Attributions for Poverty: A Comparison of Middle-Class and Welfare Recipient Attitudes1


  • 1

    This study was completed while the author was a doctoral candidate at the University of Rhode Island, Department of Psychology. This research was funded by a Dissertation Research Award from the American Psychological Association's Science Directorate and received the SPSSI 1996 Social Issues Dissertation Award—Second Place. I would like to thank Al Lott, Bernice Lott, Mary Ellen Reilly, and Susan Brady for their invaluable assistance with this project. I would also like to acknowledge Susan Kittelberger and Amy Banahan for their assistance with data collection.

2 Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Heather E. Bullock, who is now at the Department of Psychology, University of CaliforniA & Mdash;Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA 95064. E-mail:


This study compared how a nonrandom sample of 112 middle-class persons and 124 welfare recipients explained poverty and perceived the welfare system and welfare recipients. Analyses revealed that welfare recipients were more likely to make structural attributions for poverty and to reject restrictive welfare-reform policies. However, they were also more likely than middle-class respondents to regard welfare recipients as dishonest and idle. Both groups underestimated the percentage of European Americans receiving public assistance. Implications for intergroup relations and public policy are discussed.