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PSY 4800 Socioeconomic Factors and Psychology
PSY 4800 Socioeconomic Factors and Psychology
Socioeconomic status (SES) is a complex and multidimensional construct, encompassing both independent objective characteristics (e.g., income or education) and subjective people’s ratings of their placement in the socioeconomic spectrum. Within the growing literature on subjective SES belongingness and psychological well-being, subjective indices of SES have tended to center on the use of pictorial rank-related social ladders where individuals place themselves relative to others by simultaneously considering their income, educational level, and occupation. This approach, albeit consistent with the idea of these social ladders as summative or cognitive SES markers, might potentially constrain individuals’ conceptions of their SES. This research (N = 368; Mage = 39.67, SD = 13.40) is intended to expand prior investigations on SES and psychological well-being by revisiting the role of subjective SES.
In particular, it (a) proposes an innovative adaptation of the traditional MacArthur Scale of subjective SES to income, education, and occupation, thus resulting in three separate social ladders; and (b) tests the empirical contribution of such three social ladders to psychological well-being. Overall, our findings showed that the novel education and occupation ladders (excluding the income ladder) are predictive of a significant part of the variance levels of psychological well-being that is not due to canonical objective metrics of SES (i.e., income, education, and occupation), or to the conventional MacArthur Scale of subjective SES. Although preliminary, these results underscore the need to further reconsider (subjective) SES-related conceptualization and measurement strategies to gather a more comprehensive understanding of the SES-psychological well-being link.
During the last decade, the psychology of socioeconomic status (SES) or social class, which is broadly characterized as a social stratification system derived from access to various resources (economic, social, etc.; Moya and Fiske, 2017), has experienced a remarkable growth (see Manstead, 2018). Such increased interest has been fundamentally driven by the onset of the Great Recession, which is connected to the broadening gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots” (Pfeffer et al., 2013). Indeed, in this socioeconomic climate, class disparities and their detrimental wide-ranging consequences across distinct domains are more visible (Moya and Fiske, 2017). Although it could be argued that almost all people’s psychological and social outcomes are largely influenced by their objective or perceived socioeconomic standing, ranging from food preferences (Baumann et al., 2019) and speech patterns (Kraus et al., 2019) to humor-related dispositions (Navarro-Carrillo et al., 2020) and identity (Easterbrook et al., 2020), empirical research has mainly focused on investigating the connections between SES and psychological well-being and health-related aspects (e.g., Howell and Howell, 2008; Curhan et al., 2014; Präg et al., 2016; Huang et al., 2017).
Cumulative empirical evidence has highlighted that long-established objective metrics of SES, such as income, educational level, and occupation, only show low to modest correlations with personal well-being indicators (Diener and Oishi, 2000; Howell and Howell, 2008). In contrast, a growing number of studies have revealed that subjective assessments of SES exhibit robust associations with well-being and health scores above and beyond objective SES (e.g., Adler et al., 2000; Kraus et al., 2013; Garza et al., 2017; Navarro-Carrillo et al., 2019). Within this area, while objective SES is commonly assessed using various indices of material wealth (e.g., income, education), subjective SES is primarily assessed using the MacArthur Scale of Subjective Social Status (MacArthur SSS scale; Adler et al., 2000), a pictorial format measure represented by a 10-rung social ladder on which people indicate their socioeconomic standing relative to others in society based on income, educational level, and occupation. Within psychological and health sciences, the development and subsequent consideration of this measure, whose theoretical underpinnings rely upon social comparison processes, have provided a substantial contribution in terms of the clarification of the complex nature of the SES–well-being connection. In particular, researchers have posited that the MacArthur SSS scale, insofar as it allows individuals to capture their own social standing in a personalized manner across the SES components, could represent a cognitive average of classical objective SES indices (i.e., a general marker of a person’s SES), thereby providing a more accurate estimation of SES.
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