Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-p2v8j Total loading time: 0.001 Render date: 2024-05-23T13:17:42.225Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Stigma, Shame and the Experience of Poverty in Japan and the United Kingdom

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 September 2013

Eileen Sutton
School of Oral and Dental Sciences, University of Bristol E-mail:
Simon Pemberton
School of Social Policy, University of Birmingham E-mail:
Eldin Fahmy
School for Policy Studies, University of Bristol E-mail:
Yuko Tamiya
Department of Economics, Kobe Gakuin University E-mail:


Whilst stigma and shame are central features of the experience of poverty in capitalist societies, we know relatively little about crucial aspects of these phenomena, particularly how these experiences differ according to variety of capitalist formation. This article draws on the available empirical literature to examine these relational aspects of poverty in two very different societies, the UK and Japan. Through comparing these literatures, we are able to comment on the ways in which stigma is manifest in differing social, personal and institutional contexts and, therefore, is internalised as shame in similar and divergent forms in these respective societies. We note the very different social values and forms of welfare that constitute these societies which are at times responsible for contrasting experiences of shame, yet conclude that stigma and shame perform important functions within capitalist societies as a means to legitimate the continued existence of poverty within these social systems, and are therefore universal phenomena.

Themed Section on Comparative Perspectives on Poverty and Inequality: Japan and the United Kingdom
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Athwal, B., Brill, L., Chesters, G. and Quiggin, M. (2011) Recession, Poverty and Sustainable Livelihoods in Bradford, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
Bashir, N., Batty, E., Cole, I., Crisp, R., Flint, J., Green, S., Hickman, P. and Robinson, D. (2011) Living through Change in Challenging Neighbourhoods: Thematic Analysis, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
Batty, E. and Flint, J. (2010) Self-Esteem, Comparative Poverty and Neighbourhoods, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
Baumberg, B., Bell, K. and Gaffney, D. (2012) Benefits Stigma in Britain, London: Elizabeth Finn Trust.Google Scholar
Beresford, P., Green, D., Lister, R. and Woodard, K. (1999) Poverty First Hand: Poor People Speak for Themselves, London: Child Poverty Action Group.Google Scholar
Chase, E. and Walker, R. (2012) ‘The co-construction of shame in the context of poverty: beyond a threat to the social bond’, Sociology, OnlineFirst, doi:10.1177/0038038512453796.Google Scholar
Chouhan, K., Speeden, S. and Qazi, U. (2011) Experience of Poverty and Ethnicity in London, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
Cohen, R., Coxall, J., Craig, G. and Sadiq-Sangster, A. (1992) Hardship Britain: Being Poor in the 1990s, London: CPAG.Google Scholar
Conolly, A. (2008) ‘“Have you seen the people who just stand outside of Macdonalds? I am one of those people”: “socially” excluded girls and their experiences of exclusion”, Ph.D. thesis, University of Surrey, Guildford.Google Scholar
Crisp, R., Batty, E., Cole, I. and Robinson, D. (2009) Work and Worklessness in Deprived Neighbourhoods, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
Daly, M. and Leonard, M. (2002) Against All Odds: Family Life on a Low Income in Ireland, Dublin: Institute of Public Administration/Combat Poverty Agency.Google Scholar
Davidson, R. (2009) ‘More than just coping?: the antecedents and dynamics of resilience in a qualitative longitudinal study’, Social Policy and Society, 8, 1, 115–25.Google Scholar
Elliott, R. and Leonard, C. (2004) ‘Peer pressure and poverty: exploring fashion brands and consumption symbolism among children of the British poor”‘, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 3, 4, 347–59.Google Scholar
Esping-Andersen, G. (1999) Social Foundations of Postindustrial Society, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Fahmy, E. and Pemberton, S. (2008) Show and Tell: Multi-Media Testimony on Rural Poverty and Exclusion, Hereford: Rural Media Company.Google Scholar
Flaherty, J. (2008) ‘“I mean we're not the richest but we're not poor”: discources of “poverty” and “social exclusion”‘, Ph.D. thesis, Loughborough University, Loughborough.Google Scholar
Flint, J. (2010) Coping Strategies? Agencies, Budgeting and Self-Esteem Amongst Low-Income Households, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
Goffman, E. (1963) Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
Green, M. (2007) Voices of People Experiencing Poverty in Scotland. Everyone Matters?, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
Hill, K., Kellard, K., Middleton, S., Cox, L. and Pound, E. (2007) Understanding Resources in Later Life: Views and Experiences of Older People, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
Hooper, C., Gorin, S., Cabral, C. and Dyson, C. (2007) Living with Hardship 24/7: The Diverse Experiences of Families in Poverty in England, York: Frank Buttle Trust.Google Scholar
Ikuta, T. (2007) Rupo Saiteihen: Fuantei Shūrō to Nojuku [Reportage of the Lowest Bottom: Unstable Employment and Homelessness], Tokyo: Chikuma Syobō.Google Scholar
Iwata, M. (2000) Hōmuresu/Gendai Syakai/Fukushi Kokka: ‘Ikiteikku Basyo’ Wo Megutte [Homeless, Modern Society, Welfare States: Over the ‘Place of Living’]. Tokyo: Akashi Syoten.Google Scholar
Iwata, M. (2007) ‘Toujisya Ishiki: Hinkon Toujisya toha Dare ka? Boshi Setai heno Chosa kara [Who is the poor? Researching lone mother households]’, in Aoki, O. and Sugimura, H. (eds.), Gendai No Hinkon to Fubyoudou: Nihon, Amerika No Genjitsu to Han Hinkon Senryaku [Poverty and Inequality in Modern Society: Realities and against-Poverty Strategies in Japan and the USA], Tokyo: Akashi Syoten.Google Scholar
Iwata, M. (2008) ‘Syakai Fukushi Enjyosya No “Hinkon Kan”: Bosshi Seikatsu Shien Shisetsu Syokuin Heno Chosa Kekka [A report on “perceptions of poverty” among social workers: a case study of social workers in support facilities for mothers and children]’, Kyoiku Fukushi Kenkyu [Journal of Education and Social Work], 14, 6980.Google Scholar
Killeen, D. (2008) Is Poverty in the Uk a Denial of People's Human Rights?, York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
Konishi, Y. (2003) ‘Hinkon to Kodomo [Poverty and children]’, in Aoki, A. (ed.), Gendai Nihon No ‘Mienai’ Hinkon: Seikatsu Hogo Jyukyu Boshi Setai No Genjitsu [‘Invisible’ Poverty in Contemporary Japan: Realities of Lone Mother Households Receiving Public Assistance], Tokyo: Akashi Syoten.Google Scholar
Kudomi, Y. (ed.) (1993) Yutakasa no Teihen ni Ikiru: Gakō Sistemu to Jyakusya no Saiseisan [Living at the Bottom of Affluent Society: School System and Reproduction of Disadvantage], Tokyo: Aoki Shoten.Google Scholar
Lister, R. (2003) Poverty, Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
Lupton, R. (2003) Poverty Street: The Dynamics of Neighbourhood Decline and Renewal, Bristol: The Policy Press.Google Scholar
McKendrick, J. H., Cunningham-Burley, S. and Backett-Milburn, K. (2003) Life in Low Income Families in Scotland: Research Report, Edinburgh: Scottish Executive Social Research.Google Scholar
Miyashita, T. (2001) Tokyo No Donzoko Kara: Oiyuku Rojō Seikatsusya No Koe Wo Kiku [From the Lowest Bottom in Tokyo: Listening to the Voices from the Homelessness People Who Are Growing Old], Tochigi: Zuisōsya.Google Scholar
Narayan, D., Chambers, R., Shah, M. and Petesch, P. (2000) Voices of the Poor: Crying out for Change, New York: Oxford University Press/World Bank.Google Scholar
Narayan, D. and Patel, R. (2000) Voices of the Poor: Can Anyone Hear Us?, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Nishida, Y. (2011) ‘Shisetsu no Kodomo to Gakkou Kyouiku [Children in facilities and school education]’, in Nishida, Y. (ed.), Jidou Yougo Shisetsu to Syakai Teki Haijyo: Kazoku Izon Syakai No Rinkai [Child Protection Facilities and Social Exclusion: Criticality of Family Dependent Society], Osaka: Kaihou Syuppansya, pp. 74112.Google Scholar
Nishio, Y. (1994) Hinkon, Suthiguma, Kouteki Fujyo: Syakai Fukushi No Genten Wo Saguru [Poverty, Stigma, Public Assistance: Searching for the Origin of Social Welfare], Tokyo: Aikawa Syobou.Google Scholar
Nishizawa, A. (2005) ‘Ori no nai Rōgoku: Nojukusya no Syakaiteki sekai [Prison with no cage: a society of the homelessness people]’, in Iwata, M. and Nishizawa, A. (eds.), Hinkon to Syakaiteki Haijyo: Fukushi Syakai wo Mushibamu Mono [ Poverty and Social Exclusion: Things Undermining Welfare Society], Kyoto: Minerva Shobō, pp. 263–84.Google Scholar
Okabe, S. (1990) ‘Kouteki Fujyo Ni Okeru Jyukyuu Sya Gawa No Ishiki Ni Kansuru Ichi Kousatsu: Seikatsu Hogo Jissi Katei Wo Toushite [Examining the attitude's of public assistance recipients: from operational perspective of public assistance]’, Sosyaru Waku Kenkyu [Social Work Studies], 16, 3, 179–88.Google Scholar
Omatsu, S. (2008) ‘“Net Cafe Nanmin” wo Fukumu Hōmulesu Mondai wo Dono youni Torae naoshi, Shien shite iku beki ka: Nojyuku sya Shien wo Okonau Fukushi Sōdan Bumon Sutaffu niyoru Jirei Syōkai [How to re-understand and support of homeless issue including “internet café refugee”]’, in Kikō, Kamagasaki Shien and Kenkyuka, Osaka Shiritsu Daigaku Daigakuin Sōzō Toshi (eds.), Jyakunen Fuantei Syūrō, Fuantei Jūkyosya Kikitori Chōsa Hōkokusyo: ‘Jyakunen Hōmuresu Seikatusya’ heno Shien no Mosaku [Interview Study of the Youth with Unstable Employment and Housing: Finding a Way to Support ‘Homeless Youth’], Osaka: Kamagasaki Shien Kiko, pp. 91104Google Scholar
Ozawa, H. (1993) ‘Chiiki Syakai deno “Kaisō ka Chitujyo” to Seikatsu Konnan so: “Uwasa no Kaisou Kōzō” to Koritsu, Tekitai no Mekanizumu [“Stratified order” in the communities and the living difficulties: “stratified rumor”, and mechanism of social isolation and hostility]’, in Kudomi, Y. (ed.), Yutakasa no Teihen ni Ikiru: Gakō Sistemu to Jyakusya no Saiseisan [Living at the Bottom of Affluent Society: School System and Reproduction of Disadvantage], Tokyo: Aoki Shoten.Google Scholar
Power, E. M. (2005) ‘The unfreedom of being other: Canadian lone mothers’ experiences of poverty and “life on the cheque”‘, Sociology, 39, 4, 643–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Reutter, L. I., Stewart, M. J., Veenstra, G., Love, R., Raphael, D. and Makwarimba, E. (2009) ‘Who do they think we are, anyway?: perceptions of and responses to poverty stigma’, Qualitative Health Research, 19, 3, 297311.Google Scholar
Ridge, T. (2002) Childhood Poverty and Social Exclusion: From a Child's Perspective, Bristol: The Policy Press.Google Scholar
Ridge, T. (2007) ‘It's a family affair: low-income children's perspectives on maternal work’, Journal of Social Policy, 36, 3, 399416.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ridge, T. and Millar, J. (2000) ‘Excluding children: autonomy, friendship and the experience of the care system’, Social Policy and Administration, 34, 2, 160–75.Google Scholar
Scheff, T. (2011) ‘Shame and self in society’, Symbolic Interaction, 26, 2, 239–62.Google Scholar
Sen, A. (1983) ‘Poor, relatively speaking’, Economic Articles, 35, 2, 153–69.Google Scholar
Sen, A. (1993) Capability and Well-being, Sen, A. and Nussbaum, M. (eds.), Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
Smith, A. (1776) An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
Spencer, L., Ritchie, J., Lewis, J. and Dillon, L. (2003) Quality in Qualitative Evaluation: A framework for assessing research evidence, London: Cabinet Office.Google Scholar
Tanaka, R. (2004) Kazoku Houkai to Kodomo No Suthiguma: Kazoku Houkai Go No Kodomo No Syakai Ka Kenkyu [Family Breakdown and Children's Stigma: Study on Socialization of Children after Family Breakdown ], Fukuoka: Kyusyu Daigaku Syuppankai.Google Scholar
Tanuma, A. (1993) ‘Koritsusuru seikatsu konnanso: sono rōdō to oyako kankei [Social isolation of the living difficulties: their employment and parent–child relationship]’, in Kudomi, Y. (ed.), Yutakasa no Teihen ni Ikiru: Gakō Sistemu to Jyakusya no Saiseisan [Living at the Bottom of Affluent Society: School System and Reproduction of Disadvantage], Tokyo: Aoki Shoten, pp. 2162.Google Scholar
Uchida, R. (2008) ‘“Syakaiteki Haijyo – Housetsu” to Syakaiteki Nettowaku: Douwa Taisaku Jigyo to Hisabetsu Buraku No Wakamono No Syuro Wo Megutte [Social “exclusion – inclusion” and social networks]’, Riron to Doutai [Social Theory and Dynamics], 1, 5571.Google Scholar
Uchida, R. (2011) ‘Jido Yogo Shisetsu Seikatsusya/Keikensya no Aidenthithi Mondai [Issue of identity of the living in/the leaving from child protection facilities]’, in Nishida, Y. (ed.), Jidou Yougo Shisetsu to Syakai Teki Haijyo: Kazoku Izon Syakai No Rinkai [Child Protection Facilities and Social Exclusion: Criticality of Family Dependent Society], Osaka: Kaihou Syuppansya, pp. 158–77.Google Scholar
Uzuhashi, T. (1999) ‘Seikatsu to Seikatsu Ishiki [Everyday life and the sense of life]’, in Kenkyujyo, K. K. (ed.), Wanpearento Famili (Ribetsu Boshi Setai) ni Kansuru 6 kakoku Chosa [A Research Study on Divorced Single Mother Families in Six Countries], Tokyo: Okurasyo Insatsukyoku, pp. 6995.Google Scholar
Walker, J., Crawford, K. and Taylor, F. (2008) ‘Listening to children: gaining a perspective of the experiences of poverty and social exclusion from children and young people of single-parent families’, Health and Social Care in the Community, 16, 4, 429–36.Google Scholar
Walker, R., Kyomuhendo, G., Chase, E., Choudhry, S., Gubrium, E., Nicola, J., Lødemel, I., Mathew, L., Mwiine, A., Pellissery, S. and Ming, Y. (2013) ‘Poverty in global perspective: is shame a common denominator?’, Journal of Social Policy, 42, 2, 215–33.Google Scholar
Watts, B., Vale, D., Mulgan, G., Dale, M., Ali, R. and Norman, W. (2009) Sinking and Swimming: Understanding Britain's Unmet Needs, London: The Young Foundation.Google Scholar
Yamada, T. (2010) Daitoshi Koureisya Sou No Hinkon, Seikatsu Mondai No Sōsyutsu Katei: Syakaiteki Syūenka No Isō [Generating Process of Poverty and Livelihood Problems of the Elderly in Metropolitan: Phase of Social Marginalisation], Tokyo: Gakujyutsu Syuppan.Google Scholar
Yuasa, M. and Nihei, N. (2007) ‘Jyakunen hōmuresu: “iyoku no hinkon” ga teiki suru toi [The youth homeless: questions raised by “poverty of aspiration”]’, in Honda, Y. (ed.), Wakamono no Roudou to Seikatsu Sekai: Karera ha Donnna Genjitsu wo Ikite Iruka [Work and Living World of the Youth: What Kind of Reality Do They Live?], Tokyo: Otsuki Syoten, pp. 329–62.Google Scholar
Yuki, T. (2011) ‘Seikatsu Hogo No Jyukyu Ga Nousocchyu Sya No Jison Kanjyo, Oyobi Shintaiteki Jiko Gainen Ni Oyobosu Eikyo [Effect of receiving public assistance on self-esteem and physical self-perception of stroke survivors]’, Syakai Igaku Kenkyu [Bulletin of Social Medicine], 29, 1, 2130.Google Scholar
Yuzawa, N. (2009) ‘Hinkon No Sedai Teki Sai Seisan to Kosodate: Aru Haha, Ko No Raifu Hisutori Kara No Kousatsu [Generational reproduction of poverty and childrearing: based on the life history of a mother and her child]’, Kazoku Syakaigaku Kenkyu [Japanese Journal of Family Sociology], 21, 1, 4556.Google Scholar