Shame, social exclusion and the effectiveness of anti-poverty programmes: a study in seven countries (2012)

The research examined Amartya Sen's contention that shame is an attribute of poverty in all societies. Shame is believed to reduce a person's agency, the capacity to act constructively, and to increase social exclusion which, in turn, curtail economic development. 

It took place in rural Uganda and India, urban China and UK and in small town Norway, supplemented by doctoral work in urban Pakistan, small town South Korea and urban Germany.

The research had four elements:

  1. Exploration of cultural conceptions of poverty and shame through analysis of literature, film and, in Uganda, drama;
  2. Learning from people with direct experience of poverty through undertaking depth interviews with adults and children living in low income households.
  3. Examination of the role of the public in shaming poor people by conducting focus groups with persons of low-middle status and middle-high status and through statistical analysis of the World Values Survey.
  4. A policy analysis of social assistance and other anti-poverty programmes in order to identify language, policy structures and implementation practices likely to moderate or exacerbate any shame attached to being poor, leading to the preparation of a set of principles to inform the design of anti-poverty policy.


Elaine Chase (2013) "'Security and subjective well being: the experiences of unaccompanied young people seeking asylum in the UK',", Sociology of Health and Illness  35: 6 358-372. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2012.01541.x.

Robert Walker and Elaine Chase (2014) "Adding to the shame of poverty: the public, politicians and the media", Poverty: Journal of the Child Poverty Action Group  : 148 9-13

Elaine Chase and Grace Bantebya Kyomuhendo ed., (2014)Poverty and Shame: Global Experiences. Oxford : Oxford University Press

Robert Walker and Elaine Chase (2013) "Separating the sheep from the goats: Tackling poverty in Britain for over four centuries ", Erika. Gubrium, Sony Pellissery and Ivar Lødemel ed.,The Shame of It: Global Perspectives on Anti-poverty Policies. Bristol: Policy Press

Elaine Chase and Robert Walker (2013) "The Co-construction of shame in the context of poverty: Beyond a threat to the social bond", Sociology  47: 4 739-754

Robert Walker, Elaine Chase and Ivar Lødemel (2012) "The Indignity of the Welfare Reform Act 2012: Why the ILO matters for UK antipoverty programmes.", Poverty  : 143 9-12. URL:

Elaine Chase and Grace Bantebya Kyomuhendo (Eds)  (2014 )The Shame of Poverty: Global Experiences . Oxford : OUP

Elaine Chase (2014) "Understanding 'Education for All' in Contexts of Extreme Poverty: Experiences from Burkina Faso", Lorraine Pe Symaco ed.,Education, Poverty, Malnutrition and Famine . London : Bloomsbury , 39-57

Guillaume Charvon and Elaine Chase (2014) "Understanding 'Education for All' in Contexts of Extreme Poverty: Experiences from Burkina Faso,", Lorraine Pe Symaco ed.,Education, Poverty, Malnutrition and Famine . London : Bloomsbury


  • The Media Trust (2014): Rich Man, Poor Man (Film) 
  • Elaine Chase and Sohail Choudhry (2014): Poverty and Shame on BBC Radio 4's 'Thinking Allowed' View Online


DSPI Principal Investigator: Professor Robert Walker
Funded by: Economic & Social Research Council

Completed: 2012