"If they focus on giving us a chance in life we can actually do something in this world": Poverty, inequality, and youths' critical consciousness

Amanda L. Roy, C. Cybele Raver, Michael D. Masucci, Meriah DeJoseph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Critical consciousness (CC) has emerged as a framework for understanding how low-income and racial/ethnic minority youth recognize, interpret, and work to change the experiences and systems of oppression that they face in their daily lives. Despite this, relatively little is known about how youths' experiences with economic hardship and structural oppression shape how they "read their world" and motivate participation in critical action behaviors. We explore this issue using a mixed-methods design and present our findings in two studies. In Study 1 we examine the types of issues that a sample of low-income and predominantly racial/ethnic minority youth (ages 13-17) living in the Chicago area discuss when asked to reflect on issues that are important to them. The most commonly mentioned themes were community violence (59%), prejudice and intolerance (31%), world issues (25%), and economic disparities (18%). In Study 2 we examine youths' quantitative reports of engaging in critical action behavior; more than 65% had participated in at least one activity targeting social change in the previous 6 months. We then examined relationships between youths' experiences with poverty within their households and neighborhoods, neighborhood income inequality, and exposure to violence and youths' likelihood of participating in critical action behaviors. Greater exposure to violence and neighborhood income inequality were related to an increased likelihood of engaging in critical action behaviors. This work highlights the diverse ways that low-income and racial/ethnic minority youth reflect on societal inequality and their commitment to effecting change through sociopolitical participation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)550-561
Number of pages12
JournalDevelopmental psychology
Volume55
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2019

Keywords

  • Adolescence
  • Critical consciousness
  • Mixed methods
  • Poverty
  • Sociopolitical participation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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