Race, gender, and the stigma of homelessness
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This study examines how Americans view the homeless, and how their perceptions are influenced by the race and gender of homeless individuals. It seeks to replicate and extend the research of Phelan, Link, Moore, and Stueve, and uses their findings as a point of departure. Phelan et al. established twenty years ago that the homeless label imposes a stigma, which induces the public to distance themselves from those to whom it is applied. However, Phelan and colleagues did not examine the effects of the race or gender of homeless persons on social distance. Drawing upon attribution theory and using data from experimental vignettes administered to a sample of public university students, this study is the first to examine the relationship between the race and gender of homeless persons and the propensity of subjects to avoid them. Intervening variables measuring how blameworthy and dangerous subjects find the homeless to be are also assessed to determine whether these factors mediate the effects of race and gender on social distance. Results indicate that the race of homeless persons is associated with perceived dangerousness but not with blame or social distance. Furthermore, subjects' desire for social distance from homeless persons is partially explained by perceived blameworthiness and dangerousness.