perception of how the world does and should work; in excluding a discussion of alternatives that may be desirable to them, they reveal that the world does not and should not work according to socialist principles of universal healthcare regardless of income or job benefits. 23 Some students believed that they were structurally oriented because they cited poverty causes that tance, believed that they were structurally oriented for citing family upbringing as the cause of poverty (and certain parenting practices as inherently problematic). Such an answer is of course individualistically oriented, because it places the cause of poverty at the individual society rewards and punishes certain parenting practices). 24 but also due to a lack of proper motivation. 25 Components of these Culture of Poverty beliefs included the beliefs that: success and failure are learn make bad choices and do not know where opportunities are and how to grasp them, poor people have not been taught how to help themselves, poor people do live any other way than by their deviant cultural norms/values/beliefs/habits, poor people lack motivation and have low expectations, middle class standards/beliefs/values/habits lead to success inherently in t subculture, and poor people inherently waste money and need instant gratification rather than planning for long term financial success.

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417 questions that explored the perspectives that students utilized in their everyday lives (questions about how they would solve poverty, what they thought of welfare, etc.). swers (when I asked them to rank social structuralism, Culture of Poverty, and individualism as perspectives, students seemed to use their answers as a means of projectin g their desired personal identity as well as their desired professional identity as a they aspired to and that they believed matched the ideals of social work. It was obvi ously important, based on their answers, for most of the students to assure me that liberal, structurally oriented, compassionate, and knowledgeable about social problems 26 This professed belief in social structuralism cont radicted their reliance on individualistically oriented explanations when I asked them to analyze poverty, inequality, and welfare and offer possible (often hypothetical) solutions. More often than not poverty and inequality were discussed as personal char he social structure may be unfair to some people, most participants believed anybody could 26 disproportionately politically liberal, structurally oriented, compassionate, and knowledgeable of social issues, and (b) that this reality reflected the matching ideals of the field of social work.

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418 succeed i f they really put their mind to it. It was the job of social workers, it was argued, to motivate people to develop self Only one student seemed to actually analyze American social problems from rican cultural assumptions (Jana). This was likely due to being socialized and spending most of her life in a culture much different than that found in the it was most repackaging of the major tenets of individualism. A student who said that family as the cause of their poverty. Beyond the dominance of individualism, one of the most interesting aspects of this project was how salient particular assumptions and cultural explanations were for students. Most people likely have worldviews which contain multiple, often contradictory explanations for poverty and inequality which they utilize at different times, s ituations, contexts, etc. One perspective may be dominant, but most of us are not ideologically consistent at all times. With this in mind, it was not surprising when students harbored extremely individualistically oriented assumptions. In one interview a student went as far as to argue that poverty was passed from parents to children genetically; this was not a totally unexpected response as I would suspect that we all have at least some deeply individualistic aspects of our worldviews despite our particul ar overall orientations. What was so interesting to me was noting that the ideas expressed in each of the interview

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419 answers were the first ideas that students thought of when hearing my questions. Their responses were likely the most salient and most impor tant beliefs and assumptions that they held on the subject in question despite likely having multiple beliefs and assumptions; the answer a student gave represented the first and fastest ideas to muses that poverty may be passed down genetically through the generations, it is not shocking that this was part of their worldview, one explanation among many; what was shocking was that this was the first and most important thing that came to mind, and t he student ended their answer without broadening the scope of their analysis. Most of the really negative judgments of worldviews, but the foundations of their world views. Compassionate Individualism What differentiated the poverty/inequality worldviews of social work students from dominant American individualistically oriented poverty/inequality assumptions was not the cause of these social problems; both dominant American cultural assumptions and the worldviews of BSW students are individualistically oriented 27 What differentiated the two was that BSW students tended to frame their views in more compassionate and less demeaning ways while still accepting the founda tional assumptions. Students who entered the BSW program more structurally oriented and politically liberal tended to 27 One of my biggest regrets concerning my study design was not asking more questions related to the racialized and gendered distribution of poverty, inequality, and welfare need, as well as other social problems in the Culture of Poverty is what this says about racial minority groups and single mothers who find themselves disproportionately poor. I wish I had explicitly asked the fol lowing question to individualistically oriented students: in framing poverty as a personal failing and/or a consequence of deviant subcultural values, what implications does this have for racialized and feminized poverty? Do individual failings and deviant values really offer the best or most complete explanation of the disproportionate poverty of African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, single mothers, etc.? If so, what does this say about them as individuals and about their particular subcultures?

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420 leave the program feeling that these beliefs were validated, never truly analyzing the problematic aspects of these worldviews; despite be ing more structurally oriented than their colleagues, most still held overall worldviews that were based on individualism. Students who entered the BSW program more individualistically oriented and politically conservative tended to leave the program with slightly more structural views, but like the politically liberal students they still tended to leave the program with an individualistically oriented worldview. American cultural assumptions about poverty and inequality seemed to play a significant role, a lthough they were mediated through the American cultural assumptions passed through this filter, it became what I call wards and desire to help people individualistic foundational assumptions about why these people cannot help themselves in the first place. It should be noted that it did not seem like students were pretending or explicitly cloaking these individualistic assumptions in compassion as a means of manipulating their outward projected identities to appear more understanding. The ethnographic data suggests that they had internalized a de eply held belief that this compassion and moral certitude truly set them apart and that their beliefs truly were different; they had simply failed to thoroughly analyze how closely their foundational assumptions matched those of dominant American culture a nd whether this was empirically and/or theoretically problematic.

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421 Although most times the BSW students were not aware of the logical implications of what they were saying, their worldviews and explanations of social problems largely reinforced the idea that economic success and failure can be analyzed in terms of personal responsibility, self determination, hard work, proper motivation, smart choices, etc. In fact, the idea that the social hierarchy in the U.S. is a meritocracy was supported by a majority of the participants. It was largely assumed that limitless opportunities exist for all who want them, and the only problem was figuring out how to motivate marginalized populations to seize these opportunities. The BSW students assumed that adults are largely free from social forces; this notion suggested that people will always eventually come out ahead if they are determined enough and make the correct decisions despite any possible structural constraints. One constant struggle in my field of sociology is determining how much credit to give to the role of the social structure versus individual agency and how deterministic social forces are in the outcomes of our lives; in this study, most students assumed that individuals could always overcome structural constraints (if they even acknowledged the structural constraints in the first place). Students espoused the non sociological assumption that legal freedom assures freedom from social forces, and therefore a hig h level of legal freedom in the U.S. must mean freedom from social forces (some students even suggested that because the U.S. in any substantial manner). This helps explain why so many students had more compassion for children than adults: from their perspective children are the victims of social forces beyond their control, while adults can make their own destiny if they so choose. This of course begs the question: d o these underprivileged children grow up to

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422 become adults? When they do, is the impact of socialization in an underprivileged environment wiped clear when they turn 18? What about cumulative disadvantage, the ways in which social forces interact and create exponentially worse outcomes later in life? What about the continued influence of social forces despite age? This belief that poor adults ultimately control their own destiny ignores the very powerful role that social forces can play throughout our lives. Living in decades of poverty during childhood can if such a person were to move out of poverty as an adult, research suggests that their childhood experiences c ontinue to influence them throughout adulthood. This of course makes no mention of the social forces that an adult continues to face in adulthood which interact with the previously mentioned impacts. Assuming that a person can simply choose to live accordi ng to middle class standards ignores the strong influence that current and past social forces play in constraining the choices and opportunities available to many poor people. While it is certainly not safe to sociologically assume that no poor person can escape poverty, it is equally unsafe to assume that every poor person can escape poverty despite social constraints. The latter conceptualization of universally available upward mobility was a dominant assumption in the ethnographic record. There were man y popular components of the compassionate brand of individualism utilized by many students. Many students told me, in one form or another, important ways we all depend on other and how the government aids all social classes and many organizations and

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423 corporations. Students widely assumed that there is no shortage of opportunities in the U.S. and that proper motivation and smart choi ces would surely reward those who want to grasp them (this helps explain the significant concern about welfare dependency, something perceived as inherently problematic in a world of endless opportunities). These endless opportunities prove that those who fail are not self sufficient or personally responsible; everybody has a duty to be independent in a land of plenty. Students tended to use anecdotal evidence (from observations of their own family or beca use some people experience significant and often rapid upward mobility in the U.S., all people can experience such success. Some of the students compared the quality of living in the U.S. to other countries, and assumed that because this quality of living was higher (and the bottom of the social hierarchy was often higher than the bottom in other countries as well), all ion on whether an unjust distribution of social positions in any social hierarchy is problematic 28 I garnered from problems are considered to be largely solved here. Another assumption was that the 28 As a met aphor, I would use the hypothetical example of a person claiming that American slavery was relatively well compared to slave owners in other societies Such a discussion ignores the socially unjust and involuntary nature of slavery; one cannot easily justify forcing people to live according to certain standards simply because the person in a position of power believes those standards to be appropriate. I make the same argument for cross cultural analyses of American poverty. Of course there will be poor people that experience a more brutal standard of living than the American poor; in what way does this address the highly determining ways in which social organization can contribute to who loses out at the economic game involuntarily? How do we justify involuntary subordination? How can you downplay

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424 overlooked 29 There was a strong sentiment among the students that if the social structure overcome if somebody really, honestly tries hard enough. Implicit (and often times explicit) in much of the data was the notion that even when participants did acknowledge the role of the social structure, they downplayed its influence; yes some people face circumstances that others do not, but all circumstances can be overcome by hard work and motivation. This of course ignores the s ignificant impact that social unjust situation where some people are forced to overcome almost impossible odds to join the middle class, while others are simply bor n there. Just because upward mobility is possible for many people ignores how hard work is unequally rewarded based on social position and how far some people have to climb just to enjoy the quality of life that most MAU students inherited and take for gra nted; these students were born into middle and upper class privilege, yet demand that the poor make sacrifices they will never have to make, work harder than they will likely ever have to work, and take on burdens they likely could never imagine to reach the same point in the social hierarchy that most of these students occupied the day they were born. 29 Such as assuming that b ecause marriage tends to lead to more financial stability that marriage should be promoted. This does not address (a) why marriage is normative, (b) why social organization has to punish certain family forms, and (c) how the choice to marry and stay marrie d is constrained by strong social forces in poor communities. Because marriage can be a strategic decision to avoid poverty does not make it socially just to assume that people who do not marry are being irresponsible or all that all people can and should marry and stay married.

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425 they ever needed welfare. This seemed to suggest that they believe welfare i s not a method of addressing structural imbalances after they happen; rather, welfare in this context is money taken from people who earned it meritocratically and given to people who did not. Rather than viewing welfare as wages that people should have be en making in the first place and are therefore being returned to them (whether through subjection to low wages or exclusion from the paid labor force), it was viewed by many unt. Welfare is the middle why students spoke of being burdens to society, because this perspective assumes that poor people are not doing enough to help themselves and must depend on o ther earned money to survive. Many of the students in this study pursued the field of social work because they wanted to help people who they believed could not help themselves. After analyzing their answers it seemed that there were two dist inct groups of people who were helpless: one group that was deserving of unconditional help, and one that was deserving of conditional help. The people that were more likely to receive sympathy and framed as deserving of unconditional help were often peopl e whose poverty could be medically explained: people battling mental illness, disabled individuals, the elderly, etc. The students believed that people whose poverty could not be medically explained were rty; any help given to these people must be conditional (regulated, punitive, etc.) because no legitimate explanation was available to explain why they were poor beyond personal deficiencies. The BSW

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426 students were very understanding of the social forces th at contributed to the poverty of people whose plight could be medically explained. For the other group, it was assumed that while social forces may have created unfair conditions, anybody that truly wishes to overcome these conditions can and should. F ixing Individual Deficiencies individuals that kept them from being successful. This helps explain why most students were interested in psychology at some point before a rriving at the study of social work. It also helps explain why so many students saw education as a means of fixing poor children before they became problematic adults. Rather than examining why undesirable positions exist in the social hierarchy in the fir st place, most of the students took social organization for granted and were instead interested fixing whatever deficiency existed within an individual that kept them from occupying one of the many (presumably unlimited) desirable positions that exist in s ociety. The overwhelming interest in psychology that many of the students had before finding social work seemed to support this notion that deep down they were focused on how to fix individuals, not social structures; where social structures were discussed they were discussed as a means of contributing to individual level solutions rather than guaranteeing some level of equality regardless of personal characteristics. Organizing society in such a manner so that we all can succeed despite our personal chara cteristics did not seem to be desirable to the BSW students. They took it for granted that economic success should be tied to normative middle class standards, and because these standards were inherently and objectively right and desirable it was the duty themselves to match these standards.

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427 Many of the students reported being concerned that government money should behavior and characteristics; suggesti ng that if poor people want the hard earned money of the middle class, they need to live by the moral code of the middle class. Money given to welfare recipients who changed their behavior was framed as deserved aid, while money given to a recipient who re fused to change their behavior was a people to a certain standard of living regardless of personal characteristics. For many students, spending money on poor people who money and conform to middle even suggested that this money that was given to welfare recipients altruistically could be repaid someday as a sign of appreciation. The Invisible, Normative Social Structure In this study it seemed that social work as a field tended to treat social problems as issues that need to be resolved within the context of the current social structure. This is understandable given that social w orkers, once they are in the field, will be forced to do their best for their clients with the resources they are allowed and within the externally imposed state and federal regulations. After all, most social workers do not write policy and their job desc ription demands that they follow the rules and logic of their profession (or choose another profession). A football player, for example, may wish certain rules of the game to be different in some form or another, but this does not stop him/her from followi ng such rules or face the consequences. It is understandable that social work students would focus on the practical, individual centered strategies that will be most useful to them in the field within the constraints of their profession: helping a

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428 person f ind a job, preaching self determination even in the face of long odds, etc. This focus on within systems solutions helps explain why these students talked about social problems at the individual level rather than the structural level. It was overwhelmingly the case that the causes and solutions that the students expressed were always closer to the individual level. Students took many elements of the current social order for granted, and it could be understood from their answers that for the most part social organization was just fine as it is, we just need to help people to better participate in society. The capitalist principles of the American economy, for instance, were not a subject of inquiry; the focus was mostly on how individuals can better equip the mselves to play by these rules 30 I was a bit surprised that students could not think more structurally, more abstractly, and from more of a macro level perspective when sitting down with me for an interview; after all, we were safely protected within the w alls of the This within systems perspective was an important part of their analytical toolbox, however, and tended to persist and frame their most basic logic related to so cial problems. Students took for granted that certain personal characteristics and individual actions (being a single mother, having little education, etc.) led to a less desirable social position (and among other problematic consequences of this logic ig nored the racialized and gendered implications of this individual centered logic). When discussing such characteristics they spoke about trying to fix these deficiencies (the single mother 30 The principles of the American economy were largely invisible and taken for granted. Nancy, for life because he got unlu social environments affected us as people, focusing on the characteristics of who loses out at the economic game rather than why there are losers in the first place (in referen ce to Rank 2003).

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4 29 should get married, the uneducated should get educated) rather than asking themselves: why does this particular personal characteristic or action have to carry with it a lower social position? Why are some normative personal characteristics and/or family forms (such as the traditional family) given a privileged position a nd assumed to be inherently natural and desirable? Is it really impossible for society to be organized in such a manner as to reward all personal characteristics and family forms? For instance, is there a way to organize society so that single mothers are not solely dependent on the labor market for income, healthcare, etc.? Why do we demand people get married to succeed financially? After all, if we assume that the labor market is an imperfect way of meeting the needs of an entire population, it might be a ssumed that a single mother deserves some support beyond what she might be able to procure in the labor market. Rather than asking these sorts of questions, it was taken for granted that certain personal characteristics were problematic. Understandings of the relationships between individuals and social institutions were considerably underdeveloped. The answer for most students was to give these individuals a chance to fix themselves according to middle class standards, instead of fixing society so that the se characteristics do not carry such punitive consequences. Even if it was assumed that it is objectively true that personal characteristics cause inequality (a problematic assertion in itself), it does not have to be assumed that we have to allow this ine quality to happen. Social organization is a choice made by people, and the negative aspects of such organization are the fault of people, not fate. Nature has not ordained that a few bad decisions have to doom people to the bottom of the social hierarchy f or the rest of their lives and we should not feel shackled by this false inevitability.

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430 One of the most popular beliefs in this vein was the belief that life is inherently a competition; not only did the students believe that this was a natural part of li fe, but that sit should be that way and that we should just be concerned with making it a fair competition. Fair competition was much more popular than assured equality. There was little support for altering the social structure in such a manner as to redu ce or eliminate this competition for resources, quality of living, life chances, etc. There was little support for the notion that society should not be an endless race where everybody must be dy, like many Americans, did not desire a society where people were entitled to a decent quality of life regardless of personal characteristics or actions; they only wanted people to be entitled to certain opportunities (such as education, one opportunity which the students selectively assumed would trump other important opportunities and lead to a meritocracy and whose rules students assumed were inherently socially just). Students supported the notion that (a) we all should compete meritocratically for ed ucational credentials, (b) the labor market should reward educational credentials, (c) the meritocratic distribution of income, wealth, health, life chances, etc. based on education was socially just, (d) the inequality that results is justifiable if there is a socially defined level playing field, (e) we should not be concerned about building society in such a manner as to entitle all people to a certain quality of living, and (f) educational equality would ensure that there were enough resources for every body (and that people with desirable personal characteristics would never be poor). The students believed that meritocratically derived inequality was socially just, and framed meritocratic inequality almost solely in terms of

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431 educational access (ignoring other highly constraining and/or determining social forces and institutions). Students focused heavily on educational and economic capital while downplaying (and in many cases ignoring) other forms of capital, such as social capital and cultural capital, t hat influence inequality. In focusing on educational access (access to equal education for all social classes) as the culprit in social problems such as poverty and inequality, the students tended to ignore the substantial body of research that suggests th at (a) most educational inequality is caused by non school factors, and (b) access to education does not guarantee the ability to perform well academically or the freedom to College would make litt le practical sense in the real lives of many poor families, but students assumed that they should still be forced to live according to these middle class expectations. Research suggests that even with equal educational experiences within schools students s tart kindergarten with substantial inequalities in academic performance. Schools are part of the answer, but not the whole answer or even the majority of the answer, contrary to what the BSW students argue. Leveling the educational playing field does not a ddress the many other social forces that play a role in creating and perpetuating social inequality, and educational and economic capital are not the only capitals that produce inequality. Students were well aware that people who fail in the educational c ompetition do not have the resources and skills to participate in the middle class. What was largely missing from this analysis was the manner in which the evaluation of these skills was socially constructed. None of the participants acknowledge the fact t hat there is nothing

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432 inherently desirable about the way that the educational system is constructed: it is a choice that has been made by people. There was never any talk of designing society in such a manner that failing to meet these socially constructed middle class educational standards would not doom an individual to the low wage labor market (or worse). There was also no discussion of whether failing in schools designed according to middle class standards was actually meritocratic or simply another for m of stratification. The participants often discussed welfare programs as a means to give poor people the (temporary) income necessary to live according to middle class standards; d on their effort. This heavy focus on income ignored many things, including (a) the role of wealth social and cultural capital of keeping people in the middle class once they get there. One of my participants, Ashley, spoke fondly of a middle class couple she knew from her internship who had fallen onto hard times. At one point in their lives they were living very comfortably, but the recent economic downturn forced them to lose many of their possessions and plunge into poverty. Ashley assured me that through their hard work and motivation this couple was able to escape poverty, proving to her that individuals really can overcome any obstacles if they so choose. What Ashle y ignored, of course, was the substantial role that other forms of capital, specifically social capital and cultural capital, play in our success and failure. Her focus was almost totally on economic resources, a common theme in the data. That middle class family likely had formal and informal knowledge as well as social network ties that many poor individuals do not.

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433 on finding anecdotes that contradicted American stereotypes, b ut in the process they often unknowingly reinforced those stereotypes. Ashley, for instance, rejects the notion that all poor people are lazy based upon her example of the once comfortable middle class family who beat poverty to rejoin the middle class. In poor and coming to a deeper understanding of the complexities of social problems. In lazy and not all poor people are locked into poverty, however, Ashley actually reinforces the notion that the rest of the poor (most of the poor) are lazy many anecdotal examples given by the participants does not address the structural and/or socially unjust social forces and constraints facing a typical poor family. Despite seem to strengthen them; the rest of the poor w ho (a) were never in the middle class and/or (b) failed to have similar success in escaping poverty were suspect and had themselves to blame for failing to work as hard as the middle class family. This example proved to Ashley that hard work can save anyon e, so what is wrong with the rest of the poor? Whether the anecdotal evidence was a person battling mental illness or a person who was having difficulty in the labor market because of contracting AIDS in their medical profession, these anecdotes only stren gthened the notion that the rest of the is mentally ill or has AIDS, it is difficult fo r them to analyze their plight beyond the

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434 individual level. Through their compassion students actually often reinforced the same stereotypes that they were so critical of. I noticed in the ethnographic record that there was hardly any acknowledgement that the labor market does not have to be the only method of distributing resources: food, housing, healthcare access (and the resulting health of an individual), etc. It was largely taken for granted that success or failure in the educational system and in th e for granted that the labor market is a competition, and if an individual failed in this competition, they could experience a standard of living drastically below what any of these students would deem acceptable. The students assumed that the correlation between educational success and labor market success was natural and desirable. Cultural assumptions and scientific knowledge were other structural components that wer e taken for granted by the BSW students. Despite widely criticizing American individualism, individualism was the most popular poverty/inequality perspective and the cultural assumptions contained within this perspective were rendered invisible in their no rmativity. Scientific knowledge was also assumed to be inherently objective and accurate by all but a few of the most politically conservative students (who mostly rejected it because it was assumed to be liberally biased and did not mesh with their politi cally conservative beliefs). Research that examines welfare dependency, poor etc., contains highly subjective assumptions rendered invisible by the perceived objectivi ty and authority of science; many of the students spoke of the independent and dependent variables contained in these studies as objective knowledge rather than

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435 carefully and socially constructed variables that reflected the choices of social scientists. Some students, for example, spoke about research concerning welfare dependency and how dependency itself was inherently a problem. The perceived objectivity and authority given to science may lead some students to take this assumption as a given, and take the perceived problematic nature of welfare dependency as a starting point. Studies that frame welfare dependency as inherently problematic, however, exclude the possibility that it is the inadequacy of the low wage labor market that is problematic, and th at turning to long term government aid in the face of such inadequacy might be a rational and/or positive decision for these families. It is not an inherently irrational argument to say that, if given the choice, one might choose the security, higher incom e, and/or greater benefits of welfare over an abysmal low wage labor market (where benefits such as healthcare coverage are often nonexistent). A study of welfare dependency might use the problematic nature of such a labor market aming welfare dependency as but a consequence of market conditions. Deciding whether to frame either welfare dependency or the low wage labor market as problematic are choices that are made by social scientists, inherently subjective decisions that contain many assumptions and biases; all social science meaning beyond what is included and what is excluded by the social scientist who constructs such a variable; a variable is no t some inanimate object that we find in the wilderness but a symbolic structure that we create and to which we give meaning. This subjective and socially constructed nature of knowledge was lost on most of the BSW

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436 students who took the authority of this sc ience for granted and in the process perpetuated many American cultural assumptions about poverty and inequality. Questioning Welfare Many students assumed that income was inherently meritocratic and that welfare was essentially the non and the farmworker in an agricultural company, for instance, both deserved the unequal incomes that they received based on the unequal contributions that they made to the company. Likewise, an unemployed per son who cannot find work in this agricultural company is not unemployed because they lack relative bargaining power in the labor market but because they have personally failed to participate in a market of endless opportunities. This assumption excluded th e possibility that income is an imperfect indicator of our hard work and merit. An alternative viewpoint is that income is a measure of our relative bargaining power in a company and/or the labor market. If one were to assume that income is an imperfect in dicator of merit, then welfare might seem like a socially just redress of the unjust consequences of imperfect social organization; the CEO is able to use their bargaining position to procure more of the collectively produced profit, therefore redistributi on of economic resources is a socially just answer; likewise, the unemployed person has been crowded out of the labor market by those with more relative bargaining power, and this socially unjust reality also deserves to be addressed. If one takes an oppos itional point of view and assumes that the distribution of resources is socially just on the front end (in the form of wages), however, welfare seems like a socially end. This latter conceptua lization of income and welfare, made particular famous (or

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437 what students mostly relied upon (unknowingly). It was largely assumed that, at least in terms of economic res meritocratically earned economic resources redistributed to people who did not earn them. From this viewpoint income is something that is meritocratically earned in a world where social organization provid es desirable incomes to all who deserve them. Welfare and charity are then seen as altruistic gestures signaling the moral superiority of those who had earned their privileged positions instead of a socially just method of addressing structural imbalances; because welfare was viewed as people choosing to give away their meritocratically earned resources, many students thought welfare recipients should behavior, otherwi When I asked the BSW students if they would ever consider turning to welfare, many said they would feel bad taking welfare away from people who truly needed it. What they seemed to mean by t his was that, while they may fall into poverty briefly at some point in their lives, they know they have the tools to escape successfully. This notion that welfare is for people without these successful personal characteristics suggests that welfare is not an entitlement available to make sure that no family falls below a certain standard of living. Instead, welfare was framed in these answers as a program that should only go to people that fall below a certain standard of living and lack the successful per sonal characteristics to escape. People should not be entitled to a minimum standard of living, it was argued, unless they changed these characteristics. Many students equated poverty with homelessness. This suggested that the students either had an ina ccurate perception of the federal poverty thresholds or

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438 disagreed with them; my educated guess based upon my analysis is that they had little knowledge of these thresholds. This belief that the definition of poverty is when a person is on the brink of surv ival was reinforced by the students responses concerning whether they would ever use welfare. Students assured me that they would only use lfare. This was both a judgment of the definition of true poverty and a sign that students had internalized American cultural assumptions about the shame of turning to welfare. The Considerable Influence of Privilege Most of the students at MAU are eithe r from the same geographic region as the university, one of the wealthiest regions in the country, or other similarly wealthy regions. Despite feeling that advocating for the poor meant they understood them, it was clear that the privileged positions of th e MAU students made it difficult (if not impossible) for them to truly understand the constraints and difficulties of poverty 31 The privileged position of the BSW students in this study seemed to play a rather critical role in their worldviews; this was lo st on almost all of the students however, with little discussion about how their position in the social hierarchy influenced their beliefs and analyzing social problems simp ly because they were in college and studying scientific 31 Despite (a) being largely unable to see the perspectives of the poor from their privileged social positions and (b) seemingly wanting to avoid the empirical research and theory that might help them understand their perspectives, the pa rticipants had no trouble preaching morality to the poor and assuming they understood their plight. Most students were rather certain in their individualistically oriented beliefs despite never having experienced poverty themselves and having significant d eficiencies in their knowledge of poverty research and theory. As an example, most students I spoke with had never question the efficacy of thei r program as well as lead one to question their certainty about the causes of poverty.

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439 research, failing to realize the subjectivity of all perspectives based on our social position as well as the socially constructed nature of that research. Most students came from middle upper middl e, or upper class backgrounds and never had to deal with the difficulties of poverty. Many of the students came from very successful and privileged positions. It was no sur privileged lens. It was very hard for most students to imagine themselves being poor and/or needing welfare at any point in the future, because they have always thought of themselves as possessing t he characteristics of a successful person; they had difficulty identifying how social organization both contributed to their privileged status and might someday contribute to their own poverty, however briefly. Many students said they would refuse welfare because they had successful personal characteristics, unlike the analyzing their characteristics and actions according to the norms and rules of middle class life. It was often times difficult for me to hide my discomfort when students spoke students have never experienced such adversity or faced a situation where they had struggled mightily only to fail to reach the privileged social positions inherited by most MAU students. The students demanded that the poor make the same choices and sacrifices than these st udents could imagine and (b) one cannot equate the choices, opportunities, and constraints present in the middle class to those found in poverty. The poor live in a world that bears little resemblance to the privilege surrounding MAU

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440 students at school and at home, instead facing a world where the same amount of effort is not met with the same amount of rewards; the students largely ignored this and assumed we were all playing by the same rules on the same playing field. Few students could ever envision t hemselves needing welfare at any point in their lives. When I pushed them to contemplate this hypothetical situation anyway, many students revealed how embarrassed they would be and how they would feel like they had personally failed in life. Most students claimed to believe that poverty and inequality were structurally determined, yet I had a hard time meshing this claim with their feelings of embarrassment and failure. If these students truly believed that poverty was the result of structural failings, it was hard for me to understand why they would take their own poverty so personally. It seemed likely to me that, like most Americans, these students have internalized American cultural assumptions about poverty and welfare, and would judge themselves by th ose standards if they ever found themselves truly in need. In talking about hard work, self determination, and the unshakeable will that it or had simply given up. Discouraged workers, for instance, might find themselves reasonably beaten down by the experience of constant rejection and little hope. Students of privilege largely assumed that everybody could keep their spirits up based on the expectation that they would succeed. This was understandable from successes. Having not been in the position where a situation or social structure may remove every la st bit of hope in an individual, it was difficult for these students to

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441 identify with this situation or sympathize with it. These students argued that every individual should be expected to keep their spirits up and keep trying regardless of the obstacles they face. It was difficult to understand this point of view given that most of the students at MAU did not have to expend that level of effort to remain in their inherited privileged class position. Regardless, this belief in the duty of individuals to be perpetually hopeful made sense to most students from their privileged positions. Welfare Morality 32 and Regulating the Poor If one believes in compassionate individualism, where life chances result from individual choices and the social structure is take n for granted, then regulating the poor might be seen as a logical extension of this perspective. There was a strong belief regulate welfare recipients through behavioral incentives and/or punishments. This belief was based on ideas of endless opportunities and the notion that those who behave correctly/morally are almost always rewarded with a middle class existence by the social structure; if only the poor and welfare re cipients would behave correctly (and class morality they would succeed. If they refuse to do so, the middle class should impose that morality and fix their behavior through welfare policy. Wel between welfare recipients and the middle class, a contract that stipulates that the poor will agree to change their behavior in exchange for hard earned middle class money. Students seemed to be deeply concerned t hat welfare recipients are inherently inclined 32 Welfare morality, or the assumed (middle class) moral code that poor people needed to live by to

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442 be punished for the sins of the minority. Despite the fact that the amount of money spent on corporate welfare and middle and upper class welfare is much greater in the U.S. than poverty targeted welfare, it was only the recipients of poverty targeted welfare that were typically framed as needing moral guidance. Welfare use was framed as inherently wrong and abnormal (ignorin feature of our economy) based upon individualistically oriented beliefs, and poverty and welfare need were framed as signs that people are not doing enough to help themselves. Students ignored the cumulative disadvantage of years of living in poverty and assumed that a middle class existence could be chosen at any time and maintained indefinitely. There was strong support for welfare policies such as drug testing, family caps, and work requirements, and a majo rity of students espoused at least portions of had to turn to welfare in their own lives they would use it morally and would depend upon their successful personal char acteristics to escape poverty. There were many components of welfare morality. Participants had a difficult time differentiating between the causes of poverty and the consequences of poverty, and welfare morality was one area where almost every perceived n egative aspect of poverty was assumed to be a cause rather than consequence; in some cases it was argued that welfare itself encouraged immortality. Students who supported these welfare policies framed welfare as a non entitlement: poor people do not have a right to a minimum standard of living unless they agree to live according to the morality imposed upon them. Students echoed many of the negative assumptions about the

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443 poor that informed the development of these policies in the first place, and signaled their belief in these negative assumptions by suggesting that only recipients of poverty targeted welfare have morality imposed on them (despite all social classes and much of private industry receiving welfare, too). The poor, it was implicitly and explic itly suggested, are inherently suspect. U topia of endless o pportunities Participants implicitly and explicitly espoused beliefs in endless opportunities (desirable social positions being available to all who want them), beliefs which influenced many of th eir assumptions and assertions about welfare morality. Welfare dependency, for instance, was a concern for the BSW students because long term welfare use meant to them that a poor person was personally irresponsible in failing to adhere to middle class nor ms and grasping one of many opportunities available to them. Failure to grasp these opportunities also meant that people failed to be self sufficient like the rest of society (despite the realities that nobody is truly self sufficient, nobody is disconnect ed from the social structure, and we all receive help from other people to succeed, including the government). Despite giving considerable lip service to structurally oriented concerns, most students signaled to me through their answers that poor people co uld overcome poverty if they really tried; while life may be unfair for some, it is not impossible for anybody (and if life is unfair to you it is your responsibility to carry the burden of the additional work needed to escape such conditions). Most studen ts assured me that if they ever needed welfare in their personal lives, they would The manner in which students framed their support for work requirements reinforced the notion of the availab ility of endless opportunities for all. Poor people were

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444 assumed to be unmotivated to grasp these opportunities and would only oblige if personal failing, and often showed little regard for the types of jobs available (assuming there are good jobs for all who want them); it was often assumed that any job was desirable to welfare recipients, ignoring how welfare can sometimes be a preferable alternative to the insecuri ty, insufficient income, and little to no benefits provided by the low wage labor market (it was somehow assumed that the low wage labor market would low wage labor market than undignified on welfare even if your standard of living suffered. The longer a person was out of work the more negative the judgment they received in these interviews; long term unem sufficient. There was little regard for the notion that raising children is work, and students mostly desired for all welfare recipients (including young mothers) to be in the paid labor for ce (although many students did support government subsidized childcare); students ignorin g the structural causes of unemployment and reinforcing the notion of welfare as transfer of hard earned money from earners to non earners (rather than redress of structural imbalances that created unequal incomes). There was an implicit and explicit theme middle world of endless opportunities anybody can own their success).

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445 Do poor women deserve to ha ve c hildren? Fertility limiting policies aimed at poor women made sense to a strong majority of participants because choosing to bring children into poverty when they could just as easily bring them into a middle class environment (if they were motivated e nough to position was discussed in such an individualistically oriented manner, it did not make much sense to the students why somebody would choose to bring a child into a poor environment since that poor environment was largely a choice. There was a strong children in poverty, with some students even suggesting that the children should be ta ken away from their families. Beliefs in the legitimacy of family caps were dependent on many assumptions, including the notions that (a) if a family never escapes poverty they should never have children (meaning the poor do not have a right to procreate), (b) it is socially just to regulate such a family decision based upon middle class judgments considerations, and it is not influenced by social conditions, (d) poor women need to be taught to be responsible, and (e) it is socially just and practical to expect poor families to live according to the same rules/standards and dissimilar constraints of middle class life. Many students believed that if a poor family knew about these individualistically oriented policies ahead of time (before receiving benefits), then the policies were socially just. Even students who disagreed with family caps did so for individual level reasons: they were worried about the impact of the children, wor ried about punishing unplanned pregnancies, etc. These students still believed the individualistically oriented tenets of fertility

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446 reasons: they may not have supported the policy, b ut they still believed poor women should not intentionally have children. There was also a prevalent (and empirically unsupported) belief that many welfare recipients have children to receive more benefits. Many students suggested that children born to wel notion that welfare is an illegitimate transfer of money from earners to non earners. It was almost completely lost on many students what a luxury and privilege it is to be able to decide when to have a family, how many children you can choose to have, not expecting to be judged for making what seems like a mundane middle class decision, etc. The assumption of immorality and drug use The sig nificant support for welfare drug testing was based on many ideas, including the strong sentiment that drug use is inherently wrong/immoral. Drug use was largely assumed to cause poverty rather than result from it. Drug use and addiction were assumed to be mostly a choice not connected to social conditions. Students assumed that the poor were largely suspect, it is socially just to test an entire population of people because of their poverty, and that the burden was on the poor to prove they were not using drugs. Students, even when pushed to consider such a policy, did not support drug testing for non poor recipients of government money; their concern focused only on the poor using government money immorally on non necessities. Welfare was again framed as a non entitlement in this discussion of drug testing: imposed morality. Rarely was the ideological nature of the debates that created these policies in the first place discussed. Some students even attempted to thwart perceived

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447 criticism of the ideological nature of their answers before it was leveled, saying that poor these drug tes ts to any other drug test, this was an obvious, blatant, and willful dismissal of the documented negative and ideological reasons why drug tests were instituted for welfare recipients. A shocking number of students assumed that addiction quickly and in a single instance, and that welfare recipients should be the support for drug testing was connected to a deeply held, almost visceral belief that the morals and motivations of the poor are inherently suspect. Logical Inconsistencies Significant portions of the arguments that students used when discussing the poor and welfare recipients were logically inconsistent upon further examination. For instance many students were concerned that people who receive government money should not break the law and should therefore be drug tested. The main component of respectfully/morally. I asked a follow up question to many students who reported supporting drug tests for this reason: if you believe people who receive government money should be drug tested, does that mean that the myriad forms of government assistance that go to all social classes a s well as corporations should come with drug tests as well? What about middle class tax breaks, farm subsidies, subsidies to private sports owners, college student loans, corporate welfare, etc.? Most students who supported drug testing the poor did not su pport drug testing for non poor welfare recipients. This signaled to me that their main complaint was not that it was government money, but that there was something inherently suspect about poor people receiving

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448 government money; these people deserved to b e regulated and monitored by virtue of being poor. This was also part of a larger trend in the ethnographic record where students ignored the ways in which all people and corporations receive some assistance from both other people and the government. To th e BSW students, help from others was something that only the poor demanded. Explaining the Prevalence of Compassionate Individualism My analysis of the ethnographic record suggests that students largely reinforced American cultural assumptions about pov erty, inequality, and welfare because of their socialization within American culture and the ways in which these internalized cultural deficiencies. The particular form th at these individualistically oriented American 33 particular family environments, etc.; most worldviews still reflected Am erican individualism in a slightly altered and more accomplish their goals because it provided them the opportunity to help/fix people who had similar life experiences to the ir own 34 while also allowing the students to avoid 33 Students tended to have more complex and nuanced understandings of a particular marginalized population if they themselves were a part of that population. For other populations where they had no experiential knowledge, they relied more heavily on ideology, generalizations, stereotypes, etc. If a person had battled mental illness, for instance, they tended to express opinions on mental health issues that were much more nuanced and complex than t heir opinions about other populations that were foreign to them (such as the poor). 34 Social work is a very diverse field and students can choose to work with a wide variety of populations, many of which have little connection to each other. Some students described s ocial work as a field you can work with one specific population while avoiding others altogether. The one truly consistent characteristic of th e program seemed to be that people wanted to help other people, not that they would follow any particular framework for understanding military veterans, for instance, while another wanted to wo rk solely with recent immigrants. The issues

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449 discovered how social work met these goals they felt motivated to pursue it as a career. The results of this study see m to suggest that poverty and inequality exist, at least in part, because of the symbolic distinctions that we make in our minds, distinctions which we inherit from the larger culture. While we may alter and change such distinctions for our own personal us e, they exist in a certain form before we arrive in the world and important foundational components tend to remain after personalization. If we are to design social institutions and structures which will combat poverty and inequality and allow people to be truly free, we have to have the ability not only to imagine such in s t itu tions and structures, but justify them and give them legitimacy. Until our poverty and inequality knowledge justifies and legitimates the existence of such institutional and social fo rms, and our cultural assumptions reflect these changes, it is unlikely that we will construct and perpetuate such truly free social conditions. A strong body of empirical and theoretical work in the social sciences suggests that childhood socialization within a particular culture has a major impact on how we interpret the world, providing us with a particular (flexible but still culture specific) framework that helps us give meaning to the world around us. While the ideological framework that we are give n to work with may be similar to a spectrum with a range of possible gradationally different forms it is not the entire possible ideological spectrum. that face these populations are very different in very important ways, and the tools necessary to be a good social worker and effectively help these populations are different as well. BSW students already show l ittle interest in empirical research and theory; when combined with the fact that many were narrowly may come away from the BSW program with considerably und erdeveloped understandings of social problems unrelated to their narrow area of interest. Some students may study poverty and inequality for only a portion of one semester and may only study it seriously enough to pass an exam.

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450 Social work students certainly seem to be located farther to the left on that American ideological spect rum than most Americans in terms of their political affiliations and somewhat more structurally oriented beliefs; what this seemed to suggest was that American cultural beliefs were not rejected experiences, personal belie fs, etc., leading them to espouse simply a different form of American individualism (compassionate individualism) rather than a different perspective altogether. The widespread taken for granted nature of the capitalist principles of the American economy, for instance, cannot honestly be considered the full range of ideological possibilities concerning economic issues; the beliefs of BSW students differed on the slightly different ways in which that economy should be organized (which type of capitalism they preferred) while reinforcing a general capitalist framework. Like many other assumptions, the assumption in the superiority of capitalism was mediated through rejected. The one student in this study who did not reproduce major components of American cultural assumptions about poverty, inequality, and welfare was socialized in a culture and society vastly different than the U.S. Whether or not the BSW program could have had a major impact on the reproduc tion of American cultural assumptions is questionable but not clear. While the BSW program seemed to provide a somewhat weak theoretical foundation to help explain poverty and inequality 35 this did not seem to be the major influence on the iews. Students arrived in the BSW program with the major foundations 35 This weak foundation mean initiative to come to a deeply nuanced understanding of social problems. Whether a student chose to do so was based on the motivations of that individual, with most BSW students in stead relying on personal beliefs to interpret such issues.

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451 of their worldviews largely in place and somewhat crystallized, and it did not seem likely that the program could have made major foundational shifts in their worldviews had it been struc tured differently. The major influence seems to be socialization in American culture. Social work students in this study tended to choose social work as a profession for deeply personal reasons 36 related to seminal experiences from their formative years. Pu rsuing social work seemed to be a means for these students to satisfy a need within y of students identified at least one (and in many cases two) seminal experiences from their childhoods and/or teenage years that motivated them to (a) want to help people who had gone through similar experiences and (b) want to help people and/or change t he world (in some cases these experiences seemed to create the desire to help people/change the world, but in most cases these experiences seemed to interact with their preexisting desire to help people/change the world). This may help to explain why stude nts did so little self reflection and experienced such little change in their worldviews once they left the social work program: learning about social problems was not their primary motivation for studying social work in the first place. In fact, most stud ents reported wanting to avoid fields that focused too heavily on research and theory. The ethnographic record suggests that childhood socialization, previous life 36 BSW students seemed to study social work as a means to satisfy something within themselves, not necessarily solely as a means to help others. There was no guarantee that a student was studying social work as a means to come to a deeply nuanced understanding of social problems. Having the motivation to help particular populations did not guarantee a student had the theoretical tools to help that population. Feeling a sense of sadness, compassion, and/or pity for somebody is no guarantee that you understand the causes of their plight. Feeling bad for a homeless person and giving them spare change, for instance, does not guarantee an understanding between a homeless individual and social institution s and structures.

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452 experiences, and American cultural assumptions were the most dominant influence on their bel iefs. While their college studies did influence their views, there seemed to be a what they learned in their studies that confirmed what they already believed. How the p rogram would have combated the strong influence of American culture and tendency to confirm these existing cultural biases is unclear (I will discuss some possible suggestions in a moment). Nowhere was this confirmation bias more apparent than their disc ussions of their oriented beliefs They collected different pieces of evidence and interpreted t hem through this individualistic lens, acknowledging evidence that supported their worldview and either (a) ignoring contradictory evidence or (b) interpreting this evidence in an alternative manner that provided further support. This was somewhat understa social forces. I can actually see a person sitting in a welfare office during typical American business hours rather than participating in the pai d labor force. Because I see this action (sitting idle instead of working) but cannot easily observe the social forces that might have contributed (labor market conditions, cumulative disadvantage, etc.) it is much easier to blame the actions that I see th an the ones that I cannot; even when social forces were taken into account they were typically treated as suspect and hard to prove, whereas students seemed to feel that they could easily prove when a person is

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453 experiences gave the students tangible, observable proof that allowed them to confirm their biases, they tended to report that these experiences taught them more than their studies about poverty and inequality. The BS the least influential factor shaping their worldviews (behind childhood socialization, past life experiences, and American cultural assumptions), and internship experiences their college studies did play a role in their worldviews. Most of the students reported studying social work at least in part as a way to avoid fields that focused too heavily on research and theory 37 Their social work program did focus somewhat on resea rch related to social problems, but the theoretical component related to poverty and inequality was weak. Overall, student displayed very underdeveloped empirical and theoretical understandings of poverty, inequality, welfare, and other social problems in the U.S.; this was not simply a program failing, as many students spoke of wanting to avoid research and theory in college. Many of the students, even when confronted with research that contradicted their beliefs, either assumed that the research was flawe d or simply disregarded the research altogether. Some students spoke of school funding as a major cause of poverty, for instance, despite research to the contrary (in fact one student acknowledged that she knew what the research said and disregarded it). O ther students spoke about educational access while not showing any signs of being aware of school readiness research. Most students believed in the problematic assumption that educational equality would solve 37 Most students had little to no interest in the news either. This was not inherently problematic in itself, but combined with their lack of interest in research and theory contributed to the notion that there was not a significant amou nt of intellectual curiosity.

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454 poverty, and some believed that public schools were to blame and that the answer was private and charter schools. All of these assumptions ignore significant research that suggests their beliefs are flawed and in many cases completely contrary to the empirical evidence. Students framed their person al experiences as the starting point and helping people who had gone through similar life experiences as the end goal. There did not seem to be very much interest in everything in the middle (the intricate details contained in the empirical research relate d to and theoretical explanations of social problems). Students explicitly stated that they chose social work as a means of avoiding having to focus too much on empirical research and theory related to social problems; because of this, and because of their desire to reach their end goal without focusing too much on the academic aspects of the study of their field, students tended to rely mostly on the worldviews that they brought with them into the program. These worldviews were heavily dependent on America n cultural values mediated through their childhood socialization, life experiences, family environment, etc. This helps explain why these students depended so heavily on cultural and individual level explanations of poverty and inequality rather than acade mic and more structurally oriented explanations. Implications The major findings in this study reinforce the notion that socialization within a particular culture has a powerful influence on how people interpret the world. American culture clearly has a strong influence on how BSW students interpret issues related to poverty, inequality, and welfare. The BSW students were overwhelmingly politically liberal and had chosen a relatively modest income career (by American standards) of helping marginalized pop ulations; going into this study, the characteristics of this

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455 profession suggested to me that these students would not necessarily favor the individualism perspective. Despite this, they largely accepted American cultural assumptions that reinforced the ind ividualistic explanations of these issues. What this suggests is that changing our poverty, inequality, and welfare knowledge to be more inclusive of different perspectives and levels of analysis could be a long and gradual process. Cultural change is a la rge and daunting task. To help with this task, BSW programs that resemble the one in this study might forces is learned, and college students need help developing this skill. In sociology we guarantee this skill; developing the ability to see the complex social forces that shape our lives is a difficult process. Students should not be allow ed to focus too narrowly on one population leading to ignorance of other important populations, and all students should be able to understand the social forces that contribute to such foundational social problems as poverty and inequality. The findings of this study suggest that many of the students would self select a different field in order to avoid such an emphasis, which could (a) create a dearth of social workers in a profession that is always in need of people, and/or (b) improve the empirical and th eoretical understandings of social problems for the students that do choose to study social work anyway. Alongside a greater emphasis on empirical research and theory, it seems critical that BSW programs place the internship experiences within a theoretica l context. Too often in this study it seemed like students were using their firsthand internship experiences to simply confirm whatever preexisting ideological biases they had about poverty, inequality, and welfare.

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456 em like intangible social forces when they are in the field, and if left unaddressed these social forces are rendered invisible. Social forces that are rendered invisible lead to social problems that are difficult to solve. Contextualizing these experience s within a strong empirical and theoretical framework seems critical to combat confirmation bias and the perpetuation of preexisting cultural assumptions. With all of the emphasis placed on the inclusion of more empirical research and theory in BSW progra ms, it should be noted that this is not enough and cannot take place without better poverty and inequality scholarship. As sociologist Mark R. Rank researched, recent poverty and transformation reflects culturally informed choices made by social scientists. The leading scholarship in the st udy of such social problems is dominated by scholars who have focused too narrowly on the individual characteristics that put people at risk for poverty without fully considering the relationship between these individual characteristics and the social stru cture. Society is something that is constructed by human beings; we have the power to influence the strength or weakness of the correlation between certain personal characteristics (such as education, marital status, etc.) and life chances. Until poverty a nd inequality research firmly places individuals back into a social context and examines their relationships to social institutions and structures, it is hard to imagine that the inclusion of more individualistically oriented research will change the outco mes that I observed in this particular BSW program.

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457 If poverty and inequality scholarship does become more inclusive of structural concerns, it is likely that American cultural assumptions would also have to change to truly make a difference. It is socia lization within American culture that seems to have impacted the opinions of BSW students the most, so these cultural assumptions would also have to be more structurally inclusive. It is not simply enough that research and theory reflect these changes beca use the students made it clear that they had largely scholarship is the first step in a larger cultural change to help people understand the power of social forces in our li ves. Changing knowledge and culture is critical if we are to change what is contained in our minds. We cannot create what we cannot first imagine. Limitations and Future Research Like many qualitative studies it is difficult to generalize the findings in this study for a variety of reasons. Most important among those reasons seems to be the number of participants and the characteristics of the student population at MAU. While this study was ethnographic in nature and included fieldnotes observing many s tudents in multiple classes, the heart of this study was the deeper analysis conducted on the 25 interview transcripts. While saturation was reached for this particular population, this is not enough to generalize about an entire field and more programs wo uld need to be included in a larger study to make more generalizable claims. In including more programs it would also be critical to include colleges and universities with more socioeconomic diversity. While there was a great deal of racial and ethnic dive rsity at MAU, the students came from mostly privileged socioeconomic backgrounds. A larger

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458 and more comprehensive study might examine how students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds conceptualize issues such as poverty, inequality, and welfare need. My future research agenda moving forward addresses many of my suggestions for future research. I believe it is critical to include many more programs with greater socioeconomic diversity to paint a much larger and more comprehensive picture of BSW progr ams in the U.S. After having my own personal experience teaching at an historically black college, where many students revealed vivid firsthand knowledge of the intersection of race and poverty in American communities, I believe the inclusion of programs a t such socioeconomically diverse institutions in a larger future study would provide much needed voices to the data. I would like to track the worldviews of social workers over time as well as examine other helping professions. First, I believe it would be informative to develop a longitudinal version of this study tracking the worldviews of BSW students from their college studies through their first few years in the field. Such a study could examine the worldviews of social workers at multiple points in their academic and professional trajectory: as they enter a BSW program, as they graduate, their initial impressions after to the field (1 2 years possibly). It w ould be informative to see how and why their worldviews changed, the difference between what they perceived the field to be like pre and post Secondly, I believe it would be inform ative to conduct a study of workers in other helping professions (non profits, charities, etc.) to see how they conceptualize different social problems, what influences their worldviews, and the implications those findings.

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459 I would also like to examin e other academic disciplines and compare their poverty, inequality, and welfare knowledge to social work students. It would be interesting to examine fields such as sociology, economics, anthropology, etc., to see why particular students choose these field s, ideological consistencies and much larger study could compare the disciplines and gain even greater and more complex understanding of the power of cultural socializatio n.

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460 APPENDIX A IRB FORMS/INFORMED CONSENT FORMS Note: T he following IRB and informed consent forms have been ed ited to remove identifying information. No substantive changes have been made; I have just blacked out information that would violate the

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465 The following forms are my IRB approval and informed consent forms from Mid Atlantic University

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469 APPENDIX B INTERVIEW GUIDE/SCHEDULE Demographic questions: o Age, gender, race/ethnicity, marital status, children, religiosity. Ask ab out family, too. o Where do you live? Have you always lived there? Explain motivation for moves. o Total household income now. Perceived social class over time, family SES history. Political philosophy? Party affiliation? Your family? What brought you to the s tudy of social work? What year are you in the program? Which population or populations would you like to work with? o Where do you want to work when you graduate? Have any of your life experiences shaped your desire to pursue social work? o What about your fam Can you tell me a little bit about your internships and other social work related experiences? o What lessons have you learned from them? Do you follow the news? o Where do you get your news? o Other non news sources which in form your views on poverty/inequality? Why do you think poverty and inequality exist in the U.S.? o Where does this opinion come from? Rank the Individualism, Culture of Poverty, and Structuralism perspectives from 1 to 3 (1 is most agree with make sure to thoroughly explain each perspective) Do most social work students agree with your poverty/inequality answers? o Your professors? Your course materials? o Most MAU students? Most Americans? Do you agree philosophically with welfare? Would you ever turn to welfare in a time of substantial need? o Would it hurt your pride? Would you be aware of any possible stigma? Have you ever been to a welfare office? Policies: do you support or not support each, and explain your answer: o Drug testing Also ask about testing for non poverty targeted welfare. o Fertility limiting policies (such as family caps) o Work requirements Do you believe the U.S. is a meritocracy? Please explain your reasoning (give them a thorough ex planation of what meritocracy means).

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481 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Lawrence Eppard rec eived his Ph.D. in sociology from the Department of Sociology and Criminology & Law at the University of Florida in 2013 ; his primary doctoral concentration was social stratification and inequality and his secondary doctoral concentration was families, gen der, and sexualities. H e received a B.A. in history with a sociology minor from George Mason University in 2006. H e received a M.S. in sociology from Virginia Pol ytechnic Institute and State University in 2008 Within the general area of social stratificat ion and inequality, s research focuses specifically on the intersection s of race/class/gender, poverty, and social welfare, as well as the contribution of American culture to the perpetuation of poverty and inequality in the U.S. Lawrence is curre ntly teaching sociology in the Department of S ociology at Radford University in Radford, Virginia.