Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Carew Boulding

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Fitzgerald

Third Advisor

Dr. Lorraine Bayard de Volo


Political engagement from a diverse populace is vital for the functioning of a legitimate democracy that proportionately represents the interests of the governed people. Impoverished women experience at least two forms of oppression due to their socioeconomic status and gender—and often other forms of oppression—which intersect to enhance their marginalization and exclusion from the political sphere. This research compares data from the United States and Latin America to discover if receiving welfare benefits from the government can mobilize or hinder low income women from engaging in politics. This research analyzes welfare’s impact on three forms of political engagement: political attitudes, civic engagement, and conventional political participation. This study finds that women who receive welfare in Latin America experience higher levels of two forms of political engagement—political attitudes and civic engagement—while welfare offers no correlation with any of the three tested forms of political engagement among women in the United States. Women who receive welfare in both Latin America and the United States are not more likely to engage in conventional forms of political participation, with the exception of Colombia. Colombia is used as a case study to understand its divergence from the trend of insignificance between welfare and conventional political engagement found in every other country. Understanding the incongruency of welfare’s mobilizing power between the United States and Latin America could allow for the adoption of different welfare policies, and changes in cultural perceptions of welfare that could result in more representative and legitimate governments.