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In conjunction with this we need to take into account the change in their real income and how much of their income rises or falls on average for the persistently low-income person.
The term underclass came to the fore in Britain when Charles Murray, who is on the right wing of the political spectrum, was asked by a national newspaper to come to Britain and conduct a study on the underclass as he had done previously in the United States (Lister, 1996).
Murray found that Britain was following America in terms of the increasing underclass.
It is found that those with a relative high risk of being on long-term low-income, remaining in the poverty bracket, are the elderly, lone parent families and also those in households where no one is in work.
Depending on the type of poverty, short-term, persistent or recurrent will dictate the type of benefit required and thus influence policy decisions on poverty.
‘Democratization’ means that poverty is no longer confined to members of the lower class but reaches into the middle class even if only temporarily and that the new ecological and technological risks of modernity affect everyone from all strata’s of society (Leisering, 1998).
To understand who is at risk from persistent poverty we need to look at the changing composition of people who enter the poverty threshold.
Murray’s views were that welfare dependency had encouraged the break up of the nuclear family, and thus socialization into a counter-culture, which devalues work ethic and encourages welfare dependency.
Murray’s concept of the underclass is of the undeserving poor and he describes them as behaving like deviants and uses metaphors of “plague” and “disease” (Morris, 1994).
He portrays them as living in dirty unkempt houses, unable to maintain employment and typified by drunkenness and criminality that corrupted those they came into contact with.
Murray states that the habitual criminal is the classic member of the underclass and lives off mainstream society without participating in it, the most frequent offenders being late teenage men (Lister, 1996).