New Journal Issue: Status: What It is and Why It Matters for Inequality

January 24, 2023

Status – a form of inequality based on esteem, respect, and honor – affects how people are treated in all aspects of their lives, including in schools, workplaces, politics, and even the family. It shapes people’s access to valued outcomes in life, such as income, education, and health. However, status is poorly understood and its significance in the construction of inequality is often underestimated. In this special double issue of RSF, sociologist Cecilia L. Ridgeway (Stanford University), social psychologist Hazel Rose Markus (Stanford University), and an interdisciplinary group of contributors examine how status functions in society and its role in inequality.

Issue 1 demonstrates that status is fundamental to inequality and shows that it is different from other forms of inequality. Tali Mendelberg presents a theory of how status functions in politics and differentiates the potent symbolic value of achieving greater esteem from status-seeking as a means to obtain resources, such as income, assets, or property. Biko Koeing finds that Trump voters were motivated not only by a perceived loss of status, but by the belief that this loss was unjust. Fabien Accominotti and colleagues assess the characteristics of status hierarchies and find that those with greater clarity, rigidity, and order have greater inequality between high and low status members.

Issue 2 examines how status is created and reinforced through cultural norms and in our relationships with one another. Hilary Holbrow finds that the gender pay gap is nearly three times greater in companies where low-status support roles are held primarily by females. Natasha Quadlin finds that college graduates who are perceived to be wealthy are also perceived to be more intelligent than they would be if they were perceived to be members of a lower socioeconomic group. Annette Lareau finds that married women often behave in ways – such as disengagement from financial matters or downplaying their own financial knowledge – that sustain their husband’s status as economic expert of the family. Bianca Manago and colleagues find that prior contact and group interaction between Whites, Blacks, and Mexican Americans decreases Whites’ anxiety about working with Blacks and Mexican Americans, but does not increase Whites’ perceptions of Blacks’ and Mexican Americans’ competence. Status interventions during interaction, however, do increase Whites’ perceptions of Mexican Americans’ competence and their influence in the group.  Lehn Benjamin finds that staff at nonprofit organizations who share control and establish common ground with their clients reduce status hierarchies between staff and clients.

This volume of RSF sheds light on status as a powerful social force which pervades our lives, and demonstrates its role in creating and preserving inequality.

View the full open-access issue of RSF here.


RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


The Russell Sage Foundation offers grants and positions in our Visiting Scholars program for research.


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