The Poverty, Class, and Inequality (PCI) Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems (SSSP) is rooted in the principles of egalitarianism, which was so eloquently expressed by Karl Marx as, “... from each according to his ability, to each according to his need (or needs)...” (1875, Critique of the Gotha Program). The Division’s mission is to identify the individual, neighborhood, and societal-level factors that produce class structures, create systemic and individual inequalities, produce and entrench social problems such unemployment, poverty, homelessness, and hunger, and limit access to food, housing, health care, education, and employment. Our research and scholarship also brings to light the institutional and structural barriers that limit and hinder the life chances of the sick, old, young, poor, disadvantaged, oppressed and excluded citizens in all societies. Through our community service and activism, we raise awareness about oppression, exclusion, injustice, persecution, and discrimination.

Why join?

  • Connect with those studying and working with poverty, class, and inequality issues around the globe.
  • Our interplay of scholarship and activism provides a rich community of collaborators with shared interests.
  • We promote a society that recognizes social justice, equity and equality in rights and resources for all members.
  • We believe that no person should be subject to discrimination, ill-treatment, or unwarranted subordination based on any social status or ideological hierarchy.
  • We recognize systemic and interlocking oppressions, such as gender, race, class, and ethnicity, are reproduced through social practices and embedded in social structures related to allocation of rights, responsibilities and resources in society.
  • We recognize climate change as a major and growing factor in poverty and inequality, both in terms of its impacts on disadvantaged communities and on its impoverishing effects.

Graduate students

We encourage graduate students to take an active role in the division. This is a great way to get experience working within a professional organization and to develop relationships with more senior scholars and activists. Graduate students interested in participating in division activities are encouraged to reach out to the division chair. 


The division has three yearly awards: the Graduate Student Paper Competition, the Michael Harrington Award, and the Outstanding Scholarship competition:

  • Graduate Student Paper Award (Deadline: January 15th each year). The Poverty, Class, and Inequality Division would like to recognize graduate student work that addresses issues related to poverty, class, and inequality. Papers should be unpublished, original empirical works of professional quality completed during students’ graduate or undergraduate studies. Papers must be student authored; they can be authored by one or more students, but may not be co-authored with faculty or nonstudents. Details, including about submission, will be available in division newsletters.
  • PCID Outstanding Scholarship Award (Deadline: April 15th). The Poverty, Class, and Inequality Division invites nominations for the PCID Outstanding Article Award. This award recognizes the author(s) of the best research article in the study of poverty, class, and inequality published in the last year. Preference is given to work that approaches these issues from a critical lens. Details, including about submission, will be available in division newsletters.
  • Michael Harrington Award (Deadline: April 15th). The Poverty, Class, and Inequality Division (PCI) invites nominations for the 2022 Michael Harrington Award. This award will be granted to an individual, organization, faculty, or student that by their actions advances our understanding of poverty, social class, and/or inequality, and/or proposes effective and practical ways to attend to the needs of the economically marginalized and reduce class inequalities. Details, including about submission, will be available in division newsletters.

Division mission statement edited in November 2022 by Rahim Kurwa, University of Illinois at Chicago, Poverty, Class, and Inequality Division Chair, 2021-2023.

Some Readings:

The following suggested reading list is for SSSP colleagues and their students who wish to learn more about poverty, class, and inequality. The list is divided by topic and based on recommendations by the division members and the authors.

Agger, Ben. (2000). Public Sociology: From Social Facts to Literary Acts. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.

Alesina, Alberto and Edward L. Glaeser. (2005). Fighting Poverty in the U.S. and Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Alinsky, Saul (1969). Rules for Radicals. Vintage Press.

Balmer, B., Dineen, M. and J. Swift. (2010). Persistent Poverty: Voices from the Margins. New York: Between the Lines.

Bellah, R.N., Madsen, R., Sullivan, W.M., Swindler, A. and S. M. Tipton (1992). The Good Society. Random House.

Berstein, R. J. (1971). Praxis and Action: Contemporary Philosophies of Human Activity. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Blau, P. and O.D. Duncan. (1978). The American Occupational Structure. Free Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a Theory of Practice. Cambridge University Press.

Brady, David. (2009). Rich Democracies, Poor People: How Politics Explain Poverty. Oxford University Press.

Collins, Patricia Hill. (1990). Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York and London: Routledge.

Corcoran, Mary, Greg J. Duncan, Gerald Gurin, and Patricia Gurin. (1985). Myth and Reality: The Causes and Persistence of Poverty. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 4 (4), 516-536.

Corning, P. (2011). The Fair Society: And the pursuit of social justice. University of Chicago Press.

Dahrendorf, R. (1979). Life Chances. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Desmond, Matthew. (2016) Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. Crown.

Dohling, D. (2010). Injustice: Why social inequality persists. The Policy Press.

Dolgoff, R. (2008). Understanding Social Welfare: A Search for Social Justice. Allyn & Bacon Publishers.

Duncan, Cynthia M., and Ann R. Tickamyer, (1988). Poverty Research and Policy for Rural America. The American Sociologist, 19-3, 243-259.

Ehrenreich, Barbara. (2001). Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Fanon, F. (2005). The Wretched of the Earth. Grove Press.

Friere, Paulo. (2000). Pedagogy of Freedom: Ethics, Democracy and Civic Courage. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.

Friere, Paulo. (2000). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Continuum Books.

Gans, Herbert. (1982). Urban Villagers: Group and Class in the Life of Italian-Americans. New York: The Free Press.

Gans, Herbert. (1995). The War Against the Poor: The Underclass and Anti-poverty Policy. New York: Harper Collins/Basic Books.

Giddens, Anthony (1986). The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration. University of California Press.

Greenbaum, Susan D. 2015.Blaming the Poor: The Long Shadow of the Moynihan Report on Cruel Images about Poverty. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Habermas, J. (1991). The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. MIT Press.

Harrington, Michael. (1962). The Other America: Poverty in the United States. Baltimore: Penguin Books.

Harrington, Michael. (1977). The Twilight of Capitalism. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Hayes, Sharon. (2003). Flat Broke with Children: Women in the Age of Welfare Reform. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hills, J., Le Grand, J. and D. Piachaud. (2002). Understanding Social Exclusion. Oxford University Press.

Hobhouse, L.T. (2010). Social Development: Its Nature and Conditions. Routledge Revivals Series (first published 1924). Routledge Press.

Lenski, Gerhardt. (1966). Power and Privilege: A Theory of Social Stratification. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Linda McQuaig. (1993). The Wealthy Bankers Wife. Penguin Publishers.

Lui, Meizhu, Barbara Robles, Betsy Leonard-Wright, Rose Brewer, and Rebecca Adamson. (2006). The Color of Wealth: The Story Behind the U.S. Racial Wealth Divide. New Press.

Marcuse, H. (1991). One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society. Beacon Press.

Marmot, M. (2004). The Status Syndrome. Holt Paperbacks.

Marx, K. (2000). Das Kapital. Regenry Publishing.

Mehrotra, S. and E. Delamonica (2007). Eliminating Human Poverty: macroeconomic and Social Policies for Equitable Growth. Zed Books Ltd.

Merton, Robert K. (1968). Social Theory and Social Structure. Free Press.

Mills. C. Wright (2000). The Sociological Imagination. Oxford University Press.

Oliver, Melvin, and Thomas Shapiro (2013). Black Wealth/white Wealth: A new perspective on racial inequality. Routledge.

Piven, F.F. and R.A. Cloward (1979). Poor People’s Movements: Why they succeed, how they fail. Random House.

Piven, Frances Fox and Richard A. Cloward. (1993). Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare. New York: Vintage Books.

Porter, Jack (2007). Is Sociology Dead? Social Theory and Social Praxis in a Post-Modern Age. University Press of America.

Porter, John (1965). The Vertical Mosaic. University of Toronto Press.

Rank, Mark Robert. (1994). Living on the Edge: The Realities of Welfare in America. New York: Columbia University Press.

Raphael, Dennis (2011). Poverty in Canada: Implications for Health and Quality of Life. Toronto: Canadian Scholars Press.

Rigney, D. (2010). The Matthew Effect: How advantage begets further advantage. Columbia University Press.

Roy, Ananya, et al. (2016) Encountering poverty: Thinking and acting in an unequal world. Vol. 2. Univ of California Press.

Saul, J.R. (1995). The Unconscious Civilization. The House of Anansi Press.

Schram, Sanford (2002). Praxis for the Poor: Piven and Cloward and the Future of Social Science in Social Welfare. NYU Press.

Sullivan, Teresa, Elizabeth Warren, and Jay Westbrook. (2000). The Fragile Middle Class: Americans in Debt. Yale University Press.

Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta. (2019) Race for profit: How banks and the real estate industry undermined black homeownership. UNC Press Books.

Taylor-Gooby, Peter (1991). Social Change, Social Welfare and Social Science. University of Toronto Press.

Wacquant, L. (2008). Urban Outcasts: A Comparative Sociology of Advanced Marginality. Polity Press.

Wainryb, C., Smetana, J.G. and E. Turiel. (2008). Social Development, Social Inequalities and Social Justice. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc. Publishers.

Wallerstein, I. (1975). The Capitalist World-Economy (Studies in Modern Capitalism). Cambridge University Press.

Wallerstein, I. (2001). Unthinking Social Science: The Limits of Nineteenth-Century Paradigms. Temple University Press.

Watkins-Hayes, C. (2009). The New Welfare Bureaucrats: Entaglements of Race, Class and Policy Reform. University of Chicago Press.

Wilkinson, R. (2005). The Impact of Inequality: How to make sick societies healthier. The New Press.

Wilson, William Julius. (1987). The Truly Disadvantaged: The Inner City, The Underclass, and Public Policy. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Wilson, William Julius. (1997). When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor. New York: Vintage Press.