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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Racialization and Feminization of Poverty?


Quite understandably- and quite correctly- poverty is usually studied as a persistent, unchanging social problem that, hopefully, can be ameliorated through specific social policies. Indeed, the biblical saying that, "the poor are always with us" has withstood the test of time. The present volume, however, tackles poverty from a different angle. We ask how poverty changes during an epochal transformation, in this case, the transition from econmies based on socialist redistribution to those based on capitalist markets. We use this major transformation as an epistemological lever to provide insight into the causes and nature of poverty. In the same spirit of drawing on difference as an analytic tool, our approach is also explicitly comparative. We compare and contrast poverty- and what we argue are associated social porcess4es of racialization and feminization- in different countries during this transition. We hope that this approach not only provides sociological insight but also illuminates policy debates.

During the past decade, there have been dramatic and sweeping changes in the countries of the former East European communist bloc; all have moved toward a market economy. In some places, marketization has been very rapid. At the same time, however, poverty has increased in all the countries. In this chapter, we offer some hypotheses about the relationship between poverty, markets, and ethnicity in this region and suggest how the evidence from these countries, as reported in the later chapters, addresses these hypotheses.

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