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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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For several decades, a new political prospective has emerged in the Political Science literature - Policy Feedback Theory. Put simply, Policy Feedback Theory looks at the way public policy affects politics. Existing policies can define the political environment, shaping the capacities, interests, and beliefs of political elites and states, which in tum influence the next round of policy-making. However, does public policy only change the politics of elites and states? Can public policy also change the politics of mass publics? Recent Political Science researchers are now examining this question.

Even though much ground has been gained in examining this question, some outstanding problems still remain. Specifically, much of the research on policy feedbacks deals with targeted populations of the citizenry, e.g. the elderly, the poor, and veterans. Of grave importance to political scientists, and policy feedback researchers specifically, is the political participation of low-income Americans, particularly those afflicted with serious economic, personal, or health related hardships. Though Policy Feedback Theory can help explain much of how and why populations affected by policies engage politically and civically, it is important to consider other factors that can increase and decrease political participation. In addition to traditional Policy Feedback Theory, can other factors like serious economic, personal, or health related hardships help explain political participation, or the lack thereof, among targeted groups?

In this paper, I will expand on the Political Science literature by examining this important question. Using data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a national, longitudinal study that follows the lives of families on welfare and documents their hardships, welfare usage, and political activities, I will examine the political participation of low-income Americans who experience economic, personal, or health related hardships, as well as examining their political beliefs and experiences to further shed light on how the poor participate politically in America. By also testing policy usage among the poor, I will also add to the policy feedback literature as well as the literature on political participation. I find that the three tested public policies do indeed influence political and civic participation, and that some hardships affect participation rates while others do not.