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Although poor neighborhoods can be described as suffering from a constant condition of extreme scarcity, they are not socially static. Rather, issues surrounding social change are an integral part of the residents' daily lives. (Johnson 88)Yet it is impossible to appreciate the dynamics of social change or conservation in their lives without considering the context in which they occur, and doing that requires an understanding of poor neighborhoods' social structure. This chapter outlines the structural and cultural contours of poor neighborhoods and the social dynamics affecting them. It will provide a framework for understanding poor neighborhoods as complex, demographically heterogeneous habitats in which social change reflects more than just changes in poverty levels, the arrival of new groups, or the introduction of new products. (Johnson 88)

Morals in the poor neighborhood

Institutions are composed of people who have developed morals and values that help them interpret, guide, and direct their lives. For residents of low-income neighborhoods, morals are the big principles of “right'' and “wrong'' that form their individual or collective character. (Levitt 22) Morality for the urban poor in the United States centers on the concept of “responsibility,'' with “responsibility'' being considered moral and “irresponsibility'' immoral. Every individual adopts a position as to the meaning of “responsible'' and “irresponsible,''9 although each position is influenced by the individual's condition of extreme material scarcity, his or her associations with particular religious traditions, and the American socioeconomic ideology that acknowledges and celebrates the existence of winners and losers in the competitive arena called the market. (Rensberger 28) Positions on the meaning of “responsibility'' carry significant behavioral consequences when individual and local assessments of who is responsible and who is not follow an evaluative code that has been collectively defined and developed over a sustained period of time. (Rensberger 28)

Sexual Patterns

Differences in value orientations are also found with regard to sexual activity. Those who live to maximize excitement view sexual activity as the most pleasurable of human acts and thus as something that should be engaged in whenever one has the desire and the opportunity. (Merton 605)They view sex as the one pleasure in life that is free and thus believe it would be foolish and irresponsible to themselves and their partners not to engage in it. Men with such values prefer to have sexual relations with as many women as possible. Women are more likely to embed sex in the desire that their partner love them and be committed to them and are less likely to engage in it merely for the physical pleasure of the act. Further, both men and women of this value orientation, though more commonly men, believe that a person need not be troubled about promises made in the heat of passion. Additionally, both sexes equally believe that people don't need to be anxious about the consequences of sexual encounters; they need only make the best of these consequences. (Sanchez 54)


Those who attempt to live life by maximizing security are more cautious in their sexual activity. Although they acknowledge that sex ...
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