Date of Award

Spring 1996

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Terms of Use

© 1996 Allen T. Dupree. All rights reserved. Access to this work is restricted to users within the Swarthmore College network and may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. Sharing with users outside of the Swarthmore College network is expressly prohibited. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Black Studies Program, Political Science Department

First Advisor

Robinson G. Hollister

Second Advisor

Charles L. James


The purpose of this work is primarily to explore the development of what has come to be known as the urban underclass—a class of people who not only experience severe and chronic poverty, but are also exposed/participate in behavior characterized as abnormal. The behavioral traits typically include public aid recipiency, low educational attainment, long-term unemployment or detachment from the labor force and the presence of female-headed households. The study of the underclass is highly relevant to a concentration in Black Studies. As stated in the Swarthmore College Bulletin (1994–1995): "The purpose of the Black Studies Program is (1) to introduce students to the history, culture, society, and political and economic conditions of Black people in Africa, the Americas, and elsewhere in the world; and (2) to explore new approaches—in perspectives, analyses and interdisciplinary techniques—appropriate to the study of the Black experience (pg. 102)." While the breadth of this purpose is far to great to accomplish in this work, it does attempt to offer insight into the political and economic situation of a group of Black Americans that have been left behind as many other Blacks are beginning to find greater opportunities. It attempts to explore the root of their plight from the perspective of various academics—economists, political scientists, and sociologists are especially prevalent in this area.


urban underclass, poverty, racialization of social policy, behavioralism, structuralism