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The Memberships Theory of Poverty: The Role of Group Affiliations in Determining Socioeconomic Outcomes


  • S. N. Durlauf


This paper describes a particular perspective on the causes of poverty: a memberships based theory. The idea of this theory is that an individual's socioeconomic prospects are strongly influenced by the groups to which he is attached over the course of his life. Such groups may be endogenous; examples include residential neighborhoods, schools and firms. Other groups are exogenous, including ethnicity and gender. I describe the main ideas of the memberships theory, characterize the empirical evidence in its support, and remark on its implications for anti-poverty policy.

Suggested Citation

  • S. N. Durlauf, "undated". "The Memberships Theory of Poverty: The Role of Group Affiliations in Determining Socioeconomic Outcomes," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1221-01, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:wispod:1221-01

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Marcia K. Meyers & Irwin Garfinkel, 1999. "Social indicators and the study of inequality," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sep, pages 149-163.
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    Cited by:

    1. Kaushik Basu, 2006. "Teacher Truancy in India: The Role of Culture, Norms and Economic Incentives," Working Papers id:766, eSocialSciences.
    2. Steven N. Durlauf, 2002. "On the Empirics of Social Capital," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 112(483), pages 459-479, November.
    3. Barrett, Christopher B. & Swallow, Brent M., 2006. "Fractal poverty traps," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 1-15, January.
    4. Edgar Carrera, 2012. "Imitation and evolutionary stability of poverty traps," Journal of Bioeconomics, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 1-20, April.
    5. M. Shahe Emran & Forhad Shilpi, 2011. "Intergenerational Occupational Mobility in Rural Economy: Evidence from Nepal and Vietnam," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 46(2), pages 427-458.
    6. Basu, Kaushik, 2006. "Participatory Equity, Identity, and Productivity: Policy Implications for Promoting Development," Working Papers 06-06, Cornell University, Center for Analytic Economics.
    7. Lena Lindahl, 2011. "A comparison of family and neighborhood effects on grades, test scores, educational attainment and income—evidence from Sweden," The Journal of Economic Inequality, Springer;Society for the Study of Economic Inequality, vol. 9(2), pages 207-226, June.
    8. Drake, Brett & Rank, Mark R., 2009. "The racial divide among American children in poverty: Reassessing the importance of neighborhood," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(12), pages 1264-1271, December.
    9. Emran, M. Shabe & Otsuka, Misuzu & Shilpi, Forhad, 2003. "Gender, generations, and nonfarm participation," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3087, The World Bank.

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