Poverty is an issue affecting the whole globe, and the United States is no exception. Reading, Pennsylvania, the site of our study, has the largest share of its residents living in poverty in the United States according the Census Bureau data (Tavernise 2011). With poverty clearly an issue to its inhabitants, we are going to investigate locals’ attitudes towards poverty. Items that affect peoples’ opinions on poverty include local context, political views, religion and education, race, gender, and family structure.
In his study Daniel Hopkins (2009) looked at the effect local context had on Americans’ portrayals of poverty. He focused on two major views of poverty: poverty in structural terms and poverty in individualistic terms. Poverty in structural terms is viewed as factors that are beyond the control of the person, such as shortage of jobs or part time and low wage jobs. Poverty in individualistic terms is viewed as failing of the poor themselves, such as a lack of motivation, drug abuse, or the poor are not doing enough to get out of poverty. For his research, he looked at two nationally representative surveys, the 2001 Poverty in America Survey (PIAS) and the 2000 General Social Survey (GCS). His results showed that people living in areas with a large majority of the poor being white are less likely to attribute poverty to the individuals themselves and more likely to look in structural terms (Hopkins 2009). This is in agreement with past research that showed that Americans view poverty in racial terms and see poverty as a situation the poor brings upon themselves. He also found that strong Republican areas view poverty more in individualistic than structural terms (Hopkins 2009).
In the study done by Matthew Hunt (2004), he looked at three different categories of poverty: individualistic, structuralist, and fatalistic. The individualistic category and structuralist category coincide with Hopkin’s (2009) study. The fatalistic category places the cause of poverty on the non-social-structural forces such as bad luck, sickness, and physical handicaps. After conducting a survey in the Los Angeles County, Hunt (2009) discovered that structuralist explanations of poverty were favored over individualistic explanations by respondents. Hunt (2009) also took into consideration race and ethnicity with poverty beliefs. Results of the survey showed that Latinos and African Americans are more structuralist than whites on poverty (Hunt 2009).
The results of Hunt’s (2009) study can be used to further implement the conclusion of Hopkins (2009) study, that an area’s views on poverty is strongly influenced by the local area. Because Hunt (2009) only surveyed people in Los Angeles, his results were based on a particular area, and Los Angeles is heavily populated by Latinos and African Americans.
James Robinson (2009) performed three different studies involving perceptions of poverty. His studies were focused...