Thinking like a social worker

…any questions? Yes. I have plenty.

The Appeal of Economics

The more I learn about economics, the more I can see its appeal.  Economics seems to have simple answers for complex problems.  For example, Charles Wheelan, economist and author of Naked Economics stated, “True, people are poor because they cannot find good jobs.  But that is the symptom, not the illness.  The underlying problem is a lack of skills, or human capital.”

Wheelan believes individuals living in poverty need sustainable employment in order to earn a higher income, but they first need human capital to be able to obtain employment.  Economists define human capital as soft skills, education, work experience, intelligence, creativity, and even personality.  This is an appealing idea to most because it is consistent with America’s core value of personal responsibility.  To gain success, individuals just need to pull themselves up by their education and training.

The problem is this idea ignores all of the struggles individuals and families living in poverty face with or without human capital.  Individuals in poverty often lack social networks, transportation, child care, or medical insurance.  They may also experience discrimination because of race, gender, nationality, or criminal status.  While I agree building human capital is imperative to obtaining high-quality employment, it is nearly impossible to find any job without connections, a car, or with a criminal background.

The point is: the world is messier than social science would lead you to believe.  The truth is there are no simple answers and there are no simple solutions, because individuals are not formulas.  In spite of this, economics (and sociology and political science) give me, as a social worker, hope.  To me, theories by social scientists are tools to help make sense of the senseless oppression of poverty, and social workers are the ones applying these theories in the real world to make real change.

In this blog, I plan to gather and think through views related to economic justice.  I will be on the lookout for relevant current events, books, articles, and documentaries.  If you have any suggestions, please share.  I welcome opinions and new finds anytime!

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