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Difficult socio-economic circumstances and the utilization of risk information: A study of Mexican agricultural workers in the USA

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Experiences associated with challenging socio-economic conditions may impact on motivational and cognitive processes that influence risk or health information processing. Within a population living in poverty, this study explored whether differences in socio-economic circumstances, and the subjective evaluation of these conditions, were associated with the utilization of new scientific evidence when judging risks. Using an experimental design, scientific information (i.e., strength of risk evidence and chemical persistence) was systematically varied in profiles of hazardous chemicals, and presented to a sample of 437 immigrant farm labourers in the USA. Participants were measured on several socio-economic indicators including education, migrant status, expectations for stable employment and perceptions of economic options. As predicted, when compared to labourers who believed themselves to be less dependent on their employment situation, participants who felt more economically dependent utilized scientific evidence less when judging the risks presented by environmental chemicals. The subjective appraisal of challenging socio-economic conditions may affect risk judgements through the utilization or processing of relevant information. The research is discussed in reference to dual-process theories of reasoning, and public health and agricultural policies that depend on individual actions to minimize the health risks of pesticide exposure.

Keywords: Socio-economic status; economic dependency; information processing; poverty; reasoning strategy; risk judgements

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of California, Irvine, USA

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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