Congratulations to Professor Joan Maya Mazelis for receiving the RU FAIR mini-grant to support work on her forthcoming book: Our Strength Is in Our Unity: The Limits of Human Capital and the Rewards of Social Capital for the Poor. Her work explores the tradeoff between mobility and survival strategies among the poor by considering two groups of poor people with whom she conducted in-depth ethnographic interviews: some she met through the Kensington Welfare Rights Union (KWRU), an organization in Philadelphia providing day-to-day support for poor people and dedicating itself to structural change to end poverty, and some she met through social service agencies. A notable difference between the two groups is that KWRU members invested in social capital as a survival strategy and respondents she found through social service agencies invested in human capital by engaging in education or job training, or gaining work experience.
    It is generally difficult for poor people to invest heavily in both social capital and human capital, compounding their struggles. People who invest in social capital have no choice but to embrace this survival strategy, but they have to abandon mobility strategies. People able to focus on human capital and mobility see little return on their efforts. Mazelis’s book proposes that poor people would benefit from policies and agencies designed to promote the development of both.