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The cycle of deprivation and the concept of the underclass

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In drawing on the concept of social exclusion, New Labour has been keen to distance itself from the longer-term 'underclass' discourse. At the same time, phrases such as 'cycle of deprivation' and 'problem families' are used with little sense of their earlier history. This article examines Sir Keith Joseph's theory of the 'cycle of deprivation' with regard to the longer-term history of the idea of an underclass. It argues that the cycle of deprivation can be seen as a chronological stepping-stone between related ideas. Nevertheless there are also important differences between the problem family, cycle of deprivation, and underclass formulations.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 2002

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  • Benefits (now known as The Journal of Poverty and Social Justice)

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    Benefits (to be known as The Journal of Poverty and Social Justice from 2010) provides a unique blend of high-quality research, policy and practice from leading authors in the field related to all aspects of poverty and social exclusion. The journal has changed its name to reflect its wider scope and has growing international coverage.

    Content spans a broad spectrum of poverty-related topics including social security, employment and unemployment, regeneration, housing, health, education and criminal justice, as well as issues of ethnicity, gender, disability and other inequalities as they relate to social justice.

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