black and white shot of stethoscope

Gilens on Medical Debt and the ‘Centuries-Long Suspicion of the Poor’

UCLA Luskin’s Martin Gilens spoke to KFF Health News and NPR about hesitation among some members of the Black community to use crowdsourcing sites for help covering medical debt. An estimated 100 million people in the United States are burdened by health care debt, with Black Americans at particular risk — yet they are far less likely to seek assistance from sites such as GoFundMe, the news organizations found. Pride and a reluctance to reinforce negative stereotypes are among the reasons. As Gilens, author of “Why Americans Hate Welfare,” explained, “There’s a sort of a centuries-long suspicion of the poor, a cynicism about the degree of true need.” In recent decades, poverty has been cast as a Black problem, even though there are far more white Americans living in poverty, according to census data. This helped drive a backlash against government assistance programs in the 1980s and ’90s, said Gilens, a professor of public policy, social welfare and political science.


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