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Did Katrina Recalibrate Attitudes Toward Poverty And Inequality? A Test of the “Dirty Little Secret” Hypothesis
Du Bois Review (2006)
  • David Grusky, Stanford University
  • Emily Ryo, University of Southern California
Abstract
We test the popular claim that poverty and inequality were “dirty little secrets” until the media coverage of Hurricane Katrina exposed them to a wider public. If this account were on the mark, it would suggest that the absence of major antipoverty initiatives in the United States is partly attributable to public ignorance and apathy coupled with the narrowly rational decision on the part of policymakers to attend to other issues about which the public evidently cares more. Using the 2004 Maxwell Poll, we find strikingly high levels of awareness and activism on poverty and inequality issues even prior to Katrina, clearly belying the “dirty little secret” account. The follow-up Maxwell Poll, which was administered in 2005 immediately after Katrina, revealed only a slight increase in public awareness of poverty and inequality. The Katrina effect was evidently dampened because (1) the large number of preexisting poverty activists reduced the size of the residual population “at risk” for conversion to antipoverty activism, and (2) the remaining non-activists were ardently opposed to poverty activism and hence unlikely to be receptive to the liberal message coming out of Katrina.
Publication Date
2006
Citation Information
David Grusky and Emily Ryo. "Did Katrina Recalibrate Attitudes Toward Poverty And Inequality? A Test of the “Dirty Little Secret” Hypothesis" Du Bois Review Vol. 3 (2006)
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/eryo/4/