It is my thesis that attitudes toward equality rest in the first instance upon one's attitude towards one's own status. Like a large number of social beliefs, attitudes towards equality take their direction from beliefs about the self, the status of the self, one's self-esteem or lack thereof.
This study explores relationships between self-evaluation (i.e., self-esteem and mastery) and ideological beliefs about the causes of poverty (i.e., “stratification beliefs” or “stratification ideology”). While there has been a good deal of research into the antecedents and consequences of self-concept variables (Gecas & Burke, 1995; Rosenberg, 1979, 1981) and stratification beliefs (Kluegel & Smith, 1986), scant theoretical or empirical research has focused on relationships between these two phenomena. This study addresses this gap in the social psychological literature by examining relationships between self-evaluation and “individualistic” and “structuralist” beliefs about the causes of poverty (Feagin, 1972, 1975; Kluegel & Smith, 1986). In addition, self-evaluation/stratification beliefs relationships are examined separately for African Americans, Latinos, and whites, in an effort to critically examine an “assumption of race/ethnic similarity” regarding social psychological processes (Hunt et al., 2000).
Three basic research questions guide this study: (1) Are there relationships between self-evaluation and stratification beliefs? (2) Do any such relationships exist net of the effects of race and other sociodemographic variables? (3) Do African Americans, Latinos, and whites differ in relationships between self-evaluation and stratification beliefs? I answer these questions using a sample of southern Californians (n = 2,628) collected in 1993.
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