was an American
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...
anthropologist who is best known for his vivid depictions of the lives of slum dwellers and for postulating that there was a cross-generational culture of poverty
The culture of poverty is a social theory that expands on the cycle of poverty. Proponents of this theory argue that the poor are not simply lacking resources, but also have a unique value system...
among poor people that transcended national boundaries. Lewis contended that the cultural similarities occurred because they were "common adaptations to common problems", and that "the culture of poverty is both an adaptation and a reaction of the poor to their marginal position in a class-stratified, highly individualistic, capitalistic society."
Lewis grew up on a farm in upstate New York. He received a bachelor's degree from City College of New York
The City College of the City University of New York is a senior college of the City University of New York , in New York City. It is also the oldest of the City University's twenty-three institutions of higher learning...
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...
in 1936, and a Ph.D. in anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...
from Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...
in 1940. His Ph.D. dissertation on the effects of white contact on the Blackfeet Indians was published in 1942.
He taught at Brooklyn College
Brooklyn College is a senior college of the City University of New York, located in Brooklyn, New York, United States.Established in 1930 by the New York City Board of Higher Education, the College had its beginnings as the Downtown Brooklyn branches of Hunter College and the City College of New...
, and Washington University, and helped to found the anthropology department at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
- Five Families; Mexican Case Studies in the Culture of Poverty, 1959
- Tepoztlán, Village in Mexico, 1960
- The Children of Sanchez
The Children of Sanchez is a 1961 book by American anthropologist Oscar Lewis about a Mexican family living in the Mexico City slum of Tepito, which he studied as part of his program to develop his concept of culture of poverty...
, Autobiography of a Mexican Family, 1961
- Pedro Martinez - A Mexican Peasant and His Family, 1964
- La Vida; A Puerto Rican Family in the Culture of Poverty—San Juan and New York, 1966
- A Death in the Sánchez Family, 1969
- Village Life in Northern India