Symbolic interactionism’s view that the impoverished remain so because they either have difficulty in changing their situation or because they are stigmatized by others whom are not impoverished may be an accurate assumption for a portion of those living in poverty, but it doesn’t offer a comprehensive model to analyze the cause of poverty in general. It is a one sided view that is critical of those who live in poverty without also considering the possible circumstances which prevent them from attaining higher status which may not be under their control.
The structural functionalist view, while it may describe the way in which the impoverished are being exploited (i.e.… “It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it”), it also does not identify the institutionalized system of keeping groups of people in poverty. Also, I disagree with some earlier posters that there is some positive in keeping groups of people poor, so they can occupy menial jobs, and promote commerce of goods that would otherwise be less than desirable to those who could afford better. Perhaps a better view than this would be, that everyone who works should be paid a realistic living wage, so that they could afford to eat at the same proverbial table as those who were more affluent. Believing that a greater good is served by keeping the poor poor, whether by intention or complacence is damaging to our society and economy.
I suggest that conflict-theory offers a view that is critical of a social system, and that is why it lends itself better to describing why our economy is in the state it’s in now. The very nature of capitalism and corporate behavior is to always show growth (increasing profit) so it would seem plausible that this mentality would force those with the most power and money to arrange our laws and regulations to benefit them. Through deregulation of the financial sector and industry, our government gives corporations the ability to take from the lower classes as they please, and show those increased profits meanwhile. Why did we give the biggest banks a bailout at the onset of the recession, only to see them reward their highest paid with extravagant bonuses and opulent parties. They are being rewarded for their bad behavior. When we vote against a living wage for all, we are saying that quality of life is more important for a few individuals, but not for the rest of us. We are saying that we will continue carrying the wealthy on our backs while our middle class becomes poor, and our poor die off. What a lot of people, Americans especially, fail to see is the overall improvement we could all enjoy with things like universal healthcare, living wage for all, and government funded social programs that support those of us, who really can’t support themselves. When and if things are truly on a more even playing field in this country economically, we’ll all reap the benefits.