GSS Students’ Attitudes Towards Low-Income Women Chaya S. Piotrkowski, Ph.D.Graduate School of Social Servicewith Research II Students (Spring, 2004)
Students in Research II, Sp 2004 Michael T. Quinn Valerie L. Romero Elissa J. Schpero Elizabeth Shea Angella Sinclair Christina J. Tsakos Jacqueline Smith Jessica L. Weiner Abigail R. Weiss Rhonda E. Atkins Denise L. Boyce Kate Cavanaugh Robert K. Cooper Kenneth David Carlos J. Davila Bonnie Davis-Beckoff Marabeth Dunn Ruth A. Easy Emily K. Goodman Patricia L. Grant Jessica C. Guigues Doris Hall Danielle V. Harte Eileen Hartley Nicola T. Hashmat Loida Henriquez-Pons Victoria Hertlein Joanne H. Kong Yassaman Lancer Mary Ann Lynch-Minson Kimberly L. Malito Raquel Martinez Ivette Montalvo Kathly Mulcahy-Morgan Danielle A. Nachtome Kazuko Nagafuchi Catrize Ortiz Anne C. Paumgarten Susan Persaud
What are Cultural Stereotypes? • Cultural stereotypes are widely shared beliefs about distinguishing attributes and behaviors of groups of people (Stangor, 2000). • These stereotypes are learned early in life, reinforced by messages all around us, may operate outside of conscious awareness, are largely inescapable, and are part of our “social heritage” (Devine, 1989). • Cultural stereotypes can be entirely wrong; they may be somewhat correct at the group level; or they may have only a “kernal of truth.” • Cultural stereotypes can be positive or they can be negative, or a mixture of both.
The General Research Questions: 1) What negative stereotypes do GSS students have of single mothers receiving public assistance? 2) What factors are associated with having negative stereotypes? Note: Here, “single mother” refers to mothers with dependent children who are not married or are not living with their children’s father.)
2. Negative Stereotypes Can Influence Practice • Negative stereotypes can influence the information we pay attention to and remember. • They can influence our interpretation of that information. • They can influence our subsequent judgments, feelings and actions. (Davidio, Glick & Rudman, 2005; Hurwitz & Peffley, 1997; Jost & Hamilton, 2005).
3.Negative Stereotypes Are Sometimes Used to Justify Injustice & Discrimination
Why Focus on Single TANF Mothers? • Single mothers and their dependent children have the highest poverty rates in the U.S (Institute for Poverty Research, 2005). • Most adults receiving TANF are single mothers, i.e. are not married or not living with their spouses (U.S. DHHS, 2004). • When they graduate, many students will likely work in agencies serving TANF mothers and their children. • Single mothers receiving public assistance are seen as “Undeserving Poor” (Katz, 1989). • Studies of the “generic” poor are problematic.
Specific Study Questions • To what extent do MSW students have negative stereotypes about TANF mothers? • Do TANF mothers’ race and marital status influence students’ negative stereotypes? • What factors are associated with students’ beliefs in negative stereotypes? • What is the relationship between believing that TANF mothers’ poverty is caused by moral failings and believing that their poverty is caused by structural factors?
Sampling & Data Collection • Self-administered surveys were administered to 8 sections of Human Behavior II at LC and TT. Day, evening and Saturday classes were randomly sampled. • 96% response rate (usable surveys) • n =133 matriculated students.
Participants • 84% were female • Average age ranged from 21 to 58 (M = 33.54, SD = 9.37). • Most identified themselves as White (64%), 21% identified themselves as African American, 13% as Hispanic, one respondent was Asian American, and one uncodable • 25% were married, 12% lived with a partner, 56% were single, and 7% were divorced, separated or widowed
Participants, continued • 21% reported having ever received public assistance • 35% had spent at least part of their childhood in a one- parent household • 61% had had a paid job working with adults or children receiving public assistance • 51% had taken four or more social work courses
Vignette • “Mary S. is a Black/White woman who lives in three rooms with two children. She receives no child support, has no savings, and is not employed. Ms. S. receives Food Stamps, Medicaid, and a partial rent subsidy from the government. She finds it difficult to pay the bills and provide for herself and her children. Ms. S. has never been married/is divorced.” • In a question immediately following this vignette, respondents also were told that she “also receives some cash assistance from the government.”
What Negative Stereotypes Were Studied? • TANF mothers’ moral failings are responsible for their poverty. • TANF mothers transmit the culture of poverty. • TANF mothers have undesirable traits.
Do GSS Students Think Moral Failings Cause Poverty among TANF Mothers? • Participants were asked to rate the importance of 12 reasons “in explaining why people like Ms. S. are poor.” • Response scale: “very important reason” (4) “somewhat important reason” (3) “not very important reason” (2) “not at all important reason” (1)
% of Students Who Thought the Following were “Somewhat” or “Very Important” Causes of Poverty • 86% thought “Alcohol and/or drug abuse” • 84% thought “Teenage childbearing or too many children” • 64% thought “No attempts at self-improvement” • 60% thought “Personal irresponsibility and lack of discipline” • 61% thought “Lack of thrift and proper money management”
% of Students Who Endorsed the Ideology of Behavioral Poverty & the Culture of Poverty? • 66% thought Ms. S. probably had her first child as a teenager. • 41% thought Ms. S’s children probably will rely on government assistance (welfare) when they grow up. • 31% thought welfare decreases the motivation of people like Ms. S. • 17% thought welfare encourages women like Ms. S. to have children.
% of Students Who Attributed Negative Traits to Ms. S? Students were presented with a list of 12 bipolar adjectives and asked which “comes closest to your image of Ms. S?” • 50% thought she was probably Impulsive • 46% thought she was probably Passive • 28% thought she was probably Lazy • 25% thought she was probably Unreliable • 21% thought she was probably Stupid
What Factors Were Associated with Students’ Negative Stereotypes of TANF Mothers? Political Orientation: More politically conservative students were more likely to endorse all negative stereotypes. Having Grown up in a One-Parent Family:These students were less likely to believe that moral failings cause poverty and were less likely to endorse the culture of poverty. Poverty Knowledge: Students with less factual knowledge of poverty thought Ms. S. had more negative traits.
What Factors Were Unrelated to Students’ Negative Stereotypes of TANF Mothers? • Race and Marital Status of Ms. S. • Students’ age, marital status, parental status, race/ethnicity, gender*. • Whether they themselves had ever received public assistance. • Whether they had ever worked directly with adults or children receiving public assistance. • Number of social work courses taken.
We also examined students’ beliefs that structural factors in society cause poverty among TANF mothers.
Were Structural Factors Important Causes of Poverty? • 94% thought “Low wages in some businesses & industries” • 92% thought “Lack of childcare for mothers who want to work” • 79% though “Prejudice and discrimination” • 79% thought “Failure of society to provide good schools for some Americans”
Structural Factors versus Moral Failings as Explanations of Poverty among TANF Mothers • Overall, students rated Structural Factors as significantly more important than Moral Failings.
6 out of 10 Students Have “Dual Belief Systems” • 63% of the students endorsed at least three (out of four) structural explanations and at least three out of five moral explanations. • They believe moral failings and structural factors explain poverty among mothers like Ms. S.
Does Course Work Make a Difference in Students’ Negative Stereotypes? • About half the sample (51%) had taken four or more social work courses. • Number of courses was unrelated to negative stereotypes and knowledge about poverty. • More social work courses was only associated with beliefs in structural factors as causes of Ms. S’s poverty.