Do You Blame the Poor for Poverty?


The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a survey in which they asked people - which is generally more often to blame if a person is poor: lack of effort on their own part, or difficult circumstances beyond their control? They asked 1686 American adults and found out that religion affects how people perceive poverty. Actually, Christians, especially white evangelical Christians, are much more likely than non-Christians to view poverty as the result of individual failings.

“There’s a strong Christian impulse to understand poverty as deeply rooted in morality — often, as the Bible makes clear, in unwillingness to work, in bad financial decisions or in broken family structures,” said Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. “The Christian worldview is saying that all poverty is due to sin, though that doesn’t necessarily mean the sin of the person in poverty. In the Garden of Eden, there would have been no poverty. In a fallen world, there is poverty.”

The poll was conducted from April 13 to May 1 and showed that 46 percent of all Christians said that a lack of effort is generally to blame a person’s poverty, compared with 29 percent of all non-Christians. Specific Christian groups have different views on poverty: 53 percent of white evangelical Protestants blamed lack of effort while 41 percent blamed circumstances, and 50 percent of Catholics blamed lack of effort while 45 percent blamed circumstances. Atheist, agnostic, and unaffiliated Americans blamed difficult circumstances for people’s poverty (65 percent).

There is also different percentage among different political partisanship: Among Democrats, 26 percent blamed a lack of effort and 72 percent blamed circumstances. Among Republicans, 63 percent blamed lack of effort and 32 percent blamed circumstances.

According to The Washington Post article, a statistical analysis known as logistic regression has been used to examine how closely different personal attributes are connected with whether respondents said a “lack of effort” is the main reason people are poor, and quantify the impact of each demographic attribute when other factors are held constant. For instance, comparing men and women, the regression found the odds of a man saying people are poor due to a lack of effort are 1.9 times that of a woman, or about twice as likely. When comparing demographics and religious factors, the odds of Christians saying poverty was caused by a lack of effort were 2.2 times that of non-Christians. Compared to those with no religion, the odds of white evangelicals saying a lack of effort causes poverty were 3.2 to 1.

Photo Credits: Operation Heal

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