Environment

At the bottom of the class structure, disadvantage comes not just in the form of deficient individual assets (e.g., schooling, training, credentials), but also disproportionate exposure to environments that are unhealthy or stressful (e.g., poor water quality, high crime rates) and that are socially less advantageous (e.g., fewer successful role models, less access to desirable social contacts). Because poverty is spacially concentrated, the cost of being poor is often consignment to "poor neighborhoods," with such neighborhoods bringing with them all manner of additional risks and costs. The scholarship within this field focuses on the risks and costs associated with living in environmentally degraded areas as well as the risks and costs associated with living in "socially degraded" areas.

Environmental inequality and hazards

Are the poor more likely to be exposed to severe environmental threats (e.g., poor drinking water, noise and air pollution, risk of floods)? Do these threats generate serious health problems and reduce life expectancy?

Neighborhoods and social inequality

Are the poor also more likely to live in neighborhoods with few jobs, largely negative role models, and limited access to high-status social contacts? To what extent are neighborhood disadvantages of this sort responsible for reproducing poverty from one generation to the next? If poor families were dispersed rather than spatially concentrated, would their children be much more likely to themselves escape poverty?

"When the rich wage war it is the poor who die." - Jean-Paul Sartre


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