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Journal Issue: Children and Poverty Volume 7 Number 2 Summer/Fall 1997

Values Underpinning Poverty Programs for Children
H. Hugh Heclo

Summary

Values create a framework through which the American public gives meaning to particular concepts and events. To better understand the values underlying public support for poverty programs for children, this article examines public attitudes toward children, poverty, and government. Although Americans continue to view helping children as a top policy priority, there is ambivalence with regard to poor children because of their inevitable connection to poor adults and the public's expectation that adults be self-sufficient. Rather than choosing between extreme ideological views of the causes of poverty and the ideal role of government in curbing poverty, the American public takes an integrative perspective that both values individual initiative and supports opportunities for all Americans. Favored are government programs fitted to the practical needs of everyday life. Such programs should support personal efforts but not assume responsibility for individual or particular group outcomes.