When Race Matters: What Newspaper Opinion Pieces Say about Race and Poverty

Imaani Jamillah El-Burki, Douglas V. Porpora, Rachel R. Reynolds


This article investigates discussions of race and poverty in newspaper opinion pieces during a period of welfare reform debates in the United States, 1994–2010. Results show that, often, the poor are identified as deserving of societal support, and outside entities (external causes) are identified as the source of their hardship. However, when the poor are identified by race, how contributors say poverty should be remedied shifts. When identified as African Americans, poor individuals are blamed for their poverty and solutions obviate structural explanations. Our research advances dialogue around the racialization of poverty and creates an opportunity to understand the relationship between public discussions of race and poverty and shifts in policy.


race and ethnicity, political communication, poverty, culture of poverty theory, news media

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