Social empathy and attitudes about dependence of people living in poverty on government assistance programs

M. Alex Wagaman, Kimberly S. Compton, Elizabeth Segal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Although 43 million people live in poverty in the United States, disdain for government assistance continues to grow. This disdain may come from a lack of contextual understanding of the conditions surrounding poverty, which in turn can lead to a deprioritization of income-assistance programs. This study investigates the relationship of one’s social empathy and attitude about poverty-related social programs using a binary logistic regression. Participants with more contextual understanding are less likely to believe that the poor are too dependent on government assistance. Findings suggest that increasing social empathy could improve attitudes toward people living in poverty and government assistance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Poverty
StateAccepted/In press - Apr 25 2018



  • contextual understanding
  • poverty
  • social empathy
  • social welfare policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Sociology and Political Science

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