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Lay explanations for poverty: A multilevel analysis of European public opinion (1976 – 2014)

  • Lionel MarquisEmail author
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Abstract

Unlike ‘expert’ approaches to socioeconomic inequalities, ‘lay explanations for poverty’ are the explanations provided by ordinary people to account for the existence and persistence of poverty in contemporary societies. Depending on people, the alleged causes of poverty can stress either individual or social failures, while at the same time pointing out either a ‘blame’ or a ‘fate’ dimension. Following the 2008 economic crisis, ‘social blame’ explanations relating poverty to social injustice have risen to unprecedented levels in most European countries. However, there is no consensus on the individual and contextual underpinnings of lay explanations for poverty, and little is known about how these explanations change in response to socio-economic hardship. Using data from Eurobarometer surveys (1976‒2014), our analysis suggests that lay explanations for poverty are largely driven by selfinterest considerations, whereby less well-off individuals are more likely to explain poverty by social injustice. Nevertheless, the post-2008 trend toward social injustice explanations is remarkably similar in all social groups. If anything, there is evidence of a ‘normalization’ pattern, whereby the crisis seems to have brought social groups closer to one another in their poverty attributions.

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Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université de LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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