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Patients of the State
The Politics of Waiting in Argentina
Javier Auyero
Duke University Press, 2012
Patients of the State is a sociological account of the extended waiting that poor people seeking state social and administrative services must endure. It is based on ethnographic research in the waiting area of the main welfare office in Buenos Aires, in the line leading into the Argentine registration office where legal aliens apply for identification cards, and among people who live in a polluted shantytown on the capital’s outskirts, while waiting to be allocated better housing. Scrutinizing the mundane interactions between the poor and the state, as well as underprivileged people’s confusion and uncertainty about the administrative processes that affect them, Javier Auyero argues that while waiting, the poor learn the opposite of citizenship. They learn to be patients of the state. They absorb the message that they should be patient and keep waiting, because there is nothing else that they can do. Drawing attention to a significant everyday dynamic that has received little scholarly attention until now, Auyero considers not only how the poor experience these lengthy waits but also how making poor people wait works as a strategy of state control.
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The People of the Abyss
Jack London
Pluto Press, 2001

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Poor and Pregnant in Paris
Strategies for Survival in the Nineteenth Century
Rachel G Fuchs
Rutgers University Press, 1992

Rachel Fuchs shows how poor urban women in Paris negotiated their environment, and in some respects helped shape it, in their attempt to cope with their problems of poverty and pregnancy. She reveals who the women were and provides insight into the nature of their work and living arrangements. With dramatic detail, and drawing on actual court testimonies, Fuchs portrays poor women's childbirth experiences, their use of charity and welfare, and their recourse to abortion and infanticide as desperate alternatives to motherhood.

Fuchs also provides a comprehensive description of philanthropic and welfare institutions and outlines the relationship between the developing welfare state and official conceptions of womanhood. She traces the evolution of a new morality among policymakers in which secular views, medical hygiene, and a new focus on the protection of children replaced religious morality as a driving force in policy formation.

Combining social, intellectual, and medical history, this study of poor mothers in nineteenth-century society illuminates both class and gender relations in Paris, and illustrates the connection between social policy and the way ordinary women lived their lives.


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Poor People's Medicine
Medicaid and American Charity Care since 1965
Jonathan Engel
Duke University Press, 2006
Poor People’s Medicine is a detailed history of Medicaid since its beginning in 1965. Federally aided and state-operated, Medicaid is the single most important source of medical care for the poorest citizens of the United States. From acute hospitalization to long-term nursing-home care, the nation’s Medicaid programs pay virtually the entire cost of physician treatment, medical equipment, and prescription pharmaceuticals for the millions of Americans who fall within government-mandated eligibility guidelines. The product of four decades of contention over the role of government in the provision of health care, some of today’s Medicaid programs are equal to private health plans in offering coordinated, high-quality medical care, while others offer little more than bare-bones coverage to their impoverished beneficiaries.

Starting with a brief overview of the history of charity medical care, Jonathan Engel presents the debates surrounding Medicaid’s creation and the compromises struck to allow federal funding of the nascent programs. He traces the development of Medicaid through the decades, as various states attempted to both enlarge the programs and more finely tailor them to their intended targets. At the same time, he describes how these new programs affected existing institutions and initiatives such as public hospitals, community clinics, and private pro bono clinical efforts. Along the way, Engel recounts the many political battles waged over Medicaid, particularly in relation to larger discussions about comprehensive health care and social welfare reform. Poor People’s Medicine is an invaluable resource for understanding the evolution and present state of programs to deliver health care to America’s poor.

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Poor People's Politics
Peronist Survival Networks and the Legacy of Evita
Javier Auyero
Duke University Press, 2000
“Political clientelism” is a term used to characterize the contemporary relationships between political elites and the poor in Latin America in which goods and services are traded for political favors. Javier Auyero critically deploys the notion in Poor People’s Politics to analyze the political practices of the Peronist Party among shantytown dwellers in contemporary Argentina.
Looking closely at the slum-dwellers’ informal problem-solving networks, which are necessary for material survival, and the different meanings of Peronism within these networks, Auyero presents the first ethnography of urban clientelism ever carried out in Argentina. Revealing a deep familiarity with the lives of the urban poor in Villa Paraíso, a stigmatized and destitute shantytown of Buenos Aires, Auyero demonstrates the ways in which local politicians present their vital favors to the poor and how the poor perceive and evaluate these favors. Having penetrated the networks, he describes how they are structured, what is traded, and the particular way in which women facilitate these transactions. Moreover, Auyero proposes that the act of granting favors or giving food in return for votes gives the politicians’ acts a performative and symbolic meaning that flavors the relation between problem-solver and problem-holder, while also creating quite different versions of contemporary Peronism. Along the way, Auyero is careful to situate the emergence and consolidation of clientelism in historic, cultural, and economic contexts.
Poor People’s Politics reexamines the relationship between politics and the destitute in Latin America, showing how deeply embedded politics are in the lives of those who do not mobilize in the usual sense of the word but who are far from passive. It will appeal to a wide range of students and scholars of Latin American studies, sociology, anthropology, political science, history, and cultural studies.
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A Pound of Flesh
Monetary Sanctions as Punishment for the Poor
Alexes Harris
Russell Sage Foundation, 2016

Over seven million Americans are either incarcerated, on probation, or on parole, with their criminal records often following them for life and affecting access to higher education, jobs, and housing. Court-ordered monetary sanctions that compel criminal defendants to pay fines, fees, surcharges, and restitution further inhibit their ability to reenter society. In A Pound of Flesh, sociologist Alexes Harris analyzes the rise of monetary sanctions in the criminal justice system and shows how they permanently penalize and marginalize the poor. She exposes the damaging effects of a little-understood component of criminal sentencing and shows how it further perpetuates racial and economic inequality.

Harris draws from extensive sentencing data, legal documents, observations of court hearings, and interviews with defendants, judges, prosecutors, and other court officials. She documents how low-income defendants are affected by monetary sanctions, which include fees for public defenders and a variety of processing charges. Until these debts are paid in full, individuals remain under judicial supervision, subject to court summons, warrants, and jail stays. As a result of interest and surcharges that accumulate on unpaid financial penalties, these monetary sanctions often become insurmountable legal debts which many offenders carry for the remainder of their lives. Harris finds that such fiscal sentences, which are imposed disproportionately on low-income minorities, help create a permanent economic underclass and deepen social stratification.

A Pound of Flesh delves into the court practices of five counties in Washington State to illustrate the ways in which subjective sentencing shapes the practice of monetary sanctions. Judges and court clerks hold a considerable degree of discretion in the sentencing and monitoring of monetary sanctions and rely on individual values—such as personal responsibility, meritocracy, and paternalism—to determine how much and when offenders should pay. Harris shows that monetary sanctions are imposed at different rates across jurisdictions, with little or no state government oversight. Local officials’ reliance on their own values and beliefs can also push offenders further into debt—for example, when judges charge defendants who lack the means to pay their fines with contempt of court and penalize them with additional fines or jail time.

A Pound of Flesh provides a timely examination of how monetary sanctions permanently bind poor offenders to the judicial system. Harris concludes that in letting monetary sanctions go unchecked, we have created a two-tiered legal system that imposes additional burdens on already-marginalized groups.

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front cover of Poverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empire
Poverty and Leadership in the Later Roman Empire
Peter Brown
Brandeis University Press, 2001
In three magisterial essays, Peter Brown, one of the world's foremost scholars of the society and culture of late antiquity, explores the emergence in late Roman society of "the poor" as a distinct social class, one for which the Christian church claimed a special responsibility. It is the story of how a society came to see itself as responsible for the care of a particular class of people -- a class that had not previously been cared for -- and of who benefited from that shift in interests. In his characteristically elegant and lucid prose, Brown seeks to recover the pre-Christian status of poor people, the actual nature of the relations between the Christian church and the poor, and the true motivations -- sometimes sincere, sometimes self-serving -- behind Christian rhetoric of love for the poor. He draws not only on the standard Greek and Latin sources for the later Roman Empire, but also on Jewish sources to document the interactions between Middle Eastern provincial societies and classical Roman traditions. Brown gracefully illuminates a crucial transition from classical to Christian culture: the emergence of a new understanding of what society -- and the Church -- owes to the poor that continues to resonate.
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Poverty and Problem-Solving under Military Rule
The Urban Poor in Lima, Peru
By Henry A. Dietz
University of Texas Press, 1980
Many countries in Latin America have experienced both rapid urbanization and military involvement in politics. Yet few studies examine how military regimes react to the political pressures that wide-spread urban poverty creates or how the poor operate under authoritative rule. Henry Dietz investigates Lima’s poor during the “revolution” of General Juan Velasco (1968–1975). His study examines both the structural conditions promoting poverty and the individual consequences of being poor. The poor join together in several ways to resolve politicized communal needs; Dietz’s data indicate that the local neighborhood plays a crucial role in determining modes of involvement. Considerable attention is given to government attempts to encourage and control political activities by the poor. Dietz analyzes the failure of SINAMOS, the regime’s mobilization agency, and in so doing raises general questions about corporatist solutions to social problems. The wide range of original survey, informant, and ethnographic data provides much new information on elite-mass relationships in contemporary Latin America. Dietz’s research illuminates much that is of concern to scholars and planners dealing with urbanization, poverty, and social policy formation.
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Poverty, Charity, and Motherhood
Maternal Societies in Nineteenth-Century France
Christine Adams
University of Illinois Press, 2010
This far-reaching study of maternal societies in post-revolutionary France focuses on the philanthropic work of the Society for Maternal Charity, the most prominent organization of its kind. Administered by middle-class and elite women and financed by powerful families and the government, the Society offered support to poor mothers, helping them to nurse and encouraging them not to abandon their children. In Poverty, Charity, and Motherhood, Christine Adams traces the Society's key role in shaping notions of maternity and in shifting the care of poor families from the hands of charitable volunteers with religious-tinged social visions to paid welfare workers with secular goals such as population growth and patriotism.
 
Adams plumbs the origin and ideology of the Society and its branches, showing how elite women in Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux, Rouen, Marseille, Dijon, and Limoges tried to influence the maternal behavior of women and families with lesser financial means and social status. A deft analysis of the philosophy and goals of the Society details the members' own notions of good mothering, family solidarity, and legitimate marriages that structured official, elite, and popular attitudes concerning gender and poverty in France. These personal attitudes, Adams argues, greatly influenced public policy and shaped the country's burgeoning social welfare system.
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Poverty in the Pandemic
Policy Lessons from COVID-19
Zachary Parolin
Russell Sage Foundation, 2023
At the close of 2019, the United States saw a record-low poverty rate. At the start of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to upend that trend and plunge millions of Americans into poverty. However, despite the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression, the poverty rate declined to the lowest in modern U.S. history. In Poverty in the Pandemic social policy scholar Zachary Parolin provides a data-driven account of how poverty influenced the economic, social, and health consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., as well as how the country’s policy response led to historically low poverty rates.
 
Drawing on dozens of data sources ranging from debit and credit card spending, the first national databases of school and childcare center closures in the U.S., and bi-weekly Census-run surveys on well-being, Parolin finds that entering the pandemic in poverty substantially increased a person’s likelihood of experiencing negative health outcomes due to the pandemic, such as contracting and dying from COVID, as well as losing their job. Additionally, he found that students from poor families suffered the greatest learning losses as a result of school closures and the shift to distance learning during the pandemic. 
 
However, unprecedented legislative action by the U.S. government, including the passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the American Rescue Plan (ARP) helped mitigate the economic consequences of the pandemic and lifted around 18 million Americans out of poverty. Based on the success of these policies, Parolin concludes with policy suggestions that the U.S. can implement in more ‘normal’ times to improve the living conditions of low-income households after the pandemic subsides, including expanding access to Unemployment Insurance, permanently expanding the Child Tax Credit, promoting greater access to affordable, high-quality healthcare coverage, and investing more resources into the Census Bureau’s data-collection capabilities. He also details a method of producing a monthly measurement of poverty, to be used in conjunction with the traditional annual measurement, in order to better understand the intra-year volatility of poverty that many Americans experience.
 
Poverty in the Pandemic provides the most complete account to date of the unique challenges that low-income households in the U.S. faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
 
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front cover of Poverty, Inequality, and the Future of Social Policy
Poverty, Inequality, and the Future of Social Policy
Western States in the New World Order
Katherine McFate
Russell Sage Foundation, 1995
"Extremely coherent and useful, this much needed volume is concerned with the current status of the poor in Western industrial states. Its closely linked essays allow comparisons between case studies and are often themselves cross-national comparisons....The essays also comment on the meaning of globalization for social policy." —Choice "Excellent and tightly integrated articles by a group of prominent international scholars....A timely and important book, which will surely become the basic reference point for all future research on inequality and social policy." —Contemporary Sociology The social safety net is under strain in all Western nations, as social and economic change has created problems that traditional welfare systems were not designed to handle. Poverty, Inequality, and the Future of Social Policy provides a definitive analysis of the conditions that are fraying the social fabric and the reasons why some countries have been more successful than others in addressing these trends. In the United States, where the poverty rate in the 1980s was twice that of any advanced nation in Europe, the social protection system—and public support for it—has eroded alarmingly. In Europe, the welfare system more effectively buffered the disadvantaged, but social expenditures have been indicted by many as the principal cause of high unemployment. Concluding chapters review the progress and goals of social welfare programs, assess their viability in the face of creeping economic, racial, and social fragmentation, and define the challenges that face those concerned with social cohesion and economic prosperity in the new global economy. This volume illuminates the disparate effects of government intervention on the incidence and duration of poverty in Western countries. Poverty, Inequality, and the Future of Social Policy is full of lessons for anyone who would look beyond the limitations of the welfare debate in the United States.
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front cover of Poverty, Law, and Divine Justice in Persian and Hellenistic Judah
Poverty, Law, and Divine Justice in Persian and Hellenistic Judah
Johannes Unsok Ro
SBL Press, 2018

A view of Persian and Hellenistic Judean communities through theological and socioeconomic lenses

Johannes Unsok Ro employs philological, historical, and sociological approaches to investigate the close connections between socioeconomic structures, social inequality, and theological developments in the Judean communities in Persian- and Hellenistic-era Palestine. Ro contends that competing points of view from communities of lay returnees, priestly returnees, and communities of resident Judeans and Samaritans were juxtaposed within the Hebrew Bible, which took shape during the postexilic period. By exploring issues such as the relationship between the shaping of the canon and literacy in the Judean community, the term strangers in the biblical law codes, the socioeconomic structures of Judean communities reflected in the biblical law codes, the development of the theological concept of divine punitive justice, the piety of the poor in certain psalms, and the concept of poverty in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Ro illustrates that the communities behind each text and its redactions can be ascertained through sociological and theological lenses.

Features

  • Demonstration that a theology of the poor materialized orally among the poor but found written expression among Levites
  • Insight into the socioeconomic and theological concerns of the authorial groups behind various biblical law codes
  • A case that biblical “poverty” sometimes refers to humility and a theologically reflected consciousness of lowliness toward God
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A Poverty of Imagination
Bootstrap Capitalism, Sequel to Welfare Reform
David Stoesz
University of Wisconsin Press, 2000

Welfare reform was supposed to end welfare as we know it. And it has. The welfare poor have been largely transformed into the working poor, but their poverty persists. This hard-hitting book takes a close look at where we’ve gone wrong—and where we might go next if we truly want to improve the lot of America’s underclass.
    Tracing the roots of recent reforms to the early days of the war on poverty, A Poverty of Imagination describes a social welfare system grown increasingly inept, corrupt, and susceptible to conservative redesign. Investigating the causes of the ongoing failure of welfare assistance, Stoesz focuses on the economic barriers that impede movement out of poverty into the American mainstream. He explores such issues as the heterogeneity of welfare families, generational welfare, inadequate benefits, the negative effects of time limits on welfare recipients, a fringe banking industry that exploits low-income families, the limited capacity of low-wage markets, and the unavailability of credit.
    Stoesz suggests that a form of "bootstrap capitalism" would allow individuals and families to participate more fully in American society and achieve upward economic mobility and stability. This proposal, emphasizing wage supplements, asset building, and community capitalism, sets the stage for the next act in poverty policy in the United States. With its valuable insights on the American welfare system and its positive agenda for change, this book makes a significant intervention in our ongoing struggle to come to terms with widespread poverty in the wealthiest nation on earth.

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Power and Powerlessness
Quiescence and Rebellion in an Appalachian Valley
John Gaventa
University of Illinois Press, 1980
Winner of the W. D. Weatherford Award of the Appalachian Society, the Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award of the APSA, Lillian Smith Award of the Southern Regional Council, V.O. Key Award of the Southern PSA, and the Governor's Award from the Kentucky Historical Society
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Progressive Inequality
David Huyssen
Harvard University Press, 2014

The Progressive Era has been depicted as a seismic event in American history—a landslide of reform that curbed capitalist excesses and reduced the gulf between rich and poor. Progressive Inequality cuts against the grain of this popular consensus, demonstrating how income inequality’s growth prior to the stock market crash of 1929 continued to aggravate class divisions. As David Huyssen makes clear, Progressive attempts to alleviate economic injustice often had the effect of entrenching class animosity, making it more, not less, acute.

Huyssen interweaves dramatic stories of wealthy and poor New Yorkers at the turn of the twentieth century, uncovering how initiatives in charity, labor struggles, and housing reform chafed against social, economic, and cultural differences. These cross-class actions took three main forms: prescription, in which the rich attempted to dictate the behavior of the poor; cooperation, in which mutual interest engendered good-faith collaboration; and conflict, in which sharply diverging interests produced escalating class violence. In cases where reform backfired, it reinforced a set of class biases that remain prevalent in America today, especially the notion that wealth derives from individual merit and poverty from lack of initiative.

A major contribution to the history of American capitalism, Progressive Inequality makes tangible the abstract dynamics of class relations by recovering the lived encounters between rich and poor—as allies, adversaries, or subjects to inculcate—and opens a rare window onto economic and social debates in our own time.

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Providing for the Poor
The Old Poor Law, 1750-1834
Edited by Peter Collinge and Louise Falcini
University of London Press, 2022
A history of the Old Poor Law, which was the primary support for the poor in England and Wales from 1601 to 1834.
 
The Old Poor Law, which was established in 1601 in England and Wales and was in force until 1834, was administered by the local parish and dispensed goods and services to paupers, providing a uniquely comprehensive, premodern system of support for the poor. Providing for the Poor brings together academics and practitioners from across disciplines to reexamine the micropolitics of poverty in the long eighteenth century through the eyes of the poor, their providers, and enablers. Covering such topics as the providence of the parochial sixpence, which was given in order to get a beggar to move along to another parish, to coercive marriages, plebeian clothing, and the much broader implications of vagrancy toward the end of the long eighteenth century, this volume aims to bridge the gaps in our understanding of the experiences of people across the social spectrum whose lives were touched by the Old Poor Law. It brings together some of the wider arguments concerning the nature of welfare during economically difficult times and documents the rising bureaucracy inherent in the system to produce a radical new history of the Old Poor Law in astonishing detail.
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Public Library Services for the Poor
Doing All We Can
Glen E. Holt
American Library Association, 2010

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Public Policy and Community
Activism and Governance in Texas
Edited by Robert H. Wilson
University of Texas Press, 1997

The decentralization of public policy from the federal government to state and local governments offers increased opportunities for ordinary citizens to participate directly in public policymaking. Yet these opportunities may not be equally shared. Due to a variety of factors, low-income citizens have long been denied a meaningful role in the public life and governance of our country.

By contrast, the essays in this volume explore how low-income citizens have successfully affected public policy. The book is built around six case studies, all from Texas, that cover education finance and reform, local infrastructure provision, environmental protection, and indigent health care.

This research illuminates several issues of national importance, including how communities gain standing and recognition for themselves and their issues, how policy agendas are defined, how communities mobilize technical and institutional resources, and how they form coalitions and alliances to accomplish their goals.

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Punishing the Poor
The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity
Loïc Wacquant
Duke University Press, 2009
The punitive turn of penal policy in the United States after the acme of the Civil Rights movement responds not to rising criminal insecurity but to the social insecurity spawned by the fragmentation of wage labor and the shakeup of the ethnoracial hierarchy. It partakes of a broader reconstruction of the state wedding restrictive “workfare” and expansive “prisonfare” under a philosophy of moral behaviorism. This paternalist program of penalization of poverty aims to curb the urban disorders wrought by economic deregulation and to impose precarious employment on the postindustrial proletariat. It also erects a garish theater of civic morality on whose stage political elites can orchestrate the public vituperation of deviant figures—the teenage “welfare mother,” the ghetto “street thug,” and the roaming “sex predator”—and close the legitimacy deficit they suffer when they discard the established government mission of social and economic protection. By bringing developments in welfare and criminal justice into a single analytic framework attentive to both the instrumental and communicative moments of public policy, Punishing the Poor shows that the prison is not a mere technical implement for law enforcement but a core political institution. And it reveals that the capitalist revolution from above called neoliberalism entails not the advent of “small government” but the building of an overgrown and intrusive penal state deeply injurious to the ideals of democratic citizenship.

Visit the author’s website.

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Putting Poor People to Work
How the Work-First Idea Eroded College Access for the Poor
Kathleen M. Shaw
Russell Sage Foundation, 2006
Today, a college education is increasingly viewed as the gateway to the American Dream—a necessary prerequisite for social mobility. Yet recent policy reforms in the United States effectively steer former welfare recipients away from an education that could further their career prospects, forcing them directly into the workforce where they often find only low-paying jobs with little opportunity for growth. In Putting Poor People to Work, Kathleen Shaw, Sara Goldrick-Rab, Christopher Mazzeo, and Jerry A. Jacobs explore this troubling disconnect between the principles of "work-first" and "college for all." Using comprehensive interviews with government officials and sophisticated data from six states over a four year period, Putting Poor People to Work shows how recent changes in public policy have reduced the quantity and quality of education and training available to adults with low incomes. The authors analyze how two policies encouraging work—the federal welfare reform law of 1996 and the Workforce Investment Act of 1998—have made moving people off of public assistance as soon as possible, with little regard to their long-term career prospects, a government priority. Putting Poor People to Work shows that since the passage of these "work-first" laws, not only are fewer low-income individuals pursuing postsecondary education, but when they do, they are increasingly directed towards the most ineffective, short-term forms of training, rather than higher-quality college-level education. Moreover, the schools most able and ready to serve poor adults—the community colleges—are deterred by these policies from doing so. Having a competitive, agile workforce that can compete with any in the world is a national priority. In a global economy where skills are paramount, that goal requires broad popular access to education and training. Putting Poor People to Work shows how current U.S. policy discourages poor Americans from seeking out a college education, stranding them in jobs with little potential for growth. This important new book makes a powerful argument for a shift in national priorities that would encourage the poor to embrace both work and education, rather than having to choose between the two. Institute for Research on Poverty Affiliated Books on Poverty and Public Policy">An Institute for Research on Poverty Affiliated Book on Poverty and Public Policy
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