Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


This study was undertaken to explore the possible relationship between future clinical social workers' beliefs about the causes of poverty and their commitment to working with individuals living in poverty. The study was an attempt to respond to concerns that have been raised about a perceived abandonment of the poor by social workers in favor of private mental health practice with middle and upper class clients. One-hundred and two students currently enrolled in the Masters program of the Smith College School for Social Work responded to a questionnaire designed to assess their preferred practice modality, perceptions of the causes of poverty, and level of interest in working with the poor after graduation. The questionnaire employed in this study was an established survey measure, so as to facilitate meaningful discussion of the findings in relation to the extant literature. Several possible changes to that measure for future study are discussed. Major findings included a correlation between intention to enter clinical practice and participants' attributions of the causes of poverty to individual factors, a significant overall difference amongst participants between scores on the structural and individual attribution of the causes of poverty scales, a significant difference in the structural attribution scale by class year, a significant difference in the individual attribution scale by gender, and a correlation between interest in working with the poor and the participants' attributions of the causes of poverty to individual factors. These findings are discussed within the context of the efficacy of social work education and the complexity of the ethical commitment of professional social workers to work with clients who are vulnerable, oppressed and living in poverty.


Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2008. iii, 37 p. Includes bibliographical references (p. 27-28)