According to one commentator in The Times, an underclass of benefit claimants is “now contaminating the life of entire neighbourhoods—which is one of the most insidious aspects of the phenomenon, for neighbours who don’t share those values cannot isolate themselves”. No, this isn’t a contemporary columnist repeating some of the more debatable claims of the programme Benefits Street, ‘where 90 per cent of the residents are on benefits’. Instead, it’s the American commentator Charles Murray on a visit to the UK back in the 1990s. Benefits Street may be a new type of programme, but it taps into an older idea.
Despite this, we have no idea whether high-benefit claim neighbourhoods genuinely do stigmatise benefits less than low-claim neighbourhoods. In a new paper in the Journal of Social Policy (or here), , I try to fill this gap by presenting the results of a specially-commissioned nationally representative survey, which merged-in information about people’s local areas alongside their responses about benefits stigma itself. Continue reading