Sunday, June 23, 2019

Money Won’t Fix the Poverty Problem

From Unherd:
The social scientist Robert Putnam defines social capital as the conditions under which a person enjoys access to face-to-face networks of people. These include access to nurseries, youth clubs, libraries and village halls; places where relationships among local people are forged. Yet this access really starts at home, with family.
Of course, family isn’t a universal state of affairs. The experience of family breakdown is highly unequal in our society. Many families break apart, and there are thousands of children in care, not to mention an even larger proportion of isolated adults, especially the elderly. Polling from the Centre of Social Justice shows that a significantly greater proportion of adults from blue-collar and semi-skilled labour (27%) say they have experienced family breakdown when compared to other social grades. The poll found 87% of mothers with children under the age of five from higher income groups were married, compared to just 24% of those in lower income groups.
When intact, the home is a self-replenishing fund of social capital. It invites people to come together and exchange goods and favours, the value of which is set by relationships rather than by price or labour costs. Family is the font of all relationships – both the most essential and most formative to the relationships we form in communities later on. The famous Grant Study – a longitudinal study of almost 300 healthy Harvard students – has over several decades produced tens of thousands of pages of data. It concludes:
‘The lessons aren’t about wealth or fame or working harder and harder.  The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this:  Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period.’
But beyond family, relationships depend on strong local networks. The key to allowing these to flourish is creating the space for them to develop – from inclusive youth clubs to thriving high streets. Unfortunately, this connective tissue is being eroded as well. In the UK since the 1970s, there have been 28,000 pub closures, and 121 libraries shut in 2016 alone, with further foreclosures of 600 youth centers between 2012 and 2016. And of course, this depletion of social capital is most visible in the country’s most deprived towns. (Read more.)

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