LOWER CLASS CULTURE
Culture-of-Poverty Thesis, Working-Class, Working
It has been argued by some that the lower class have developed and transmit to
their children, a different set of cultural values and expectations. They argue further
that this culture is a barrier to their success in society.
Used in this way lower class culture is associated with the culture of poverty thesis - The theory that
certain groups and individuals tend to persist in a state of poverty because they have
distinct beliefs, values and ways of behaving that are incompatible with economic success.
The lower class culture theory is controversial and is opposed by situational
theory, which locates the genesis of poverty in economic and social structures of society rather than in the value
orientations of individuals or groups.
More recently sociologists have rejected this emphasis on values and argue that
structural barriers create the conditions which might generate these values and
expectations. If this is so, the solution is to transform the structures and not to blame
Walter Miller submits that delinquency is not rooted in the rejection of middle
class values; it stems from lower class culture, which has its own value system.
Gang norms are simply the adolescent expression of the lower class culture in
which the boys have grown up.
Strain theorists explain criminal behavior as a result of the frustrations
suffered by lower class individuals deprived of legitimate means to reach their goals.
Oscar Lewis coined the term "culture of poverty" to describe the
lower-class culture of modern Mexico City.
Culture-of-poverty Thesis is similar
to lower class culture theory, where it has been argued that the lower class have
developed and transmit to their children, a different set of cultural values and
expectations. It is also argued that this culture is a barrier to their success in
Cultural Theories of Crime and
Cohens delinquent subculture
According to Cohen, middle class values are different than lower class values. Middle
class values stress independence, success, academic achievement, delayed gratification,
control of aggression, and respect for property. Lower class parents encourage different
values in their children. In lower class families ambition and planning must give way to
pressing issues of the moment. They depend more on others, and have more of a group
orientation, watching each others backs.
In school, lower class children are bombarded with the same middle class values that
middle class children get in their home. However, these values seem foreign to lower class
students. In addition, the values and norms they have learned in their homes actually
present a barrier to success in school. The message lower class students get from school
is that they are inferior.
They can accept this message and accept their lower status, or they can adapt to the
values of the middle class and strive for middle class goals, or they can take the
delinquent solution: They can reject the assumption that middle class values are better
and turn middle class norms and values upside down. Members reward and esteem each other
for behaviors that attack the middle class values (vandalism, terrorizing good
kids, stealing just for fun).
The Big 5 Stages:
1. Lower class youth given different values in the home (socialization) but want middle
class dream of success
2. School merit system is biased toward middle class values, lower class start out
disadvantaged because they were not prepared with middle class values at home. Here lower
class youth experience status frustration.
3. Lower class youth start collective interaction, begin to hang out together because they
dont fit in with the mainstream of the school
4. Collective reaction formation, since doors are closed for them they go in the opposite
direction of middle class values, they reject the system (instead of feeling rejected by
5. Form a delinquent subculture with anti-middle class value system
The culture-of-poverty thesis and African Americans: the work of Gunnar Myrdal and
other institutionalists.: An article from: Journal of Economic Issues
value orientation test: An exploration of the culture of poverty thesis using a new
projective instrument (Center research and development report)
test of the homogeneity thesis of the culture of poverty theory: Characteristics of
disadvantaged farm families (Tech. bul. / North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station)
Class, Poverty and Education (Missouri Symposia on Research and Education)