"Who do they think we are, anyway?": perceptions of and responses to poverty stigma

Qual Health Res. 2009 Mar;19(3):297-311. doi: 10.1177/1049732308330246.


In this article, we report on qualitative findings pertaining to low-income people's perceptions of and responses to "poverty stigma," a key component of social exclusion with important implications for health and well-being. Our findings are drawn from a multimethod study designed to investigate experiences of social exclusion and social isolation among people living on low incomes. We conducted semistructured individual interviews (n = 59) and group interviews (total n = 34) with low-income residents of two large Canadian cities. Data were analyzed using thematic content analysis techniques. Participants overwhelmingly thought that other members of society tend to view them as a burden to society-as lazy, disregarding of opportunities, irresponsible, and opting for an easy life. Low-income people responded to perceived stigma with a variety of cognitive and behavioral strategies that reflected their efforts to reconcile their perceived "social" and "personal" identities. These strategies included confronting discrimination directly, disregarding responses from others, helping other low-income people, withdrawing and isolating themselves from others, engaging in processes of cognitive distancing, and concealing their financial situation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alberta
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ontario
  • Poverty*
  • Prejudice*
  • Self Concept*