This study examines both the cultural and situational explanations of poverty. It also demonstrates the ideological implications of both, and finally it suggests a new perspective, the relational perspective. Chapter 1 examines the cultural perspective, according to which the lower class is seen as manifesting patterns of behavior and values which are characteristically different from those of the dominant society and culture. To demonstrate and examine the cultural perspective, four variables were selected: crime, mental illness, education, and family life. It is demonstrated that with each of the variables, the culturalists establish the unique patterns of the lower class and explain these patterns as being internally or subculturally derived. In chapter 2 the situational perspective is examined wherein behavior patterns of the poor are not seen as pathologies nor are they seen as being internally derived as the products of a unique value system. The behavior patterns of the poor are seen as normal results of situations where the dominant social structure is unfavorably disposed toward and restricts the options of the lower class. Both the cultural and situational perspectives are later subject to extensive critical analysis. Furthermore, the relational perspective of poverty, which rests upon an understanding of the position of the poor within the social structure, the attitudes and actions of the non poor toward the poor, and the effects of these upon the poor themselves is developed. The author concludes with a discussion of the possibilities for breaking the cycle which results from the stigma of poverty. The major conclusion insofar as social policy is concerned is that effective policy must attempt to integrate the poor into the society.