Methods: Data were collected using standardized measures administered to BSW (n=41) and MSW students (n=128) at multiple (3) sites in the Northeast and Southern United States. Sampling was convenient and purposive. Measures included the CoBRAS scale and the ATP-short form scale and demographic information including courses completed. Descriptive analyses described student characteristics, educational experiences, and personal relationship to poverty. Stepwise linear regression was used to assess demographic and educational determinants for attitudes related to poverty (ATP) and racial colorblindness (CoBRAS).
Findings: 40.8% of the sample identified as a person of color and the overwhelming majority (86%) identified as female. 35% indicated that they were eligible for free and reduced lunch (FRL) and 64% had a college educated parent. 91% reported having taken a diversity course, of those 73% reporting an anti-oppressive course. Multivariate regression analyses indicated that for racial colorblindness student classification (B= 5.83 p <.05) and type of diversity course (B=-7.24 p < .01) significantly explained attitudes towards racial colorblindness. For poverty, student classification (B= -4.71 p <.05), FRL eligibility (B= -3.69 p <.05), and type of diversity course (B= 5.82 p <.01) significantly explained attitudes towards poverty.
Conclusions and Implications: Findings indicate that undergraduate students have less bias and more positive attitudes both towards poverty and the avoidance of racial colorblindness and the type of diversity education has a meaningful impact on student attitudes. The use of anti-oppressive educational strategies rather than antiquated multicultural approaches to social work student education are of central importance. Educators should not assume that graduate students require less diversity education as they may become more biased over time due to desensitization in field or work environments. In an era where racial tensions are high and discourse on poverty has become racially charged it behooves educators to critically reflect upon educational best practices to ensure that social work students are competently prepared.