Skip to main content
U-M Poverty Solutions Logo U-M Poverty Solutions Logo


Back to news

Poverty Center Directors Speak Out Against Lawrence Mead’s “Poverty and Culture” Commentary

A recent commentary, “Poverty and Culture,” written by Professor Lawrence Mead and published in Society, a journal edited by Jonathan Imber, has caused great concern and anger within the poverty research community. We recognize that Professor Mead has the same rights to express his opinions as we all do and are firm in our commitment to the principle of academic freedom. At the same time, we feel we must speak out and clarify that his opinions do not reflect the current knowledge in the field. His conclusions are false, without any supporting evidence, and completely unfounded. As such his commentary is harmful to the integrity of social science research. Indeed, decades of research suggest that when anti-poverty policies and programs are designed in an effective and inclusive way, much progress can be made.

As poverty scholars, we are committed to understanding and explaining how policies and programs perpetuate or mitigate racism, inequality, violence, and poverty. We have been, and remain, committed to doing research that generates more equitable, just, and anti-racist policy systems and institutions. And yet, we still need to do better and more, because commentaries such as Mead’s are incredibly harmful to communities of color. It is important that as poverty researchers we center our work on fundamental values of diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging. Racism has no place in our scholarly community.

Irwin Garfinkel
Mitchell I. Ginsberg Professor of Contemporary Urban Problems at the Columbia School of Social Work
Co-Director, Center on Poverty and Social Policy
Columbia University

David Grusky
Professor of Sociology
Director, Center on Poverty and Inequality
Stanford University

Haydar Kurban
Professor of Economics
Director, Center on Race and Wealth
Howard University

Katherine Magnuson
Professor of Social Work
Director, Institute for Research on Poverty
University Wisconsin–Madison

Marianne E. Page
Professor of Economics
Director, Center for Poverty Research
University of California Davis

Jennifer Romich
Professor of Social Work
Director, West Coast Poverty Center
University of Washington

H. Luke Shaefer
Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy
Director, Poverty Solutions
University of Michigan

James Sullivan
Gilbert F. Schaefer College Professor of Economics
Co-Director, Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities
University of Notre Dame

Christopher Wimer
Co-Director, Center on Poverty and Social Policy
Columbia University

James P. Ziliak
Gatton Endowed Chair in Microeconomics
Director, Center for Poverty Research
University of Kentucky