Robert D. Putnam, author of Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community,
issued a strong warning to anti-poverty advocates at a forum on social
connectedness at the Aspen Ideas Festival Saturday, urging the audience
to get beyond talking about poverty and race and start thinking about
social mobility and class instead.
“Those two conceptual moves, framing it as poverty and thinking about it
as a matter of race, have a very deep history… and I think both
politically and analytically that’s an almost fatally flawed framework,”
said Putnam, the Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School,
in response to remarks from co-panelists Anne Mosle, vice president of
policy at the Aspen Institute, and Mario Small, chair of the Department
of Sociology at the University of Chicago.
“You say poverty to most ordinary Americans, most ordinary voters, they
think black ghettos,” he continued, whereas over the last couple of
generations “class, not race is the dominant — and becoming more
dominant — dimension of difficulty here.