Portland State University. Department of Sociology
Date of Publication
Master of Arts (MA)
Poverty, Occupational training -- Oregon -- Portland, Portland Residential Manpower Center, Portland New Careers Project
This thesis is an exploratory study of the effects of two job training programs for the poor in Portland, Oregon. It seeks to illustrate that training programs are designed around certain theoretical conceptions or models of poverty and that these theoretical conceptions ultimately have a strong effect on the enrollees in programs designed on the given theoretical model. Two general theoretical models have been extracted from the literature. The first is the "Culture of Poverty" model and the second may be called the "Closed Opportunity Structure" model.
The culture of poverty model posits that the poor are unable to escape poverty because of certain cultural aspects of their conditions which inhibit them from taking advantage of increased opportunities when they are offered them. Some of the major aspects of the culture of poverty are: (1) The poor do not share the values of the dominant culture, e.g., that hard work brings rewards, and deferring immediate gratification also produces future rewards; (2) The poor do not participate fully in the major institutions of the society; (3) The inability to take advantage of increased opportunities is learned through the parents; and (4) This inability tends to perpetuate the culture of poverty.
The closed opportunity model, on the other hand, posits that the poor do indeed share the values of the dominant culture but that they have been denied the opportunity to realize these values, i.e., the poor do not defer gratification because even if they did so their chances of receiving a future reward are low. The closed opportunity structure model sees the problems of the poor as being grounded in the larger society as opposed to being inherent deficiencies of the poor themselves.
I have selected two programs for this study on the basis of their subscription to one or the other theoretical models discussed above. Portland Residential Manpower Center (PRMC), an urban Job Corps camp, was chosen because its program design conforms to the culture of poverty model in that it attempts to resocialize the trainee so that he may better fit into the society; conversely, the Portland New Careers Project was chosen because it subscribed to the closed opportunity model in that it does not see these socialization attempts as necessary, but rather, it places its trainees in social service positions with various governmental agencies and provides them with education which, hopefully, will enable the trainee to move into a more professional position at the agency. The study then attempts to describe the effects of each of these programs on its enrollees.
The method of direct observation was chosen for several reasons: (1) The exploratory nature of the study; (2) The absence of a clear cut hypothesis to test; (3) inadequate statistical data available which would give me answers to the kinds of questions I had asked.
The findings indicated that the two programs had very different effects on the enrollees. PRMC, because of its highly structured character and complete program of socialization, produced a high degree of distrust of the program on the part of the trainees. PRMC's socialization attempts were seen as largely unnecessary by the trainees and they felt that these attempts interfered with the primary task of skill training. New Careers, on the other hand, lacks a highly structured program. Aside from being expected to put in time at the placement agency and to attend his classes, the trainee is left largely on his own. This almost complete lack of structure has made it exceedingly difficult for many of the trainees to progress in the program because they have few guidelines for their training. The New Careerist learns what is expected of him through trial and error.
The findings of this study suggest that social scientists should be aware of the consequences of their theoretical models on the people these models attempt to deal with. Both programs studies exhibited deficiencies which, in varying degrees, are the result of the theoretical models upon which the program is based.
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DeShane, Michael Richard, "The effects of sociological theories of poverty on job training programs" (1971). Dissertations and Theses. Paper 1540.