Revisiting the contact hypothesis: The case of public exposure to homelessness

Barrett A. Lee, Chad R. Farrell, Bruce G. Link

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


Using data from a national survey of public attitudes toward homeless people, this paper evaluates the applicability of the contact hypothesis to in-group/out-group relations that fail to meet the optimal conditions specified in the contact literature. Past efforts are extended by (1) moving beyond face-to-face encounters to consider multiple types of in-group exposure to a highly stigmatized out-group, (2) examining a variety of attitudinal outcomes, and (3) incorporating community context as a possible antecedent of such outcomes. Even after taking selection and social desirability processes into account, all types of exposure are found to affect public attitudes in the predicted (favorable) direction. Moreover, the size of the local homeless population-our primary measure of context-shapes opportunities for most forms of exposure and thus influences attitudes indirectly. These findings suggest that the scope of the contact hypothesis needs to be widened rather than narrowed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)40-63
Number of pages24
JournalAmerican sociological review
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2004

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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