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Culture of Poverty, Beyond the

  1. Monica Bell,
  2. Nathan Fosse,
  3. Michèle Lamont,
  4. Eva Rosen

Published Online: 30 DEC 2015

DOI: 10.1002/9781118663202.wberen108

The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism

How to Cite

Bell, M., Fosse, N., Lamont, M. and Rosen, E. 2015. Culture of Poverty, Beyond the. The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Nationalism. 1–16.

Author Information

  1. Harvard University, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 DEC 2015


Understanding social life requires attending to the cultural dimension of reality. Yet, when it comes to the study of low-income populations, factoring in culture has often been a contentious project. This is because explaining poverty through culture has been equated with blaming the poor for their predicaments. Scholars have moved the debate forward by making a case for integrating culture in explanations of poverty. This requires drawing on analytical devices such as frames, narratives, institutions, repertoires, and boundaries that capture intersubjective definitions of reality. These concepts have been useful for identifying a diversity of frameworks through which low-income populations understand their reality and develop paths for mobility. This entry builds on these contributions by exploring the place of culture in studies of American low-income populations in three important areas of social life: family, neighborhood, and work.


  • culture;
  • family;
  • poverty