Voices of the Poor: An analysis of the views and experiences regarding poverty of low-income residents in Kalamazoo County
Manarina, Adrienne L.
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While much research has been done regarding the structural causes of poverty, one voice that is often missing is the voice of the poor. The purpose of this study was to further investigate the causes and effects of poverty by using input from a portion of the population that is highly underrepresented in political surveys-the poor, themselves. More specifically, we hoped to understand: a) what low income residents perceive as the major problems in Kalamazoo; b) what they view as the primary causes of poverty and specific poverty related issues; c) how peoples opinions are affected by certain demographic characteristics and personal experiences; and d) how people's personal characteristics are related to their personal experiences with poverty. Our results show that participants cited issues such as lack of access to jobs, low wages, and not enough job skills, as well as high housing, health, and food costs as major problems that cause poverty. Statistical data reveals that these are problems that have been increasing both in the nation and Kalamazoo County. These findings also parallel the conclusions found in Tobin's structural theory of poverty and suggest a possible relationship. Significant differences in personal experiences based on ethnicity and gender support the theory that poverty affects different groups differently. Lack of significant differences based on education status contradicts Becker's human capital theory that education reduces poverty. Finally, results also show that people with income levels above the federal poverty line were experiencing incidences of poverty, thus contradicting the validity of the official definition of poverty.