25 Social Problems

What is a Social Problem?

“A social problem is any condition or behavior that has negative consequences for large numbers of people and that is generally recognized as a condition or behavior that needs to be addressed.”

  • The definition of a social problem has both an objective component and a subjective component. The objective component involves empirical evidence of the negative consequences of a social condition or behavior, while the subjective component involves the perception that the condition or behavior is indeed a problem that needs to be addressed.
  • The social constructionist view emphasizes that a condition or behavior does not become a social problem unless there is a perception that it should be considered a social problem.
  • The natural history of a social problem consists of four stages: emergence and claims making, legitimacy, renewed claims making, and alternative strategies.

What is Social Problem Solving? 

Social problem solving occurs when an individual or an organization attempts to solve a social problem. This process has several steps:

  1. Recognize that there is a problem.
  2. Define the problem.
  3. Brainstorm solutions to the problem.
  4. Choose a method to solve the problem.
  5. Implement the method chosen.
  6. Assess the outcome.
  7. Repeat, if necessary until the problem is solved.

Paraphrased from “Teaching Students to Solve Social Problems ” from the UF College of Education

Ways to Solve Social Problems

There are three primary ways that our society attempts to solve social problems.

  • Government: Many government programs have been created to solve social problems. Programs like FDR’s New Deal, food stamps, medicare, welfare, and more are all examples of the government trying to solve a social problem. These programs are paid for by tax dollars and are run by government agencies.
  • Non-Profit organizations: Non-profit organizations are generally founded by individuals who see a need in their communities and decide to do something about it. They rely on volunteers and donations to help them enact their solutions.
  • Business: While business as a solution to a social problem might seem odd to some, many businesses are changing the world and making a profit at the same time. Because they do not rely on donations or volunteer work, some believe that business could be a better way to approach some social problems.
    • Michael Porter “The Case for Letting Business Solve Social Problems”



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