Ida Susser's Articles Review

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The Construction of Poverty and Homelessness in US Cities and Creation Family Forms

In her book The Construction of Poverty and Homelessness in US Cities and Creation Family Forms, Ida Susser analyzes the emergence of poverty, the exclusion of the poor, and the impact of this kind of exclusion in the modern world. US economic growth has been fairly steady over the past 100 years, and the number of wealthy people is increasing. The gap between rich and poor is also widening. Ida finds that as the gap between rich and poor widens, the poor are becoming less visible in public. Sasser also points out that some institutional arrangements indirectly contributed to family structure amongst the poor in the US. I agree with Ida and explain my reasons in the body of this essay.

The Efforts of Major US Cities to Construct Housing Systems and Homeless Shelters

The political administrations of major cities of the US, for instance, New York City and California have made efforts to construct housing systems, homeless shelters, for the urban poor with an aim of removing the destitute individuals from the side-walks, parks, and sub-way stations. The homeless shelter initiative seems like a noble cause to help the helpless but upon further scrutiny, I have come to discover that it is a means for the political upper class to make the poor invisible. By taking these individuals off the streets, they are hidden from the public eye portraying an illusion of a city filled only with individuals who are financially able to take care of themselves hence the poor become invisible. The increasing levels of de-industrialization have made the poor population almost irrelevant to the economy of the nation. Having less industries means less need for the unskilled manual labor provided by individuals of the lower class.

The Impact of Social and Government Institutions on Family Models

The social and government institutions of the US foster mainly two family models. The first is the nuclear family model and the second is a poor household model. The second model considers a family unit as one consisting of the mother and children viewing the father as a separate entity. Incarceration and military service are some of the economic factors that have left very few men available for marriage and at the same time, the informal economy has provided employment for women that is low-income and insecure. Some of the housing facilities provided to the homeless in cities like New York indirectly led to situations like absent fathers in that the men from as early as 12 years of age were excluded from the family system. Homeless hotels and transitional housing facilities provided shelter to only mothers with sons under 12, daughters under 18. These facilities limited the access that men had to their families through restricting visiting hours and made it impossible for men to see their families because the only men allowed in the facilities were employees. The restrictions led to creation of families headed by females and a society where men had no concern with taking responsibility of their families. In a way, the economic factors mentioned above have formed the female-headed households seen today in the US cities among the poor communities.


In summary, it is my opinion that the government and other institutions are responsible for the creation of the family forms of the poor and the increased isolation of the destitute from the rest of the general public in US cities as suggested by Ida Susser.

April 19, 2023

Poverty Issue

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