A common contemporary feature across many affluent countries with highly developed economies is the persistence of urban underclass neighborhoods. This phenomenon presents many national and local characteristics, nonetheless a number of common salient features can be pointed out: high unemployment, substance abuse and dependency, widespread delinquency with high incidence of violent crime, low public trust, ethnic polarization, social exclusion, higher than average mortality and morbidity rates, lack of educational qualifications, high rates of teenage pregnancy and single parent families, substandard housing, urban decay, physical blight.
Despite explicit public policies and initiatives designed to prevent, alleviate and reverse such developments, urban underclass neighborhoods have displayed a remarkable tendency to self-perpetuation. Whether we choose to view this as a classical poverty trap or as an alternative subculture that breeds poverty and leads to unhealthy outcomes in the lives of those who share it, I believe that the seeming intractability of this issue demands a sophisticated response.
In my opinion an extremely effective way to undermine the social reproduction of destructive social norms is to concentrate persuasive efforts on young females of reproductive age. Females are the primary caregivers in socially deprived areas and women undertake a disproportionate share of child rearing. In fact, in the urban underclass neighborhoods of more developed countries (hereafter referred to as MDCs), very often children of both genders are raised exclusively by females and mothers are the central repositories of family culture.
Despite obvious differences, the similarities and parallels between the predicament of large portions of the population in the developing world and the residents of the urban underclass neighborhoods are quite striking. Hence I want to investigate to what extent the lessons learnt in less developed countries (hereafter referred to as LDCs) are applicable in the context of socially and economically deprived urban areas of MDCs.