How low-income people cope with the emotional dimensions of poverty
Could a lack of close, meaningful social ties be a public—rather than just a private—problem? In Social Poverty, Sarah Halpern-Meekin provides a much-needed window into the nature of social ties among low-income, unmarried parents, highlighting their often-ignored forms of hardship. Drawing on in-depth interviews with thirty-one couples, collected during their participation in a government-sponsored relationship education program called Family Expectations, she brings unprecedented attention to the relational and emotional dimensions of socioeconomic disadvantage.
Poverty scholars typically focus on the economic use value of social ties—for example, how relationships enable access to job leads, informal loans, or a spare bedroom.However, Halpern-Meekin introduces the important new concept of “social poverty,” identifying it not just as a derivative of economic poverty, but as its own condition, which also perpetuates poverty. Through a careful and nuanced analysis of the strengths and limitations of relationship classes, she shines a light on the fundamental place of core socioemotional needs in our lives.
Engaging and compassionate, Social Poverty highlights a new direction for policy and poverty research that can enrich our understanding of disadvantaged families around the country.
"In this thoughtful and important book, Sarah Halpern-Meekin reframes decades-long debates over the value and efficacy of government-supported relationship and marriage education programs. Drawing on rich in-depth research into the lives and relationships of low-income, unmarried couples, Social Poverty powerfully shows how policy can play a key role in alleviating, not only economic deprivation, but families unmet, though equally important needs for emotional closeness, intimacy, and support. With a smart set of recommendations researchers, practitioners, and policymakers should heed, this book is crucial reading for a sophisticated and beautifully written analysis of how promoting social connection can and should be at the heart of anti-poverty policy." ~Jennifer Randles,author of Proposing Prosperity?: Marriage Education Policy and Inequality in America
"What would happen if we considered the relationships that sustain us as important as financial resources, or if we viewed isolation or loneliness as serious social problems as we do disease? With the deceptively simple concept of 'social poverty,' Halpern-Meekin asks us to recognize the tremendous inherent value of human connection, and greatly expands our capacity to understand the costs of low-income couples thin emotional ties to other people....She picks her way through the detritus of the marriage promotion debates to issue her own clarion call: we should consider social poverty as important as income poverty, and aim to redress both." ~Allison Pugh,author of The Tumbleweed Society: Working and Caring in an Age of Insecurity