Being and becoming poor: How cultural schemas shape beliefs about poverty
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© The Author 2017.Prior research on stratification beliefs has investigated individuals' understandings regarding the causes of poverty in America. These past studies have uncovered demographic characteristics associated with individualist and structuralist explanations for poverty. In the current study, we will argue that Americans, like social scientists, envision poverty as a heterogeneous and complex phenomenon. We utilize a cultural cognition theoretical approach to conceptualize these understandings of poverty as schemas. We contend that a schema of poverty contains a set of unique associations regarding both demographic beliefs (who the poor are) and causal attributions (why they are poor). Using original data in a mixed-methods design that incorporates inductive and experimental components, we find that people differentiate between two key types of poverty: Intergenerational poverty and downward mobility. People perceive each type of poverty as caused by a different set of factors and as experienced by a different group of people. The type of poverty envisioned is, in most cases, as important as or more important than a respondent's own demographic characteristics in predicting what type of causal attributions he or she makes for poverty. These findings underscore the importance of investigating different schemas of poverty in future stratification beliefs research.
Published Version (Please cite this version)10.1093/sf/sox007
Publication InfoHoman, Patricia; Valentino, Lauren; & Weed, Emi (2017). Being and becoming poor: How cultural schemas shape beliefs about poverty. Social Forces, 95(3). pp. 1023-1048. 10.1093/sf/sox007. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/10161/14032.
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Patricia Homan is a doctoral candidate in Sociology at Duke University, and a pre-doctoral trainee in the NIA-Funded T32 Training Program in the Demography of Aging at the Duke University Population Research Institute (DUPRI). Her areas of interest include: health, demography, gender, stratification/inequality, social psychology, and quantitative methods. Her research explores how gender and socioeconomic inequalities shape the health of populations and individuals over the life course.
Lauren Valentino is a PhD candidate in Sociology at Duke University. Her areas of interest include culture and cognition, and stratification and inequality. Her current research examines the social patterns in cultural perceptions of the education system, labor market, and social movements. Her work has been published in Social Forces, Poetics, Social Problems, Social Currents, and Economics of Education Review, among other outlets.
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