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.
Mark R. Rank
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. Since the economic crisis of 2008, with a rise in people suffering, while at the same time those programs that would help ease that suffering have been cut back, further perpetuating the myth that austerity is the cure for the disease that it has caused. Progressive social work has responded to both challenges with innovation and energy, but theoretical and practical conundrums remain. This article is offered as an effort to discuss and define progressive social work and its connection to social work values with the hope of contributing to advancing social work practice that addresses social injustices and human rights violations.
Mike Fabricant and Robert Fisher
Settlement houses are a prism though which the turbulent history of social work can be viewed. This article specifically examines the genesis of social settlements over the past century. It describes the early work of the settlements in spearheading social reform and building community solidarity. It explores the relationship between historic shifts in the political economy and the changed work of settlements, particularly the development of neighborhood houses. Finally, it emphasizes the dynamic interplay in the past twenty years between corporatization of not-for-profit culture, shrinking government funding, and the redefinition of settlement services.
Since the 19th century, social movements have provided US social work with its intellectual and theoretical foundations and 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. Since the 1960s, social workers have been active in New Social Movements (NSMs), which have focused on issues of identity, self-esteem, human rights, and the development of oppositional critical consciousness, as well as international movements that have emerged in response to economic globalization, environmental degradation, and major population shifts, including mass immigration. More recently, they have played a supportive role in the transnational Occupy movement, the Black Lives Matter movement, and movements to establish marriage equality, protect immigrants and refugees, promote the rights of transgender persons, and advocate for environmental justice.
Jon Simon Sager
Social planning emphasizes the application of rational problem-solving techniques and data-driven approaches to identify, determine, and help coordinate services for target populations. Social planning is carried out by a myriad of organizations—from federal agencies to community organizations—attempting to solve problems ranging from child welfare to aging. The advantages and disadvantages of this empirically objective data-driven approach, including different forms, will be discussed along with past, current, and future trends within the field of social work.