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Posted 03.17.06

New Poverty and Housing Scale to Assess Attitudes Toward Working Poor

MU Researcher Creates Scale to Gauge Public Attitude

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina drew America's attention to poverty and housing issues. A University of Missouri-Columbia researcher created a scale for gauging public attitudes about this issue. The study found that most people have a completely inaccurate view of how difficult it is for the working poor to obtain decent housing.

Colleen Galambos."There is a great need in most communities for low-cost housing. Shouldn't people who are working hard and contributing to society be able to have safe and affordable housing?" asked Colleen Galambos, professor and director of MU's School of Social Work.

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Journal of Health and Social Policy

Galambos developed the Poverty and Housing Scale (PHS) to test attitudes about poverty and low-cost housing. She found that people have limited recognition of the true meaning of poverty. Galambos discovered that people often link poverty to welfare recipients who don't work. However, the fact that the lack of housing problem extends to the working poor - people who often hold down more than one minimum wage job to make ends meet - is not recognized.

The PHS can be used to assist in the development of policy and programs since decisions about poverty and affordable housing are often swayed by public opinion, Galambos said. The instrument can be used in the community or the classroom to assess attitudes and beliefs and to generate discussion about values and social justice.

"Social workers can use the scale to see if their community training made a difference," Galambos said. "During the study, we realized that people generally thought if someone was working they should be entitled to affordable and decent housing. However, most people didn't have any idea about the magnitude of the problem."

The scale is composed of 13 statements about the poor, poverty and affordable housing. The scale asks for agreement or disagreement with the statements using a scale of one to five.

The study was published in the Journal of Health and Social Policy.



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