William Julius Wilson’s book, The Truly Disadvantaged (1987), was a groundbreaking work that changed the way our nation looked at poverty.
Previously our idea of what caused poverty in the U.S. stemmed from the misuse of Oscar Lewis’ work Five Families: Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty. The main theory of this book is that poverty persists over generations due to a defective culture of poverty that encourage laziness and overspending.
One of the problems with using Lewis’ findings to explain poverty in the U.S. is that his case study was of 5 Mexican families and he did not actually study poverty in the U.S. Thus, Lewis’ work was misused.
Wilson, changes the paradigm of how to look at poverty by suggesting that what causes persistent poverty is not individual choices, but rather inequalities in social institutions.
Check out Wilson’s book for yourself for details on who “the truly disadvantaged” are.