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Article

Income Distribution  

Joel Blau

Income distribution is defined both as the process of distributing income to individuals and families and as the statistical consequences of that distribution. After examining the measurement issues that enter into this distribution, the discussion highlights the evidence for rising inequality in the United States. It finds the top quintile, and even more starkly the top 5% and 1% of all households, to have secured most of the gains. Identifying neoliberalism, the heightened power of business, and the effects of globalization as the primary causes for this shift, income distribution is then correlated with other social welfare policy issues such as economic growth, health, and political democracy.

Article

Social Justice  

Janet L. Finn, Jen Molloy, and Ashley Trautman

The concept of social justice is significant as a core value of social work. Conceptualizations of social justice are diverse, with important philosophical underpinnings. A range of philosophical perspectives influences social work’s conceptualization of social justice, including those of John Rawls, Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum, Nancy Fraser, and Iris Marion Young. The roots of social justice are traced through social work history, from the settlement house movement to the rank and file movement, the civil rights movement, and contemporary struggles in the context of globalization and neoliberalism. Challenges for social justice-oriented practice in the 21st century are addressed. Examples are provided of ways in which social workers are translating principles of social justice into concrete practices.

Article

Human Rights Overview  

Joseph M. Wronka

At the heart of social work, human rights is a set of interdependent and indivisible guiding principles with implications for meta-macro (global), macro (whole population), mezzo (at risk), micro (clinical), meta-micro (everyday life), and research interventions to eradicate social malaise and promote well-being. Human rights can be best understood vis-à-vis the UN Human Rights Triptych. This consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, increasingly referred to as customary international law; the guiding principles, declarations, and conventions following it, such as the Guiding Principles to Eradicate Extreme Poverty, Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; and implementation mechanisms, such as the filing of country reports on compliance to conventions, the Universal Periodic Review, thematic and country reports by special rapporteurs, and world conferences. This powerful idea, which emerged from the ashes of World War II, emphasizes five crucial notions: human dignity; nondiscrimination; civil and political rights; economic, social, and cultural rights; and solidarity rights. The hope is that every person, everywhere, will have their human rights realized. Only chosen values endure. The challenge is the creation of a human rights culture, which is a lived awareness of these principles in one’s mind, spirit, and body, integrated into our everyday lives. Doing so will require vision, courage, hope, humility, and everlasting love, as the Indigenous spiritual leader Crazy Horse reminded us.

Article

Homelessness  

Yin-Ling Irene Wong and Claudia J. Vogelsang

Homelessness is a major social problem in the United States. The article starts with an overview of homelessness in American history, followed by the definition of contemporary homelessness, its prevalence, and the composition and diverse characteristics of the homeless population. Contrasting perspectives on what causes homelessness are discussed, while the multidimensionality of the homeless experience is explored. The unique experiences of three subpopulations, including homeless persons who are involved in criminal justice, emerging youth leaving foster care, and older homeless persons are further featured. Public and community responses to homelessness are examined, highlighting evidence-based and emerging practices that aim at reducing and preventing homelessness. A discussion of international homelessness follows, as homelessness is recognized as a global issue affecting people living in poverty in both the developed and developing world. The article concludes with discussion of the implications for social work.

Article

International Council on Social Welfare  

Sergei Zelenev

The International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW) is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) focused on advocacy, knowledge-building, and technical assistance projects in various areas of social development carried out at the country level and internationally. Created in 1928 in Paris to address the complexities and challenges of social work, the ICSW has evolved through the years to embrace the major issues of social development, becoming a global organization committed to improving human well-being. Establishing common ground on issues of international significance and acting with partners through its nine regional networks, ICSW represents national and local organizations in more than 70 countries throughout the world. Membership also includes major international organizations. By virtue of its constitution, it operates as a democratic and accountable organization.