The Public Interest

The new politics of the new poverty

Lawrence M. Mead

Spring 1991

THE POVERTY OF today’s underclass differs appreciably from poverty in the past: underclass poverty steins less from the absence of opportunity than from the inability or reluctance to take advantage of opportunity. The plight of the underclass suggests that the competence of many of the poor—their capacity to look after and take care of themselves— can no longer be taken for granted as it could in the past.

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