PICTURES IN PLENTY: CONCEPTIONS OF THE UNDERCLASS
The chapters in this section explore what people themselves think about the poor. The first chapters look at the public's views (in Boston and Kansas City) in response to an open-ended question: "Tell me about the lowest class and the next-to-the-lowest class." The use of a "lowest class" and "next-to- the-lowest class" framework gives respondents a chance to tell the interviewer how they, as respondents, defined the situation. It is then possible to pull together the responses into some kind of coherent picture of what the respondents did think about each group--and the thoughts were different.
This procedure has its perils; the categories constructed here have only "face" validity, and they need to be checked by other research. But they represent a start, an initial assay into the nature of the ideas people have about the poor. One positive thought is that we have the views of the lowest class themselves to put into play here.
A second study looks at the opinions of County Welfare Directors around the United States to see what they themselves think and what they believe the public thinks. Finally, data are provided for mothers of sixth-grade children in Detroit in the mid-1960s on their opinion of public and private agencies.
The overall picture is one of negativism toward the poor. The persistence of negative views of the poor during the height of programmatic expansion in just this area is interesting.