Critical Reflection About Socioeconomic Inequalities Among White Young Men From Poor and Working-Class Backgrounds
An intersectional approach to human development emphasizes the multiple social categories individuals occupy, some of which confer privilege (e.g., being White) and some of which confer marginalization (e.g., being poor). This approach is needed especially in critical consciousness scholarship, and particularly in regard to understanding whether and how it may manifest among youth who simultaneously experience privileges due to some aspects of their identities and marginalization due to other aspects of their identities. We explored critical reflection (CR) about socioeconomic inequalities through interviews with 31 White young men from low-income and working-class backgrounds who were attending trade colleges in Pennsylvania. Participants were asked about their understandings of the causes of poverty in the United States and potential solutions. Multiple rounds of qualitative analysis were conducted to understand the potential manifestation of CR in responses. Inductive across-case thematic analysis yielded 11 themes describing participants' understandings of poverty. We then conducted case-based analyses to identify the specific attributions about poverty that each participant made (structural, fatalistic, and/or individual), the ways in which these attributions arose in responses, and how the pattern identified related to CR. Eight participants were identified as having some CR or the potential to develop CR, and their responses were explored for references to experiences that may have been related to CR as well as their membership in a privileged racial and gender group, and more marginalized socioeconomic group. Implications for examining and promoting CR in different groups of youth are discussed. © 2019 American Psychological Association.
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