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Changing American College Students’ Conceptions of Poverty Through Community Service Learning


Scott Seider, Boston University SED Room 240, 2 Silber Way, Boston, MA 02215 [e-mail:].


Americans’ beliefs about the causes of poverty and inequality have a direct impact on public support for economic and social policies designed to reduce poverty. This study considered the impact of the Pulse Program at Boston College on participating students’ beliefs about the causes of poverty. The Pulse Program is a community service learning program sponsored jointly by Boston College's philosophy and theology departments. Through a mixed-methods research design involving random assignment to a treatment or a control group, the authors found that Boston College students participating in the Pulse Program demonstrated statistically significant shifts toward an understanding of poverty that emphasized structural causes over individual causes.