By: Camille Respess
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Implicit Bias and Cognitive Reactions to Poverty
In Missouri, 14 percent of people in the state are at or below the poverty line. In addition to the difficulties that go along with being impoverished, those who fall into this category often face implicit biases against them because of the fact they are poor.
In an essay for Medium, journalist Hannah Brooks Olsen details the implicit biases those in poverty often fall victim to: including when people who are not impoverished see those who are, a bias is created against those in poverty.
Psychologist Claudia Hammond wrote in her 2006 book, Mind Over Money, that when volunteers at Princeton University looked at images of homeless people, 66 percent said their immediate reaction was disgust.
What’s more, these researchers at Princeton found that when these volunteers looked at images of homeless people, their brains did not recognize them as human. This is because their medial prefrontal cortexes, which is activated when a human sees another human, were not activated when looking at images of homeless individuals.
These cognitive reactions toward impoverished and homeless people can be harmful to their housing. It also has effects on those with disabilities. For instance, in Mary Valencia, et al v. the City of Springfield, the City unlawfully discriminated against our clients when it tried to close a community home that housed 3 individuals with disabilities. Neighbors gave testimony at the zoning hearing to the effect that they were concerned their property values would decrease and the individuals in the home posed a safety risk. In fact, the home was in operation for two years without issue until the City attempted to close the home. In the end, our client’s housing rights were violated because of baseless stereotypes against individuals with disabilities.
The Fair Housing Act bars discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin.
In November 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Justice released a joint 20-page statement clarifying that prohibiting group homes in single-family neighborhoods is illegal. Moreover, according to the guidance, “The Act does not allow for the exclusion of individuals based upon fear, speculation, or stereotype about a particular disability or persons with disabilities in general.”
The skilled attorneys at Kennedy Hunt, P.C. are experts in housing discrimination.
If you or someone you know has experienced unlawful housing discrimination, contact us.