Beyond deservingness: Congressional discourse on poverty, 1964-1996

Joshua Guetzkow*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Much of the research explaining the generosity of antipoverty programs has focused on the perceived deservingness of the poor. While the notion of deservingness is useful in explaining the scope and general outlines of policy, it does not help us understand the development and change of the specific policy instruments that constitute antipoverty policies. The author argues that to better understand the development of antipoverty policy tools aimed at changing the behavior of the poor, we need to analyze how policy elites frame both the causes of poverty and the nature of the poor. He illustrates the utility of this approach by analyzing congressional antipoverty discourse in two periods, comparing the "Great Society" period of 1964 to 1968 and the "neoliberal" era of 1981 to 1996, and shows how policymakers' frames about the causes of poverty and about the capacities and desires of the poor shaped the specific antipoverty policies adopted in each period.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)173-197
Number of pages25
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Culture
  • Deservingness
  • Discourse
  • Frames
  • Welfare policy


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