Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Sociology and Rural Studies


Characteristics of a sample of 120 low-income families receiving USDA food commodities in three Eastern South Dakota counties are studied. The Objectives of the study are: (1) to provide a sociodemographic overview of the characteristics possessed by these families; (2) to test the applicability of the Culture of Poverty approach for classifying rural low-income families; (3) to construct a typology- designed to better understand the heterogeneity exhibited among low-income rural families; and (4) to present the implications of the study for policy making, program planning and research. Findings on the first objective show the average age of household head to be forty-six years, an average education of nine years, employed full-time primarily as farm managers and laborers, and a family size of six persons-. Residential and occupational mobility findings reflect few moves. Average income for the families is $2,300 per year. Findings relating to health indicate over one third of the households to be experiencing a serious illness with an average annual medical cost for the families to be $385. Level of living characteristics of the families indicate poor housing and facilities to be common. Lack of contact with mass media and low participation outside the home reflect isolation. The above findings are also presented for the farm and non-farm segments. The finding on the second objective of the study is that the 14 characteristics assigned the poor by the proponents of the

Culture of Poverty concept are not distributed homogeneously throughout the sample. Only 29 families possess over half of the characteristics with no families possessing all. Three poverty types are delineated on the basis of the extent to which they possess Culture of Poverty characteristics. Chisquare tests for association between the poverty types and selected characteristics indicate a significant association for education, occupation, extent of unemployment, occupational and residential mobility, socioeconomic and health status, anomie, isolation, organization participation, family stability, and attitudes toward education. Characteristics not significantly associated are income differences, birthplace, age and sex of household head, and size of family. The fourth objective is accomplished by presenting the implications for policy making, program planning, and research based on the findings of the first three objectives. The need for considering differences among various types of low-income families in program planning as well as a further refinement of the measures used in the study are stressed.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Poverty -- South Dakota
South Dakota -- Social conditions
South Dakota -- Economic conditions



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University