from the was-not-expecting-that dept.
White Americans' fear of losing their socioeconomic standing in the face of demographic change may be driving opposition to welfare programs, even though whites are major beneficiaries of government poverty assistance, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University.
While social scientists have long posited that racial resentment fuels opposition to such anti-poverty programs as food stamps, Medicaid and Temporary Aid to Needy Families, this is the first study to show the correlation experimentally, demonstrating a causal relationship between attitudes to welfare and threatened racial status.
"With policymakers proposing cuts to the social safety net, it's important to understand the dynamics that drive the welfare backlash," said study lead author Rachel Wetts, a Ph.D. student in sociology at UC Berkeley. "This research suggests that when whites fear their status is on the decline, they increase opposition to programs intended to benefit poorer members of all racial groups."
The findings, to be published May 30 in the journal Social Forces, highlight a welfare backlash that swelled around the 2008 Great Recession and election of Barack Obama.
Notably, the study found anti-welfare sentiment to be selective insofar as threats to whites' standing led whites to oppose government assistance programs they believed largely benefit minorities, while not affecting their views of programs they thought were more likely to advantage whites.
"Our findings suggest that these threats lead whites to oppose programs they perceive as primarily benefiting racial minorities," said study senior author Robb Willer, a professor of sociology and social psychology at Stanford University.
[...] "Overall, these results suggest whites' perceptions of rising minority power and influence lead them to oppose welfare programs," Wetts said.