The Poverty of “Poverty”

Re-mapping conceptual terrain in education and counseling beyond a focus on economic output

Authored by: Joby Gardner , Darrick Tovar-Murray , Stanley Wilkerson

The Routledge Handbook of Poverty in the United States

Print publication date:  December  2014
Online publication date:  December  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415673440
eBook ISBN: 9781315755519
Adobe ISBN: 9781317627401

10.4324/9781315755519.ch47

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Abstract

The social justice movement in counseling seeks to eliminate social illnesses caused by power, privilege, and oppression (Smith and Chen-Hayes, 2003; Smith et al., 2009) by placing issues of poverty, wealth, and growing economic disparities at the forefront of professional discourse (Hutchison, 2011). This movement coincided with concern among educational researchers about persistent and growing disparities in the quality of education available to wealthy and poor Americans (Darling-Hammond, 2010; Johnson, 2006), racial and economic resegregation (Kozol, 2005; Rothstein, 2004), and the concentration of disadvantage and social isolation of schools serving the poorest students (Bryk et al., 2010). Scholars in counseling and education are moving beyond simplistic discussions of poverty (often relying primarily on percentages of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches) to more nuanced discussions of social capital and community cohesion (e.g., Sampson, 2012), engagement with student and client cultural capitals (e.g., Carter, 2007), and how these factors can contribute to more adequate understandings of how individuals experience economic status (Liu, 2010a, 2010b). This recent shift in education and counseling literatures “can be attributed,” in one recent formulation, “to [at least] three factors: (1) a lack of specificity when using terms connoting social status, (2) multiple perspectives on conceptualizing the construct of social class, and (3) an inherent difficulty operationalizing social status variables for research purposes” (Hutchison, 2011, p. 204). Although this shift has brought advances in how we counsel and educate the underprivileged, much work remains.

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