Early arguments over the “culture of poverty” assumed considerable intergenerational transmission of poverty but differed over whether this was due to cultural inadequacies of the poor or to structural barriers and discrimination faced by the poor. These arguments subsided by the 1970s when quantitative social stratification studies such as Blau & Duncan (1967) found that intergenerational socioeconomic mobility was considerable and that there was little evidence for a “vicious cycle of poverty.” In the 1980s the issue of intergenerational poverty reemerged when research on new longitudinal datasets suggested that both intragenerational and intergenerational poverty were more persistent than analyses based on cross-sectional data had suggested. Four new theoretical perspectives were developed to explain intergenerational poverty: the resources model, the correlated disadvantages model, the welfare culture model, and Wilson’s (1987) underclass model. This review summarizes and evaluates recent empirical research on the extent to which being raised in poor families, in non-intact families, in welfare-dependent families, and/or in underclass neighborhoods facilitates or hinders children’s adult attainments. The review assesses how well each of the four new models are supported by this research.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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