Behavior: Poverty May Be Good for You

Ignorance, lack of specialized training, discrimination and substandard wages are the reasons usually cited for the persistence of poverty in the affluent U.S. But Sociologist Herbert J. Gans of M.I.T. believes that there is a more subtle underlying cause for the substandard living conditions of millions of Americans. Poverty, Gans says, continues to exist because it performs useful functions for many members of society.

Writing for the July-August issue of Social Policy, Gans lists more than a dozen economic, social and political uses of poverty. One of the most important is the job market...

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