On October 21st the Honors Program held its second Pizza & Prof event of the semester featuring Dr. Brian Payne. The theme for this Pizza & Prof event was “Poverty and Social Action in American History.” The event was divided into three sections that corresponded with three main questions that one must address when dealing with the issue of poverty: What is poverty? What causes poverty? What steps have been taken to address poverty?
When discussing what poverty is, Dr. Payne described why it is so problematic to define poverty. He explained how poverty is given a different definition in different countries, making it difficult to compare poverty between different nations. Also, Dr. Payne described the construction of the poverty line and the difficulty of examining poverty throughout American history, since it has not always been recorded.
When answering what causes poverty, Dr. Payne talked about the different arguments that have been made to identify the roots of poverty, including personal habits, economic factors, and societal factors. When poverty first became a topic of interest after the American Revolution, people thought the cause was due to personal habits. The belief that economic factors cause poverty is the argument that is common among people today. The reasoning behind this argument is that poverty is a temporary result of recessions and depressions. Those that argue that societal factors cause poverty look at the influence that race, gender, class, youth, and marital status have on an individual’s income. Another factor looked at is how poverty changes, or does not change, over generations.
Finally, when addressing what has been done to fix poverty, Dr. Payne encouraged students to share their experiences volunteering at Father Bill’s and participating in canned food drives. In this section Dr. Payne and students examined the benefits and limitations of volunteerism. Dr. Payne also talked about the possible development of a mentoring program between faculty and staff members who were first generation college students from working class families and students who identify with this description as well.
Join us for our next Pizza & Prof event on November 4th with Dr. Jen Aizenman! We hope to see you there!