Navigating the stigmatised identities of poverty in austere times: resisting and responding to narratives of personal failure

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  • University of Bristol


Behavioural explanations of poverty and disadvantage have figured heavily in political rhetoric in the era of austerity, as a means to understand trajectories into poverty and subsequent relationships between benefit claimants and the state. These discourses are not restricted to political debate, as previous studies demonstrate they impact upon public consciousness and structure the ways that the general public think about poverty, as well as shaping the ways in which people living on low incomes are treated. Drawing upon the testimonies of 62 people in England and Scotland experiencing poverty, this article seeks to understand our participants’ responses to these discourses, in particular: how these behavioural explanations impact upon their understanding of their own situations, as well as their self perceptions; how these discourses shape their relationships with others, in terms of their experience of disrespect; and how participants seek to dissociate themselves from their stigmatising implications.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-37
JournalCritical Social Policy
Issue number1
Early online date15 Sep 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016


  • austerity, behavioural theories, poverty, recession, underclass