Mark R. Rank
Poverty has been a subject of concern since the beginnings of social work. This entry reviews three key research areas. First, the extent and dynamics of poverty are examined, including the measurement of poverty, patterns of cross-sectional and comparative poverty rates, the longitudinal dynamics of poverty, and poverty as a life-course risk. Second, reasons for poverty are discussed. These are divided into individual versus structural level explanations. The concept of structural vulnerability is offered as a way of bridging key individual and structural determinants in order to better understand the existence of poverty. Third, strategies and solutions to poverty are briefly reviewed.
Rosemary Barbera, Mary Bricker-Jenkins, and Barbara Hunter Randall Joseph
Since the beginning of the profession, progressive social work has been characterized by a lived commitment to practice dedicated to advancing human rights and social and economic justice. Since the mid-1980s, the rise of global capitalism has vitiated support for robust social welfare programs and has had a conservatizing effect on the profession, rendering the progressive agenda both more urgent and more difficult. The economic crisis of 2008 has seen a rise in people suffering, while at the same time those programs that would help ease suffering are being cut back, further perpetuating the myth that austerity is the cure for the disease that it has caused. Meanwhile, the modernist ideals that gave rise to progressivism are being challenged by postmodernist thinkers. Progressive social work has responded to both challenges with innovation and energy, but theoretical and practical conundrums remain.
Since the 19th century, social movements have provided U.S. social work with its intellectual and theoretical foundations and and furnished many of its leaders. Social workers were among the founders of the Progressive movement and have played important roles in the labor, feminist, civil rights, welfare rights, and peace movements for over a century. More recently, social workers have been active in New Social Movements (NSMs), that have focused on issues of identity, self-esteem, critical consciousness, and human rights, and in transnational movements, such as the Occupy movement, which have emerged in response to the consequences of economic globalization, environmental degradation, and major population shifts, including mass immigration.