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Issues and challenges in addressing poverty and legal rights: a comparative United States/South African analysis

Lucy A. Williams, Northeastern University School of Law

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This article was first published in the South African Journal on Human Rights, Vol. 21, Pt. 3, pp. 436-472, 2005, copyright Juta & Co.

Juta Catalogue: http://www.jutalaw.co.za/products/?title=south+african+journal+on+human+rights&authors__name=

Abstract

This article gives a comparative examination of poverty reduction strategies in the United States and South Africa. Three questions frame the discussion: 1) Are individual legally enforceable entitlements to the benefits of social and economic rights, particularly social assistance benefits, an important or even necessary tool in fighting poverty and realising social and economic rights? 2) Should anti-poverty policy privilege wage work and family contributions? 3) In light of economic globalisation, what problems are associated with viewing poverty-reduction strategies, particularly social welfare programmes, within a framework of nation-states and their subdivisions? Cast in the light of these questions, modern US poverty and social assistance policy reveal an abundance of misconceptions and biases which, over time, have reinforced opposition in the US to economic redistribution and the guarantee of minimally adequate living conditions for the poor. Regrettably, echoes of these failings in the US approach can be detected in the contemporary South African debate and in some recent South African anti-povery initiatives.

Suggested Citation

South African Journal on Human Rights, Vol. 21, Pt. 3, pp. 436-472, 2005.