No Strangers to Hardship: African Americans, Poverty, and the Politics of Resilience

African Americans have experienced the highest levels of intergenerational poverty among all racial and ethnic groups in the United States. However, they participate in electoral politics at rates higher than their non-Black counterparts. Existing research fails to examine the nuances of the impact of socioeconomic status, especially the case of poverty, among African American voters as they are different from other racial and ethnic groups. The main argument to advance in this dissertation is that African American political socialization and behavior are anchored in political resilience, a group based psychological resource that motivates electoral and non-electoral engagement. The prospectus will show that beyond traditional predictors of participation such as efficacy and socio-economic status, the belief about the group being resilient activates the willingness to engage in political activity. I then demonstrate how political resilience will varies according to past, and current experience with poverty. Lastly, I provide mechanisms to understand how political resilience is maintained overtime in varying political contexts. More so, the project investigates the dynamics of political resilience, such as how stimuli can trigger changes in the perception of political resilience altering the frequency of political engagement among African Americans. I rely on mixed methods including analysis of longitudinal and cross-sectional data, and in-depth semi-structured interviews in California, the Mid-west, and the South. I use an original survey experiment to demonstrate how politically resilient messaging leads to divergent behavioral outcomes for low propensity African American voters. This dissertation has broad implications for the study of Black politics in post-recession and post-Obama era, with specific attention to how past, and current economic inequality shapes political behavior and engagement.