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Individual advantage, economic context, and stigmatising stereotypes about the poor and welfare recipients

McArthur, Daniel (2019) Individual advantage, economic context, and stigmatising stereotypes about the poor and welfare recipients. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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In this thesis I investigate how an individual’s economic position and the context they live in affects their sympathy for the poor. Poverty and welfare receipt are stigmatised across high income countries; such attitudes reduce support for redistribution and exacerbate the negative impact of poverty on wellbeing. Across three empirical chapters, I use attitudinal data from the UK and Europe to investigate the relationship between individual advantage, broader economic context, and the prevalence of stigmatising stereotypes about welfare recipients and the poor. I apply an innovative perspective combining qualitative research on the experiences of people in poverty and comparative political economy work on inequality and redistribution to address neglected topics in the study of deservingness perceptions. In the first empirical chapter I argue that those in more disadvantaged economic positions have more sympathetic attitudes towards welfare recipients. However, this relationship is counteracted by the role of social status and authoritarian attitudes, which can make the disadvantaged hold less sympathetic views. The second chapter uses survey data from twenty-seven European countries to show that individuals in more unequal nations are more likely to believe that laziness rather than injustice is the cause of poverty. I argue that a plausible explanation of this relationship is status anxiety among disadvantaged individuals. In the third chapter I conduct the first longitudinal analysis of the association between area level unemployment and attitudes towards the unemployed, finding little evidence of a meaningful effect of exposure on stigmatising stereotypes. Overall, this thesis argues that status anxiety plays a major role in shaping stigmatising stereotypes, explaining why people are less sympathetic towards the poor in high inequality contexts, and why disadvantaged individuals often hold especially negative attitudes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2019 Daniel McArthur
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Sociology
Supervisor: Savage, Mike and Henz, Ursula

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