Recognizing the impact of COVID-19 on the poor alters attitudes towards poverty and inequality


The novel Coronavirus that spread around the world in early 2020 triggered a global pandemic and economic downturn that affected nearly everyone. Yet the crisis had a disproportionate impact on the poor and revealed how easily working-class individuals’ financial security can be destabilised by factors beyond personal control. In a pre-registered longitudinal study of Americans (N = 233) spanning April 2019 to May 2020, we tested whether the pandemic altered beliefs about the extent to which poverty is caused by external forces and internal dispositions and support for economic inequality. Over this timespan, participants revealed a shift in their attributions for poverty, reporting that poverty is more strongly impacted by external-situational causes and less by internal-dispositional causes. However, we did not detect an overall mean-level change in opposition to inequality or support for government intervention. Instead, only for those who most strongly recognized the negative impact of COVID-19 did changes in poverty attributions translate to decreased support for inequality, and increased support for government intervention to help the poor.

Journal of Experimental Social Psychology