Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Glaser

Second Advisor

Dr. Rose

Third Advisor

Dr. Cederblom

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Carlson


This thesis presents an analysis of 10 United States Supreme Court opinions between 1989 and 1994, and uncovers the normative assumptions which pervade and impoverish the Court's discourse on poverty. Positing two research questions, this thesis investigates the possible existence of a trend in the Court's written opinons on poverty. The statistical tests and thematic analysis depict two trends in the Court's rhetorical construction of its poverty opinions. First, the Court is more likely to label the poor petitioner as undeserving and morally deviant as opposed to deserving of preferential treatment. Second, the Court is more likely to invoke pleas of helplessness than attempt to empower itself when ruling on poverty issues.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Communication and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright Paul G. Bellus June, 1995