President Lyndon Johnson shared a small theory of how poverty works in his state of the union address in 1964. A key passage:
Later in the spring he sent a message to Congress which elaborated:
What does this poverty mean to those who endure it ?
It means a daily struggle to secure the necessities for even a meager existence. It means that the abundance, the comforts, the opportunities they see all around them are beyond their grasp.
Worst of all, it means hopelessness for the young.
The young man or woman who grows up without a decent education, in a broken home, in a hostile and squalid environment, in ill health or in the face of racial injustice-that young man or woman is often trapped in a life of poverty.
He does not have the skills demanded by a complex society. He does not know how to acquire those skills. He faces a mounting sense of despair which drains initiative and ambition and energy.
This basic understanding still states the case, I believe.