How the Poor Deal with Their Own Poverty: A Social Psychological Analysis from the Social Identity Perspective


SOCIAL INDICATORS RESEARCH, vol.127, no.1, pp.413-433, 2016 (SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 127 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2016
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s11205-015-0953-2
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.413-433
  • Keywords: Poverty, Social identity, Legitimacy perception, Group comparison, MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES, SYSTEM-JUSTIFICATION, RESOURCES, INEQUALITY, ATTITUDES, INCOME
  • Dokuz Eylül University Affiliated: Yes


The focus of psychological studies of poverty is usually on the psychological outcomes, causal attributions and the personality characteristics of the poor. Different from previous psychological accounts, the present study considered poverty as a group level phenomenon in the frame of Social Identity Theory, addressing the question of how poor people deal with the negative poor identity. In order to explore which of the three identity management strategies suggested by SIT (so-called individual mobility, social creativity and collective effort) would most likely be adopted by the poor to deal with the negative poor identity, a semi-structured interview study (N = 50) and a survey study (N = 170) were conducted of a sample of Turkish adults living below the poverty line, based on data from a 2011 Report of Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (TURK-IS, 2011). The analysis of the interviews showed that when people see group boundaries as permeable and the social structure as unstable, they tend to move into higher status groups, even if they perceive the unequal social structure to be illegitimate. On the other hand, when the social structure is perceived as stable, they tend to use creative strategies. The analysis of the survey data mostly confirmed the proposed model, which suggests that a poor identity leads poor people to endorse one of the three identity management strategies through the perceptions of permeability between the poor and the wealthy, and through the perceptions of stability and illegitimacy of the status relations between the poor and the wealthy group.