Anthropological perspectives of poverty: A comparison of the American and European cultures

The extent to which poverty has affected the way of life of humanity has been stressed by the importance that has been placed on the subject. “The chronic Poverty report 2008-2009,” for example argues that reducing poverty levels is the primary global responsibility for the modern generation (Chronic Poverty Research Centre [CPRC], 2009). Such importance, as noted by Green and Hulme (2005) has further been buttressed by the World Bank’s commitment to a poverty-free world through a combination of policy initiatives engaging both the governments and the private sector. What however constitutes poverty has been widened by various schools of thought. Such thoughts have ranged from a traditional approach of income poverty to a more recent philosophical view that incorporates aspects of individual freedoms and competencies (Green & Holme, 2005). Rector (2007) for example notes that the overall American described as being poor boasts of far more amenities than a corresponding Poor European.

The attitudes towards poverty have however been shown to differ between different cultures. In America, for example, poverty is viewed to be a problem of the urban and the black (African American) population (Hopkins, 2005). This view has been advanced in a number of literature. Earlier Kluegel and Smith (1987) observed that Americans viewed poor persons as having charted their own destiny to poverty and that opportunities were widespread for everyone to grab (as cited in Hopkins, 2005).


Chronic Poverty Research Centre [CPRC]. (2009). The chronic Poverty Report 2008-09: Escaping poverty traps. Retrieved December 06, 2009, from

Green, M. & Hulme, D (2005). From correlates and characteristics to causes: thinking about poverty from a chronic poverty perspective. World Development, 33(6), 867-879.

Hopkins, D. (2005). Partisan Reinforcement and the poor: The impact of context on attitudes towards poverty. Retrieved December 6, 2009, from

Rector, R. (2007). How poor are America’s Poor? Examining the “plague” of poverty in America. Backgrounder, (2064), 1-16. Retrieved December 06, 2009, from

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