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Though Whites Benefit Most From Social Programs, Racial Resentment Fuels Safety Net Opposition

A recent study conducted by Stanford University sociologist Robb Willer, and Rachel Wetts, a sociology researcher at UC Berkeley, found that white opposition to social welfare programs has risen sharply since 2008.

Via Julia Conley, Common Dreams: Mistaken beliefs about who benefits most from the social safety net has led white Americans to oppose programs like Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as food stamps), and other government assistance initiatives in greater numbers—and could trigger the further weakening of such programs, according to a new study.

A major correlation to this opposition was the incorrect belief that minorities use Medicaid, SNAP benefits, and other programs more than white Americans.

Wetts and Willer analyzed white Americans' attitudes regarding the social safety net beginning in 2008 and found that over the same time period, racial resentment among whites also rose.

To determine if there was a connection, Wetts and Willer designed two more experiments: one in which they quizzed respondents on their feelings about welfare after seeing a graph about U.S. demographic change, and another in which respondents took a similar quiz after viewing information on average income by race and the demographics of welfare beneficiaries.

In both instances, opposition to the social safety net overall went up among the respondents.

The study is titled "Privilege on the Precipice," and was originally published in the journal, Social Forces.

Photo credit: Nick Youngson, and Alpha Stock Images


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