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Defining and Measuring the Underdass

Erol R. Ricketts and Isabel V. Sawhill
Journal of Policy Analysis and Management
Vol. 7, No. 2 (Winter, 1988), pp. 316-325
DOI: 10.2307/3323831
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3323831
Page Count: 10
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Defining and Measuring the Underdass
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Abstract

Research on the underclass has been hampered by the absence of a clear definition of the term. In this article we develop an operational definition of the underclass that is consistent with the emphasis of most of the underclass literature on behavior rather than poverty. Using this definition, we analyze data for all census tracts in the United States in 1980. According to our definition, about one percent of the U.S. population lived in "underclass areas" in 1980, and this group was overwhelmingly concentrated in urban areas. It was also disproportionately made up of minorities living in the older industrial cities of the Northeast.

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