Essay-style Questions: Welfare

  1. "The Welfare state has blunted the extremes of poverty, but has failed to achieve its goal of eliminating it."

    Explain and assess this view.

    (Marks available: 20)


    Answer outline and marking scheme for question: 1


    Consider which definition of poverty seems to be being used here.

    The 'some' tend to be on the 'new right'.

    This is a behavioural approach, which is opposed by structural approaches.

    So you need to consider whether some behaviours lead to poverty and whether some behaviours are a response to poverty.

    Then you need to consider alternative reasons for the persistence of poverty.


    Historical distinction between 'deserving' and 'underserving' poor.

    Rowntree's distinction between primary and secondary poverty. There is then a historical precedent for current concern with the behaviour of the poor.

    Lewis: culture of poverty.

    Joseph: cycle of poverty.

    Murray: 'new rabble'.

    Marsland: poor misled by over generous welfare state.

    However, look at who the poor are: children, the elderly, single parents, those in low wage employment. The behaviour and attitudes approach can only apply to those who can do something about their situation.

    Consider economic restructuring and regional patterns of unemployment - some jobs have disappeared, some areas - for example, Cornwall have very few job opportunities.

    The behaviour of the government - the switch from progressive direct taxation to regressive indirect taxation has widened gap between rich and poor.

    The behaviour of the rich?

    Are the attitudes of the poor different? Some researchers would say no, but rather that the poor have no opportunity to make choices the rest of us take for granted.


    Don't sit on the fence with this one. The evidence seems fairly clear. Of course some people do take advantage of benefits and don't want to work. But evidence consistently shows that people want to work and that people don't like being poor and unemployed.

    Added to this is the straightforward evidence that many of those in poverty are there as a result of consequence, not behaviour - the young, the old, the disabled, those who live in the 'wrong' areas. The argument about behaviour is a moral rather than a sociological argument.

    (Marks available: 20)