The thick skin bias in judgments about people in poverty

Nathan N. Cheek, Eldar Shafir

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


We present a series of studies documenting what we call a 'thick skin bias' in people's perceptions of those living in poverty. Across a wide range of life events, from major to minor, people of lower socioeconomic status (SES) are systematically perceived as being less harmed by negative experiences than higher-SES people, even when this is patently false. In 18 studies, including a pre-registered survey of a nationally representative sample, we find that laypeople and professionals show the thick skin bias. We distinguish the bias from a tendency to dehumanize those in poverty and argue it cannot be attributed to the belief that the mere expectation that bad things will happen buffers people in poverty from suffering. The thick skin bias has potentially profound implications for the institutional and interpersonal neglect of those most in need of greater care and resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-263
Number of pages26
JournalBehavioural Public Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 14 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Political Science and International Relations


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