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Document Type

Article in Response to Controversy

Abstract

Ruby Payne, author of the controversial A Framework for Understanding Poverty (2005), outlines the structure of life in poverty through the single variable of economic status. This article highlights the insufficiencies of Payne’s theory, which follows a similar ideology to the heavily disputed “culture of poverty” theory (Lewis, 1966; Wilson & Aponte, 1985), and explores a more ethical and respectful approach service providers can employ using effective cross-cultural communication. As similar theories have been substantially critiqued for pathologizing the language and mores of individuals living in poverty (Dudley-Marling, 2007), this article focuses on Payne’s oversimplification of both the causes and effects of poverty, as well as the methods by which professionals might approach the socioeconomic gap. Finally, we accept that Payne’s framework has filled a void amongst educators and other professionals, but we posit that this void is really about deeply embedded racism and classism that still exist in our educational and other social institutions (Gorski, 2008). Therefore, we do our best to provide another approach for those who work across various cultural communities in our professional and personal lives.

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