Recessions appear to coincide with an increasingly stigmatising presentation of poverty in parts of the media. Previous research on the connection between high unemployment and media discourse has often relied on case studies of periods when stigmatising rhetoric about the poor was increasing. We build on earlier work on how economic context affects media representations of poverty by creating a unique dataset that measures how often stigmatising descriptions of the poor are used in five centrist and right-wing British newspapers between 1896 and 2000. Our results suggest stigmatising rhetoric about the poor increases when unemployment rises, except at the peak of very deep recessions (e.g. the 1930s and 1980s). This pattern is consistent with the idea that newspapers deploy deeply embedded Malthusian explanations for poverty when those ideas resonate with the economic context, and so this stigmatising rhetoric of recessions is likely to recur during future economic crises.
SOURCE: McArthur, D., & Reeves, A. (2019). The Rhetoric of Recessions: How British Newspapers Talk about the Poor When Unemployment Rises, 1896–2000. Sociology, 53(6), 1005–1025. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038038519838752
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