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The Economic OtherInequality in the American Political Imagination$
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Meghan Condon and Amber Wichowsky

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226691732

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226691909.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 21 September 2021

The Disadvantaged Other

The Disadvantaged Other

(p.42) Chapter 4 The Disadvantaged Other
The Economic Other

Meghan Condon

Amber Wichowsky

University of Chicago Press

This chapter investigates what Americans think about when they imagine those at the bottom rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. Drawing on public opinion surveys and qualitative data from open-ended responses to an experimental prompt in which subjects are asked to compare up with the poor, the authors show how Americans describe the socioeconomically disadvantaged. The chapter highlights Americans’ emotional reactions to downward comparison. The authors show that a fairly monolithic and racialized image of the undeserving poor endures in the American political imagination. Americans actively seek to distance themselves from those on the bottom rung of the ladder, experiencing disgust and conditioning empathy on whether the poor are perceived to be holding up their end of a social bargain. Results from additional experiments uncover the race and gender characteristics of this imagined economic other and provide further evidence that poverty remains heavily racialized and gendered in the United States.

Keywords:   qualitative research, public opinion, poor, poverty, undeserving poor, social comparison, downward comparison, empathy, race, gender

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