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A Framework for Understanding Poverty

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  4,617 ratings  ·  594 reviews
People in poverty face challenges virtually unknown to those in middle class or wealth--challenges from both obvious and hidden sources. The reality of being poor brings out a survival mentality, and turns attention away from opportunities taken for granted by everyone else. If you work with people from poverty, some understanding of how different their world is from yours ...more
Paperback, Fourth Revised Edition. , 199 pages
Published February 9th 2006 by AHA! Process (first published 1995)
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Riku Sayuj

Building High-Achieving Schools

The book is primarily directed at building a model for combating poverty by tackling them at the earliest level of perpetuation - in schools.

Schools, Payne advocates, should be our first line of defense against encroaching poverty and also our most effective weapon to beat it back. Unlike most economic tools, schools can be fine-tuned and  deployed according to strict frameworks.

The thrust is thus primarily on how to deal with poverty in schools and how to equi
Oct 24, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people that love to rank, classify, divide and "educate"

do you believe that ascribing to a middle class aesthetic is the pinnacle of existence? Do you believe that education is the best, most acceptable, most desired way to gain prominence in our society? Do you believe we should continue down this path?
Mar 08, 2008 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one.
Payne's book is a perfect example of what is wrong with the conservative approach to education. In this book, sold to districts all over the country, Payne peddles soft racism and discredited social theory, based on her anecdotal observations, rather than real research.

It’s a pretty appealing formula: rather than address the root causes of poverty in this country or community, demonize the poor through condescension and disapproval rather than outright hostility. I had the misfortune of going to
Aug 22, 2007 rated it did not like it
This was required reading last year at one of my buildings. I would retitle it "Reinforcing Poverty, making stereotypes stick." I found it to be extremely troubling. ...more
Dec 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Full of generalizations, yes. Entirely wrong- no. The role of language and story; Hidden rules among classes & Characteristics of Generational Poverty are some of the better chapters. There ARE rules of behavior and language in the middle class (and other classes) and trying to function in a middle class atmosphere requires knowledge of these rules. This is not a judgment statement, just statement of fact; just as knowledge of French would be a requirement for success in France. The difference i ...more
Mar 02, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: teaching
This book came highly recommended from various TFA types. It is horrible. it is full of subtly veiled stereotypes and essentialization, couched in psuedo-pyschology from someone who claims to understand the lives of people living in poverty because she married someone who grew up in poverty. I think this book could actually be really dangerous for the mindsets it reinforces while presenting itself as a compassionate, indispensible guide to working with certain populations.
Apr 02, 2009 rated it did not like it
Shelves: sociology, education
This is a controversial book, to say the least, featuring some very broad generalizations about poverty that lend themselves to stereotypes that are unhelpful and de-politicizing.

The unexamined will control us, and this book is about unexamined assumptions and the "hidden" social rules of each class that keep individuals pigeonholed and divided. It is ironic, then, that the author is accused by some of doing the pigeonholing and dividing.

She is accused of racism, although what she seeks to dem
Jul 30, 2007 rated it it was ok
There is some useful stuff in here, but there are some huge problematic things going on in this book. Primarily it's very classist.

I also think its a dangerous book in the sense that if one allows oneself to read this book without a questioning mind, one may get sucked into the simple explanations the author offers. It's quite payneful how she explains poverty.
Apr 15, 2007 rated it it was ok
I think I would like to run this book through a Social-Science version of Mythbusters.
Feb 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I got Ms. Payne's book based on some interesting excerpts that someone posted online. The excerpts had to do with the different types of speech and how they influence learning and even ways of thinking. The poster quoted some sections from the book which assert that the differences in speech between the general classes of poverty, middle class and wealth have much more impact on the brain than most people realize. This intrigued me. The book is targeted at school administrators and employers, bu ...more
Mar 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sociology
Dr. Payne offers outstanding discourse on variations in socioeconomic outlooks and perspectives. I used this quite a bit when dealing with offenders in my work as a probation-parole officer.

Payne has an uncanny ability to vet out subtle cultural nuances and how they relate to one's world-view. I highly recommend this book as a quick study for understanding the things people do - things which might otherwise leave you bewildered.

Now, I understand that there are some folks who dismiss this book a
Wow. After hearing reference to this book so many times within the realm of education, I finally sat down to read it myself. Let me save you some time - don't bother reading this book! It's misguided and is based on Payne's personal perspectives, not on research. I now understand why I've heard such strong critiques of Payne; ultimately I think not only that is the book ill-informed, but also that Payne's "case studies" and conclusions are more harmful then helpful. It perpetuates stereotypes an ...more
Jul 23, 2011 rated it did not like it
I'd forgotten being forced to read "A Framework for Understanding Poverty" for a PD in my school a few years ago. It's still used in my district as a basis for a class by the same name.
The tone is condescending rather than authoritative. Having been a very poor kid growing up, I resent academics who blame w/out also assigning some personal accountability for individuals' circumstances, which, as I recall, is the case here.
Mason Wiebe
Feb 06, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Teachers, Social workers, Anyone who works with people living in poverty
During Grad school, I skimmed this book and remembered that it had a lot of good info about the cultural differences between classes (poverty, middle-class, wealthy), so when I saw that a friend was reading it down here, I decided to give it a second look. It is written with educators in mind, so it was only slightly applicable to what I am doing at this point in my life, and it is written about poverty in the US. What I found very interesting is that so many of the things we see here that we th ...more
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book was eye opening in helping me understand the influence of class on world view and values. For example, entertainment being valued in poverty and exclusivity being valued in wealth.
I am a little bewildered by some of the negative reviews on this book. Ok, the author generalizes -- so there are some stereotypical situations at play. But generalizing and categorizing are how we make sense of things and gain the tools to influence them.
OF COURSE, the generalities and stereotypes do not e
Jul 20, 2011 rated it did not like it
I'm sure I will get some heat for this but . . . This book is part a book study, so I was required to read it. The book was very disturbing. The author goes on endlessly about low-income students and described "low-income" value sets and how these translate to poor academic performance. Her goal is to have students learn middle-class values and communication styles to enable them to achieve a middle class lifestyle. This book is all about getting students to conform to a middle-class European-Am ...more
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you teach in a Title I (high poverty) school you should read this book every couple of years. It really helps you understand your students and why they do what they do. Often their behavior is frustrating to teachers. When you get to the point that you can no longer deal with it, read this book.
Apr 23, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I've been through this Ruby Payne training twice and each time I am amazed at how helpful it is. I have learned so much about the struggles of each class. It was very practial to use with students or the public in general. ...more
Aug 02, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A good understanding of different value systems and having a broader view. I caution readers to not take it too literally as it is still important to individualize people and not think they fall into on group or another simply because of their income. DON'T OVERGENERALIZE :-) ...more
May 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Awesome. Easy to understand and immediately useful. WIN.

Some key points to remember:
1. Poverty is relative. If everyone around you has similar circumstances, the notion of poverty and wealth is vague. Poverty or wealth only exists in relationship to the known quantities or expectation.

2. Poverty occurs among people of all ethnic backgrounds and in all countries.The notion of a middle class as a large segment of society is a phenomenon of this century. The percentage of the population that is poo
Apr 16, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author does follow through on her promise to help you understand poverty better. She provides a lot of insights into how people in poverty make decisions that were quite eye opening to me. They helped make sense of a lot of behavior that I had currently found inexplicable. However, when it comes to "what to do about it," how do you help a child learn the behaviors that will take her out of poverty, the book was lacking. The chapters on application were nothing more than over-generalized, hig ...more
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: professional
This book was full of implications relating to the population of students I work with. As I read the several case studies, examples, and theories about the cultural differences of people in generational and situational poverty, I was flooded with memories of particular situations with students in the past. Things that have frustrated me that are caused by: different cultural values and priorities, different forms of communication, different family relationships and values, a lack of support syst ...more
Charles Wagner
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Generational versus situational poverty

As has always been whispered, the best indication of success is where you came from. That is hardly a politically correct method of discussing poverty. But, Payne does a better discussion of poverty than this old saw.

Situational poverty can happen because of a divorce, employment termination, medical condition, or other unforeseen factors which dumps the individual presumably temporarily in poverty. From this the individual may escape back into a higher s
Alaase Mahalah
Jan 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My work for today. This book was a revelation! Ruby Payne Ph.D masterfully explores the dimensions of poverty beyond money and analyses the different mindsets from poverty to middle-class to wealthy. Payne explores the realities of poverty in a very honest and relatable way and offers actionable strategies for preparing children of poverty to navigate successfully through the hidden roles of this middle-class rigged society. The barriers are real, the matrix is set up against you. It's only thro ...more
Jul 20, 2018 rated it liked it
I read this book and attended training in my first few years of teaching in a high poverty area in the 2000's. One part that is still helpful to me is understanding how what I value can be different from my students and those values cause us to make different choices. For example, many of my students have MUCH more expensive phones than me. It's not because I can't afford a nicer phone but because I value financial security more than entertainment. I'm cheap :) The book has its flaws but it help ...more
Oct 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The title a ‘framework’ for understanding poverty Payne chose is a very fitting description for this book. I found it to be full of information about the differences between classes and the challenges one may face moving between classes. I found the chapter divisions to be clear and plan to reference back to specific concepts and strategies for future use in the classroom. This book is a good starting point for anyone looking to better understand poverty and the effects it can have on an individ ...more
Tori Renee
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Extremely insightful. Put perspective on my life as well as thinking about how I address my students. It also gave further understanding to why I do some things in teaching that I picked up along the way but didn’t know why they worked. Really recommend if you are an educator but even in general to understand how to treat/relate to those around you that did not have the same background as you.
Alex Johnson
Apr 04, 2020 rated it liked it
Good for a primer read, but very deficit minded. Did not acknowledge that students in poverty have skills that can be capitalized on in education. Gave me useful pieces of information about hidden rules and values of students in poverty, but I'm unsure if I needed it (if I had genuine relationships with students, wouldn't I learn about that from them?) ...more
Apr 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Love this book. So eye opening and thought provoking. Seriously love it. I've been telling everyone to read it. ...more
Mar 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
Highly useful because it points out differences in ways of thinking--the different rules, approaches, and mindsets between the cultures of wealth, middle class, and poverty. My favorite part is the idea that an I.Q. test measures acquired information, yet we treat it as though it measures ability. People in poverty don't necessarily know less, but may have a differing body of knowledge that doesn't correspond to a middle-class-oriented test. ...more
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14 likes · 0 comments
“To move from poverty to middle class or middle class to wealth, an individual must give up relationships for achievement (at least for some period of time). The issue is time; there is not enough time to have both.” 4 likes
“These are patterns that you see. These are why individuals use these patterns, and here is what you can do to help those individuals make the transition to the “decontextualized” environment of formal schooling, if they so desire to make that transition.” 0 likes
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