Master of Science
This research is directed to a rough and beginning evaluation of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 as evidenced through one Community Action Program, the Neighborhood Development Program, in Baltimore, Maryland during the late fall of 1966. In this study the implementation of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 is evaluated according to the perceptions of the Neighborhood Development Assistants who are the indigenous workers in the program. The purposes of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and each Community Action Program were taken directly from the Act itself, and then various phrases were operationally defined.
The data was collected through interviews using a fairly open ended schedule. The sample of twenty assistants was selected randomly from the second level of assistants of a program in which there are four levels and level I requires the least education and experience. A pilot study to test the interview schedule was conducted before the collection of any data.
Due to the newness of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and the resulting anti poverty program there is a wealth of recent literature concerning poverty and what the program should do and, as yet, apparently no evaluative studies. The data collected here is analysed primarily with respect to theories and other pertinent research, and thus much of the discussion in the analysis refers back to the literature reviewed.
The main conclusions are: (l) a question concerning how representative of the poor the assistants are, (2) inadequate publication of and communication about presently existing community resources, (3) the assistants' personal satisfaction with their jobs though dissatisfaction with the relationship between themselves and their supervisors and confusion concerning the value of their role, and (4) a strong need by the poor to have their physical needs met (which could be largely accomplished through more and better paying jobs) before attempting to meet more intangible goals (such as increasing political and social power). Although some of the assistants' work is consistent with the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 aims (such as referrals to jobs and community resources, and encouraging group efforts, voting, and complaining by the poor themselves), it seems that overall this program is not implementing the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 primarily because there is insufficient money, resources, and wide community cooperation to meet their physical needs, and until this goal is reached, efforts in other areas are and will be relatively unsuccessful. The generality and nonspecificity of the conclusions was to be expected and not undesirable considering the purpose and limited scope of this research.
The seven recommendations are directed toward opportunities for increased employment and enabling individuals (particularly men) to return to school or enter a training program, increasing the representativeness of the poor, increasing the assistants' work with and on agencies on behalf of the poor, improving the communication and cooperation between the assistants and the rest of the staff, and pointing out areas for more research. With respect to relevant research there needs to be focus on the existence of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 and if it, as it is operating with its present limited budget, is really doing anything about poverty or is it just raising the hopes of the poor only to smash and frustrate them once more?
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