Writing these pages in Europe allows me to look at the problem of American poverty in a way I might not have chosen had I written in America. Visiting the slums of Naples and North Africa or traveling through the Sicilian or Greek countryside, one realizes that their misery, their utter deprivation, their stark horrors are qualitatively different from the poverty one encounters in the United States. You can, of course, see in the Mississippi delta cases of deprivation similar to those in Mediterranean slums, yet poverty in America is by and large no longer a problem of sheer physical survival, of utter immiseration and pauperism. Poverty in America concerns, in the main, not absolute but relative deprivation. We suffer from a highly unequal distribution of incomes, with the result that a fairly large proportion of the population is daily reminded of the fact that, compared to the rest, it is severely disadvantaged.
Beyond the primary issue of income distribution, poverty rai...
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