The Social Legitimacy of Targeted Welfare
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The Social Legitimacy of Targeted Welfare

Attitudes to Welfare Deservingness

Edited by Wim van Oorschot, Femke Roosma, Bart Meuleman and Tim Reeskens

This book addresses new perspectives on the perceived popular deservingness of target groups of social services and benefits, offering new insights and analysis to this quickly developing field of welfare attitudes research. It provides an up-to-date state of the art in terms of concepts, theories, research methods and data. The book offers a multi-disciplinary view on deservingness attitudes, with contributions from sociology, political science, media studies and social psychology. It links up with central welfare state debates about the allocation of collective resources between groups with particular needs, and wider categories of need.
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Chapter 6: Are Visual Depictions of Poverty in the US Gendered and Racialized?

Bas van Doorn and Angela Bos


During his 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton promised to ‘end welfare as we know it’. Four years later, he signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, creating the Temporary Aid for Needy Families programme (TANF), which – among other things – imposed work and job training requirements on recipients and implemented lifetime time limits on benefits paid through federal funds. The drive for welfare reform was broadly supported by the public (van Doorn, 2015), but why was it? Understanding the roots of public support for or opposition to welfare state programmes is crucially important, because public opinion and policy are causally related to one another (Miller and Stokes, 1963; Page and Shapiro, 1983; Erikson, MacKuen and Stimson, 2002). Indeed, public opinion is one important explanation for differences between countries in the size of the welfare state (Andreß and Heien, 2001; Brooks and Manza, 2007). In the US case, as we discuss below, there is considerable variance in support for different programmes (with welfare being particularly unpopular), arguably placing some at political risk or even at risk of elimination, whereas others are less vulnerable to cuts.

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