ARE THE HOMELESS TO BLAME? A Test of Two Theories

Barrett A. Lee, David W. Lewis, Susan Hinze Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations

Abstract

Dominant ideology and public arenas theories yield different hypotheses concerning the incidence and antecedents of public beliefs about the causes of homelessness. The analysis reported here, which tests these hypotheses with data from a 1988 national telephone survey, shows that (1) more Americans believe structural rather than individualistic factors cause homelessness, (2) personal statuses like gender, political orientation, and party affiliation significantly influence such causal beliefs, but (3) the single strongest determinant is the perceived presence of—and by implication, exposure to—homeless people in one's own community. Causal beliefs in turn affect policy attitudes: respondents who consider homelessness a structural problem are more likely to favor government action than those believing in individualistic causes. While mixed, the results as a whole provide somewhat greater support for the public arenas perspective.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)535-552
Number of pages18
JournalSociological Quarterly
Volume33
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1992

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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