Social Class, Social Change, and Poverty

Social Class, Social Change, and Poverty Photo Credit: Phillies1fan777, via Wikimedia Commons.


Sociologists study society and social behavior by examining the groups and social institutions people form, as well as various social, religious, political, and business organizations. They also study the behavior of, and social interaction among, groups, trace their origin and growth, and analyze the influence of group activities on individual members. In this lesson, we will look at a social issue, poverty, and learn how sociological research can add to our understanding of it.


To begin, go to Jerry's Story. As you’re watching the video, think about answers to these questions. You can record your answers on the Social Class, Social Change, and Poverty student sheet:

  • What struck you the most from this short video about Jerry’s work day?
  • How much does he pay for his room?
  • What is his hourly wage? Do you think that’s enough to live on?
  • Do you know what the current, national minimum wage is? If Jerry has a hard time getting by on $12 an hour, what kind of struggles do you think someone who makes the minimum wage faces?
  • What are some of Jerry’s fears?

Now, go to and read Why Poverty Persists in Appalachia: An Interview with Cynthia M. Duncan. As you’re reading, think about answers to these questions:

  • According to Dr. Duncan, what are the primary causes of chronic poverty, and how has government allowed it to continue?
  • List the effects of long-term underinvestment in people and communities according to Dr. Duncan. How does this underinvestment reveal itself at the individual level in Chris’s and Cody’s lives?

Knowledge Check

Write a short essay on what you would do if you were in Cody’s or Chris’s shoes and trying to rise above your circumstances. What would you do differently that might ensure your success?

This esheet is a part of the Social Class, Social Change, and Poverty lesson.

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