Popular perceptions of poverty in Dutch society

L.C.J.M. Halman, W.J.H. van Oorschot

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    Studies on poverty are mainly engaged with the definition and measurement of poverty, while the issue of what people consider reasons for living in need is often neglected. In this article we explore four types of poverty explanations based on a) the distinction between poverty as a matter of fate or not, and b) the question whether poverty is due to individual or collective factors. The four types of poverty explanations are: the individual is to blame (laziness), it is the individual's fate (unluck), society is to blame (injustice), and society's fate (inevitable part of progress). It is investigated if these different types of explanations can be attributed to social-demographic characteristics, perceptions like self-interest and of welfare recipients, as well as to religious and political attitudes and values. Although the analyzes yield some evidence that such characteristics are related with such explanations, the evidence must not be exaggerated. Poverty is a social issue and therefore it is not so strange that social-political orientations, like welfare state attitudes, appear more important attributes than religious orientations. The analyzes seem to substantiate ideas forwarded by theories of secularization stating that religious values have lost their dominance in contemporary Western society. The importance of postmaterialism for both dimensions seems to confirm Inglehart's suggestion that postmaterialism has taken over religion's position. Further, subjective factors appear more important for poverty explanations than objective factors.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationTilburg
    PublisherWORC, Work and Organization Research Centre
    Number of pages31
    Publication statusPublished - 1999

    Publication series

    NameWORC paper


    • poverty
    • sociology and psychology


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