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Means-Tested Public Assistance Programs and Adolescent Political Socialization

Abstract

In recent years, scholars have pointed to the politically demobilizing effects of means-tested assistance programs on recipients. In this study, we bridge the insights from policy feedback literature and adolescent political socialization research to examine how receiving means-tested programs shapes parent influence on adolescent political participation. We argue that there are differences in pathways to political participation through parent political socialization and youth internal efficacy beliefs for adolescents from households that do or do not receive means-tested assistance. Using data from a nationally representative sample of 536 Black, Latino, and White adolescents (50.8% female), we find that adolescents from means-tested assistance households report less parent political socialization and political participation. For all youth, parent political socialization predicts adolescent political participation. Internal political efficacy is a stronger predictor of political participation for youth from a non-means-tested assistance household than it is for youth from a household receiving means-tested assistance. These findings provide some evidence of differential paths to youth political participation via exposure to means-tested programs.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Means-tested programs include Aid to Dependent Families and Children (AFDC) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Section 8, Public Housing, Women and Infant Supplemental Nutrition Program (WIC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid.

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Author’s Contributions

C.B. conceived of the study, participated in the interpretation of the analysis, and drafted the manuscript. E.H. participated in the conceptualization of the study, performed the statistical analysis, participated in the interpretation of the analysis, and drafted the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Carolyn Y. Barnes.

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The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

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The authors analyzed publicly available and deidentified data.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained by the Black Youth Project from all individual participants included in the study (Cohen 2005).

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Barnes, C.Y., Hope, E.C. Means-Tested Public Assistance Programs and Adolescent Political Socialization. J Youth Adolescence 46, 1611–1621 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-016-0624-x

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Keywords

  • Adolescence
  • Means-tested assistance
  • Political efficacy
  • Political participation
  • Political socialization