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Unearthing the Hidden Welfare State: Race, Political Attitudes, and Unforeseen Consequences

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 February 2017

Timothy Callaghan*
Texas A&M University
Adam Olson
University of Minnesota
Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Timothy Callaghan, Department of Health Policy and Management, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX. E-mail:
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This paper incorporates the role of race into our understanding of the hidden welfare state by exploring the implications of racialization of hidden welfare state programs for mass attitudes. We explain how traditional welfare programs have been racialized historically and the implications of that racialization on attitudes towards welfare programs. We then discuss how the same fate could befall hidden programs for the poor if “unearthed” as hidden welfare state scholars have suggested. Finally, we carry out an experiment racializing a hidden welfare state program in the same way that traditional welfare state programs have been racialized historically. Our analysis finds that only when the hidden welfare state program is described using traditional racial stereotypes, support for the program drops significantly among racially resentful. Our findings suggest that the inclusion of race into the hidden welfare state narrative alters our understanding of attitudes towards some of these programs.

Research Article
Copyright © The Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Section of the American Political Science Association 2017 

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