Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology



First Advisor

Bernice Lott


The present research provided an in-depth look at experiencing and coping with everyday classism in a sample of low-income. people in a mid-size southeastern rural United States community. The study employed a qualitative methodology consisting of semi-structured interviews and analyzing the collected data using Grounded Theory Method. Of 50 participants selected for an interview, 40 described experiences with classism, each discussing two incidents, for a total of 80 incidents shared. Seven of the remaining 10 participants felt that they had not experienced class ism, but at the same time, they provided insight into one proactive coping strategy that they appeared to use to avoid the recognition of prejudice and discrimination.

The 80 classist incidents described by those who shared experiences with classism occurred in 14 different environmental domains, entailed nine distinct types of classist behaviors, and involved 23 categories of alleged perpetrators. The majority of incidents were believed to be communicated in a blatant fashion and most participants reported experiencing classist events with high frequency. The bulk of incidents were believed to be strictly classist in nature, though some were reported to have also involved racism, some sexism, and some ableism.

Participants also described their responses and how they did, and did not, cope with their classist incidents. They responded behaviorally, emotionally, spiritually, and cognitively. In general, participants were greatly negatively affected by their classist experiences. Half responded passively to their perpetrators and most experienced a variety of negative emotions and feelings in response to their incidents. But some participants employed positive coping strategies in which they actively confronted their perpetrators, had neutral emotions in response to potentially hurtful situations, coped spiritually, or disidentified as low-income.

Cultural, situational, and individual differences in experiences and responding styles were explored. Implications for low-income people, psychology, and public policy were discussed. Methodological considerations were presented. Several ideas for future research to answer new questions have come from this investigation.



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