Poor and Working Class



A compilation of 99 local and national anti-poverty and hunger organizations, created as an online resource for social workers.

Poverty Race Research Action Council (PRRAC) is a non-partisan, national, not-for-profit organization convened by major civil rights, civil liberties and anti-poverty groups. Their purpose is to link social science research to advocacy work in order to address problems at the intersection of race and poverty.

The Center for Community Change helps low-income people, especially people of color, build powerful, effective organizations through which they can change their communities and public policies for the better.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is one of the nation’s premier policy organizations working at the federal and state levels on fiscal policy and public programs that affect low- and moderate-income families and individuals.   The Center conducts research and analysis to inform public debates over proposed budget and tax policies and to help ensure that the needs of low-income families and individuals are considered in these debates.   They also develop policy options to alleviate poverty, particularly among working families.

RESULTS was formed to educate the public about issues related to hunger and poverty, to educate and train individuals and groups about powerful citizenship, to research current hunger and poverty programs, and to discover cost-effective solutions to the problems of hunger and poverty.

Poverty USA is sponsored by the Campaign for Human Development.   CCHD was established in 1970 to assist people to rise out of poverty through empowerment programs.   CCHD has provided more than $260 million in support to nearly 4,000 self-help projects developed by grassroots groups of poor people in all 50 states.

Poor News Network is a multi-media access project of POOR Magazine, dedicated to reframing the news, issues and solutions from low and no income communities, as well as providing society with a  perspective usually not heard or seen within the mainstream media. Published weekly, PNN offers “all the news that doesn’t fit.”

Journal of Poverty: Innovations on Social, Political & Economic Inequalities

Working Class Experience:

Counseling for Working Class by Fisher Lavell

Payday is a website devoted to exploring working class art and life, from a working class perpective. The site includes bibliographies of working class autobiography and fiction and lists of poetry and anthologies of working class writing.

This report (issued by UCLA Social Sciences, Center for the Study of Urban Policy) details the day labor employment industry and the market interventions being employed by the worker center movement.

The Center for Work Class Studies at Youngstown State University in Ohio has a terrific set of links to working class issues and culture, including labor politics, working class art, film archives, and museum resources.

The AFL-CIO represents more than 13 million American workers in 58 member unions working in virtually every part of the economy.   Their web sites include links to other international unions and resources on worker rights and issues.

Labor Notes has been the voice of rank and file union activists who want to “put the movement back in the labor movement” since 1979.

Labor Heritage works to strengthen the labor movement through the use of music and the arts


Allison, Dorothy. Two or Three Things I Know . Dutton, 1995.   The author of Bastard Out of Carolina talks about her experience growing up in poverty.

Allison, Dorothy. Skin: Talking about Sex, Class and Literature . Ithaca, NY: Firebrand Books, 1994.

Dujon, Diane, and Withhorn , Ann.   For Crying Out Loud: Women’s Poverty in the United States .   Boston, Mass.: South End Press, 1996

Kozol, Jonathan. Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools . New York: Harperperennial, 1992.   Kozol’s compelling narrative dramatizes the searing inequality of opportunity that exists in America’s schools.

Other Books About Poverty:

Davidson, Osha Gray.   Broken Heartland: The Rise of America’s Rural Ghetto.   Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1996.   An important look at the experience of rural poverty and the growing exploitation of rural workers in the new economy.

Moss, Kirby. The Color of Class: Poor Whites and the Paradox of Privilege. University of Pensylvania Press, 2003. Payne, Ruby K.  A Framework: Understanding and Working with Students and Adults from Poverty .  Cheryl A. Evans, illustrator.  Rev. ed.  Baytown, TX: RFT Pub., 1995.

Rank, Mark Robert. One Nation, Underprivileged: Why American Poverty Affects Us All.    Oxford University Press, 2004.    A powerful indictment of persistent poverty and its real impact on people -and costs to our society.

Shipler, David. The Working Poor: Invisible in America .   New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004.   Top rate journalist explores the experiences of America’s working poor, letting people tell their stories.

Wilson, William Julius. When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor. New York: Vintage, 1996.

Working Class Books:

Narrative on the Working Class Experience:

Ehrenreich, Barbara. Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America .   New York: Metropolitan Books, Holt & Co, 2001.   The best-selling book about the invisible working class.

Lauter, Paul and Ann Fitzgerald. Literature, Class, and Culture . Addison Wesley, 2001.

Register, Cheri.   Packinghouse Daughter: A Memoir .   New York: Perennial, HarperCollins, 2001.   A memoir of growing up in working-class Albert Lea, Minnesota, a meatpacking town.

Tea, Michelle, editor. The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class , Seal Press, 2004.

Terkel, Studs. Working: People Talk about What They Do All Day and How They Feel about What They Do . New York: Pantheon Books, 1972.    Great interviews by the master interviewer himself with people about their jobs. Labor, Work and Working-Class Culture:

Albelda, Randy Pearl and Chris Tilly.  Glass Ceilings and Bottomless Pits: Women’s Work, Women’s Poverty .  Boston: South End Press, 1997.

Amott, Theresa and Matthaei, Julie. Race, Gender, and Work: A Multicultural Economic History of Women in the United States .   Boston: South End Press, 1991.

Adler, William. Mollie’s Job: A Story of Life and Work on the Global Assembly Line . New York: Scribner, 2000.

Bronfenbrenner, Kate, Friedman, Sheldon, Hurd, Richard W., Oswald, Rudolph A. and Seeber, Ronald L., eds.   Organizing To Win: New Research on Union Strategies .   Ithaca, New York: ILR Press/Cornell University Press, 1998.

Cavendish, Ruth. Women on the Line . Boston, MA: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1982.

De Santis, Solange. Life on the Line: One Woman’s Tale of Work, Sweat, and Survival . New York: Doubleday, 1999.

Freeman, Richard, ed.   Working Under Different Rules.   New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1994.   Freeman shows that other countries have rules much more favorable to workers than the U.S.

Geoghegan, Thomas .   Which Side Are You On?   Trying to Be For Labor When It’s Flat on Its Back .   New York, Penguin, Plum, 1991.   First-person account of working as a labor lawyer during the 1980s attacks on organized labor.

Goad, Jim. The Redneck Manifesto, America’s Scapegoats: How we got that way and why we’re not going to take it anymore . New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999.

Moody. Kim.   Workers In a Lean World: Unions in the International Economy.   New York: Verso, 1997.

Murray. R. Emmett.   The Lexicon of Labor.   New York: The New Press, 1998.   Boost your labor movement knowledge and history with this annotated glossary.

Pollin, Robert and Luce, Stephanie. The Living Wage: Building a Fair Economy . New York: The New Press. 1998.    The first full-length book that examines the emerging “living wage” movement.

Queenan, Joe. Red Lobster, White Trash, and the Blue Lagoon: Joe Queenan’s America. Hyperion, 1998.

Rubin, Lillian B. Worlds of Pain: Life in the Working Class Family. New York: Basic Books, 1976.    One the first searing contemporary insights into the hidden injuries of class oppression.

Rubin, Lillian B.  Families on the Fault Line: America’s Working Class Speaks about the Family, the Economy, Race, and Ethnicity.  New York: HarperCollins, 1994.

Sklar, Holly; Mykyta, Laryssa; and Wefald, Susan. Raise The Floor: Wages and Policies That Work . New York: Ms. Foundation, 2001.    A compelling case for a living wage.

Tea, Michelle. Without A Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class . Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2003.

Zandy, Janet, editor. Liberating Memory: Our Work and our Working Class Consciousness . New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1995.

Zandy, Janet, editor. Calling Home: Working Class Women’s Writings: An Anthology . New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1990.

Zweig, Michael. The Working Class Majority: America’s Best Kept Secret . Cornell University Pres
s, 2000.

Straddler Experience:

“Straddler” generally refers to the experience of people who were raised in poverty or working class backgrounds, but over their lifetimes move into the middle or owning classes.   They have the experience of “straddling” two class identities.

Conley, Dalton.   Honky .   New York: Vintage Books,   2000.   Dalton Conley is a sociologist who grew up in the projects on the Lower East Side of New York, one of the few white kids in his neighborhood.

Lubrano, Alfred.   Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams .   Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2004.   One of the most important books about the “Straddler” experience.

Rose, Mike. Lives on the Boundary: The Struggles and Achievements of America’s Underprepared . Touchstone, 1999.   The reflections of a “straddler” who grew up in a low-income neighborhood in Los Angeles and is now a writing teacher at UCLA.

Straddler: Race and Class:

Take the class “straddler” experience, and add a racial dimension, and you get additional insights into the interaction of race and class.

hooks, bell. Where We Stand: Class Matters .   New York: Routledge, 2000. hooks’ insightful narrative on the interaction of race and class and her own transition to relative privilege and security.

Parker, Gwendolyn M.   Trespassing: My Sojourn in the Halls of Privilege . Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.   Parker tells her story of growing up in Durham, NC, descendent of the founder of the country’s premier black-owned insurance company -and her sojourn to an elite private school and into the higher reaches of corporate America.