University of Wisconsin–Madison

Poverty and Place Case Study in Community and Environmental Sociology 578

Professor Leann Tigges, Community and Environmental Sociology

Part 1: Using Structural Theories Of Poverty To Understand Place-Based Inequality

Suggested length about 5 double-spaced pages, excluding appendices; 1” margins; Times New Roman 11pt font. . Worth 10% of final grade. Assuming a 100-point grading rubric, I have indicated the relative weight of each section below. As you can see, grades primarily will be based on the extent to which the readings and lectures are accurately and thoughtfully incorporated into the paper 

Format

Title: Part One, county (or reservation) and state, your name, date. Place this information centered at the top of the first page of text, not on a separate page. Use the same font as in the rest of the paper.

Introduction:  Brief “qualitative” description of your case. You should not have sentences full of statistics, rather your introduction should engage the reader in a description that offers a sense of what the place is like. You may refer to table numbers from the data appendix, but you should not engage in a description of these tables. Writing out data already in tables is a waste of time and space (and is boring to read). Think about addressing some of the following questions: What does your case “look” like? What is the history of poverty there? Is this county one of those designated as “persistently poor”? Is poverty increasing or decreasing? What is the physical and social environment of this place? How do the media or politicians portray the poverty and hardship there (reservation/county, if possible, or state or region)?  You should “google” your case name, major communities within that place, and “poor” or “poverty,” to see if anything interesting comes up. If nothing specific about your case is revealed, try terms with a larger geography, for example: “rural Iowa” or “western Illinois” or “central Appalachia.”

You should draw on your summaries of the data reports but do not simply repeat them. Instead, selectively use the information to provide a textured description of life in this place. (2 paragraphs, 20 points)

Individual and Structural Theories of Poverty Applied to Places: Draw on the reading assigned for Sept. 8 through Oct. 6, as well as information from class sessions, to critically review the main theories about poverty and apply the ideas to place-based poverty. Note the similarities and contrasts between your case and that of your partner (identify partner by name and name of his/her place). Particular questions to consider: What are the weaknesses of individual theories of poverty that a place-based study could help reveal? How do “common beliefs” about the poor, ideas about culture and structure accord with data on poverty in the US generally and in these cases? What do the descriptive data from your and your partner’s cases suggest about individual sources of poverty and about structural sources? (3-4 pages, 50 points)

Conclusion: Briefly summarize the preceding sections. Looking ahead, what factors seem to be important to understand the structural forces influencing poverty in your case? What puzzles you about your case? (1 paragraph, 5 points)

4 Appendices (20 points – 5 for A and B; 15 for C and D):

  1. Works Cited (style of citation and bibliography according to ASA Citation Guide)
  2. State map indicating location of case (check google images)
  3. Six Data Reports
  4. Summary of 6 Data Reports

Quality of writing: Grammar, sentence and paragraph construction, spelling, proof-read. (5 points)

Note: You must provide information about your sources (use ASA citation style provided in “instructions” section of “Content” tab).  Failure to properly cite your sources will lead to deductions of up to 5 points for style, or a failing grade if there is evidence of plagiarism (consult http://www.writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/QuotingSources.html).

Clarification of Data Reports Requirement

1) A report contains multiple tables, but is downloaded as a single excel file. It is this page of tables that I want kept together and the summary to address the whole set of tables. When you download a “report” to Excel, you have a page or two, which you should preserve as a separate document or file. You will write a summary about each report (file), not about each table (T6, T13, etc.). So, there will be a “demographic profile report” with the 9 tables, an “income profile” report with up to 11 tables (depending on the race/ethnic makeup of the county), and a “poverty profile” report with at least 5 tables

2) How long should the summary be? 

The summary for each report should be a paragraph of approximately four or five sentences, telling the story of the data in the profile report. For example, for the demographic profile data, your summary should tell us what the county’s population looks like and how it is different (or not) from the state and nation, or how it is different (or not) from the stereotypical poverty population. Don’t go line by line, or table by table. Pick out what you want your reader to know and tell that story, without overwhelming us with numbers. Some of the “additional reports” (such as the poverty trend data) will tell you a simple story that will only needs a couple of sentences. 

3) How should I put this all together?

Each data report should be separate (though it is also fine to combine the excel documents into a single file with separate tabs for each report). If you have already put the summaries at the end of each corresponding data report, you can keep them there. But I would also like you to combine the summaries into a single document that you can print 2 copies of and bring to class on Thursday (10/1) — please put your name, and email address on the top of the page and be sure the title tells the case name (county, state). You will give your partner one copy and turn in one copy to me. That will really help me with reading and also help your partner.

Part 2: How the political economic structure of places produces poverty and inequality

15% of final grade, 7 pages plus tables

Nov. 18   By 8pm: Tables and summaries, submitted to Learn

Nov. 19   In class: Meet with partner I assign to compare and discuss your data

Nov. 24   In class: Submit paper that identifies and interprets salient dimensions of the economic structure, drawing comparisons with partner’s county (hardcopy turned in and electronic copy uploaded to Learn).

Hard copy due at the start of class and electronic copy in Learn@UW drop-box Nov. 24 (11am).

Suggested length about 7 double-spaced pages, excluding appendices; 1” margins; Times New Roman 11pt font

Using a 100-point grading rubric, I have indicated the relative weight of each section below. As you can see, grades primarily will be based on the extent to which the readings and lectures are accurately and thoughtfully incorporated into the paper and your data correctly interpreted.

Format:

Title: Part Two, county (and reservation) and state, your name, date. Place this information centered at the top of the first page of text, not on a separate page. Use the same font as in the rest of the paper.

Introduction:  Briefly summarize the dimensions of poverty in your case, drawing from Part One and introducing key questions asked in Part Two. (1 paragraph, 5 points)

Political economic dimensions of place-based poverty: Draw on the reading assigned for Oct. 13 through Nov. 19, as well as information from class sessions and any relevant information from the first part of the course, to discuss and interpret each of the four dimensions of political economic structure of your data profiles. Use the literature and lectures to interpret the data and discuss the significance of it (refer to particular tables as is helpful). Note the similarities and contrasts between your case and that of your partner (identify partner by name and name of his/her place). What do the descriptive data from your and your partner’s cases suggest about the role of opportunity structures in the production of poverty? How do these data help explain the differential economic vulnerability of different groups and places? (5-6 pages, 60 points)

Conclusion: Briefly summarize the main insights into the poverty of your case provided by the data in this section of the course. Apply C. Wright Mills key questions of “The Sociological Imagination” to understand poverty in your case.  (1 page, 10 points)

 3 Appendices: (20 points)

  1. Works Cited (style of citation and bibliography according to ASA Citation Guide)
  2. Four Data Reports – Those tables indicated in the guidelines plus additional relevant information. Indicate source at the bottom of each table by citing URL produced by the “link” button on Social Explorer and by copying the URL for the additional reports. See instructions.
  3. Summary of Data Reports. Quality counts. Summarize.

Part 3: Social, Community and Policy Factors in the (Re)Production of Poor Places

16-18 pages

Requirements for the third installment of your case study are described below. Papers are due on Dec. 15. However, I will grant extensions without penalty until Monday Dec. 21st at 4pm. Please talk to me if you need extra time beyond that. At a minimum, you should have the data reports done by Dec. 15, 11:00, and a hard copy of your data summaries turned in then. Please upload your full paper and bring a hard copy to my office when you finish.

This paper should be organized into the following sections:

1) Introduction and overview. Summarize important findings from previous parts of the case study. Provide a rich description that lays out the challenges that policy needs to address. (1 page, 10 pts)

2) Analysis. How do political and social factors identified in the data section of this part affect the wellbeing of residents in your case study area? Be sure to use the literature from the course to interpret or explain any important piece of data or conclusion you draw. (5 pages, 50 pts)

3) Discussion and conclusion. What are the implications of your findings for improving the wellbeing and diminishing the hardships of the residents? What are the main obstacles to prosperity? What policy changes would help reduce poverty levels in your case? (2 pages, 20 pts)

4) Appendices. Bibliography, data appendices, and data summaries (8-10 pages, not including tables, 20 pts)

Required Data Appendices: Each table or paragraph should have a title at the top and a “source” note at the bottom. You do not need to print the entire table if your data is a single line of it.

  1. Social capital

Retrieve 2009 social capital data for your county.

http://aese.psu.edu/nercrd/community/social-capital-resources/social-capital-variables-for-1997-2005-and-2009/social-capital-variables-spreadsheet/view 

These are the variables that of special interest: assn09: The aggregate number of voluntary associations (divided by population per 10,000) divided by 10; pvote08: Voter turnout; respn10: Census response rate; nccs09: Number of non-profit organizations without including those with an international approach; sk09: Social capital index created using principal component analysis using the above four factors. Note that the Social Capital index number is only meaningful in a relative sense. In 2009, the values ranged from a low of -3.94 to a high of 8.85 (with one outlier that had a value of 17.55).  If you want to see if components of social capital has declined, you can compare the four variables over time. For your convenience I have placed the spreadsheet and variables description files from this site in the “case study” folder of “Content” area in Learn.

Here is the appropriate citation for the data use:

Rupasingha, Anil and Stephan J. Goetz, “US County-Level Social Capital Data, 1990-2005.” The Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, Penn State University, University Park, PA, 2008.

  1. Housing affordability, stress and instability
  2. Public policies:

Explore the public policies that affect poverty and the poor in your case study state and county.

  1. State and local tax policies
  2. Welfare spending — How does the state allocate the block grant monies that come from the federal government as part of PROWRA? What is the level of benefit from TANF?
  3. What about food assistance in your county?
  4. Health Insurance coverage
  5. Education
  6. Overall, what effect does the safety net have on child poverty in your state, as measured by the Supplemental Poverty Measure? Use the data from the Dec. 3 class reading “state child spm”.

Check out county and state websites to find other relevant information about public policies for your state and localities. Are there any particular policies of your state or locality that are relevant to economic well-being in your case? Are there any recent policy changes that would affect eligibility for public assistance for food, housing, schooling, etc.? Who is excluded from these programs?