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Concept: Social classes


We theorize that people’s social class affects their appraisals of others' motivational relevance-the degree to which others are seen as potentially rewarding, threatening, or otherwise worth attending to. Supporting this account, three studies indicate that social classes differ in the amount of attention their members direct toward other human beings. In Study 1, wearable technology was used to film the visual fields of pedestrians on city streets; higher-class participants looked less at other people than did lower-class participants. In Studies 2a and 2b, participants' eye movements were tracked while they viewed street scenes; higher class was associated with reduced attention to people in the images. In Study 3, a change-detection procedure assessed the degree to which human faces spontaneously attract visual attention; faces proved less effective at drawing the attention of high-class than low-class participants, which implies that class affects spontaneous relevance appraisals. The measurement and conceptualization of social class are discussed.

Concepts: Sociology, Social class, Working class, Social classes, Class consciousness


Is higher social class associated with greater happiness? In a large nationally representative U.S. sample (N = 1,519), we examined the association between social class (household income) and self-reported tendencies to experience 7 distinct positive emotions that are core to happiness: amusement, awe, compassion, contentment, enthusiasm, love, and pride. Consistent with past research indicating that social class underlies differential patterns of attending to the self versus orienting to others, higher social class was associated with greater self-oriented feelings of contentment and pride, and with greater amusement. In contrast, lower social class was associated with more other-oriented feelings of compassion and love, and with greater awe. There were no class differences in enthusiasm. We discuss that individuals from different social class backgrounds may exhibit different patterns of emotional responding due to their distinct social concerns and priorities. Whereas self-oriented emotions may follow from, foster, and reinforce upper class individuals' desire for independence and self-sufficiency, greater other-oriented emotion may enable lower class individuals to form more interdependent bonds to cope with their more threatening environments. (PsycINFO Database Record

Concepts: Sociology, Emotion, Household income in the United States, Middle class, Social class, Emotions, Working class, Social classes


Tackling social inequalities in health has been a priority for recent UK governments. We used repeated national cross-sectional data for 155,311 participants (aged ≥16 years) in the Health Survey of England to examine trends in socio-economic inequalities in self-reported health over a recent period of sustained policy focus by successive UK governments aimed at tackling social inequalities in health. Socio-economic related inequalities in self-reported health were estimated using the Registrar General’s occupational classification (1996-2009), and for sensitivity analyses, the National Statistics Socio-Economic Classification (NS-SEC; 2001-2011). Multi-level regression was used to evaluate time trends in General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12) scores and bad or very bad self-assessed health (SAH), as well as EQ-5D utility scores. The study found that the probability of reporting GHQ-12 scores ≥4 and ≥ 1 was higher in those from lower social classes, and decreased for all social classes between 1997 and 2009. For SAH, the probability of reporting bad or very bad health remained relatively constant for social class I (professional) [0.028 (95%CI: 0.026, 0.029) in 1996 compared to 0.028 (95%CI: 0.024, 0.032) in 2009], but increased in lower social classes, with the greatest increase observed amongst those in social class V (unskilled manual) [0.089 (95%CI: 0.085, 0.093) in 1996 compared to 0.155 (95%CI: 0.141, 0.168) in 2009]. EQ-5D utility scores were lower for those in lower social classes, but remained comparable across survey years. In sensitivity analyses using the NS-SEC, health outcomes improved from 2001 to 2011, with no evidence of widening socio-economic inequalities. Our findings suggest that socio-economic inequalities have persisted, with evidence of widening for some adverse self-reported health outcomes.

Concepts: Econometrics, Sociology, Cross-sectional analysis, Social class, Social classes, Relations of production, National Statistics Socio-economic Classification, NRS social grade


Are the rich more unethical than the poor? To answer this question, the current research introduces a key conceptual distinction between selfish and unethical behavior. Based on this distinction, the current article offers 2 novel findings that illuminate the relationship between social class and unethical behavior. First, the effects of social class on unethical behavior are not invariant; rather, the effects of social class are moderated by whether unethical behavior benefits the self or others. Replicating past work, social class positively predicted unethical behavior; however, this relationship was only observed when that behavior was self-beneficial. When unethical behavior was performed to benefit others, social class negatively predicted unethical behavior; lower class individuals were more likely than upper class individuals to engage in unethical behavior. Overall, social class predicts people’s tendency to behave selfishly, rather than predicting unethical behavior per se. Second, individuals' sense of power drove the effects of social class on unethical behavior. Evidence for this relationship was provided in three forms. First, income, but not education level, predicted unethical behavior. Second, feelings of power mediated the effect of social class on unethical behavior, but feelings of status did not. Third, two distinct manipulations of power produced the same moderation by self-versus-other beneficiary as was found with social class. The current theoretical framework and data both synthesize and help to explain a range of findings in the social class and power literatures. (PsycINFO Database Record © 2015 APA, all rights reserved).

Concepts: Scientific method, Sociology, All rights reserved, Middle class, Social class, Marxism, Working class, Social classes


Three studies conducted among fifth and sixth graders examined how school contexts disrupt the achievement of working-class students by staging unfair comparison with their advantaged middle-class peers. In regular classrooms, differences in performance among students are usually showcased in a way that does not acknowledge the advantage (i.e., higher cultural capital) experienced by middle-class students, whose upbringing affords them more familiarity with the academic culture than their working-class peers have. Results of Study 1 revealed that rendering differences in performance visible in the classroom by having students raise their hands was enough to undermine the achievement of working-class students. In Studies 2 and 3, we manipulated students' familiarity with an arbitrary standard as a proxy for social class. Our results suggest that classroom settings that make differences in performance visible undermine the achievement of the students who are less familiar with academic culture. In Study 3, we showed that being aware of the advantage in familiarity with a task restores the performance of the students who have less familiarity with the task.

Concepts: Sociology, Cultural studies, Middle class, Social class, Classroom, Working class, Social classes, Bourgeoisie


Research addressing social class and dementia has largely focused on measures of socioeconomic status as causal risk factors for dementia and in observed differences in diagnosis, treatment and care. This large body of work has produced important insights but also contains numerous problems and weaknesses. Research needs to take account of the ways in which ageing and social class have been transformed in tandem with the economic, social and cultural coordinates of late modernity. These changes have particular consequences for individual identities and social relations. With this in mind this article adopts a critical gaze on research that considers interactions between dementia and social class in three key areas: (i) epidemiological approaches to inequalities in risk (ii) the role of social class in diagnosis and treatment and (iii) class in the framing of care and access to care. Following this, the article considers studies of dementia and social class that focus on lay understandings and biographical accounts. Sociological insights in this field come from the view that dementia and social class are embedded in social relations. Thus, forms of distinction based on class relations may still play an important role in the lived experience of dementia.

Concepts: Sociology, Social class, Social status, Social stratification, Social classes, Max Weber, Modernity, Relations of production


This paper argues that shifts in access to housing - both in relation to rental and ownership - disrupt middle-class reproduction in ways that fundamentally influence class formation. While property ownership has had a long association with middle-class identities, status and distinction, an increasingly competitive rental market alongside inflated property prices has impacted on expectations and anxieties over housing futures. In this paper, we consider two key questions: (1) What happens to middle-class identities under the conditions of this wider structural change? (2) How do the middle classes variously manoeuvre within this? Drawing on empirical research conducted in London, we demonstrate that becoming an owner-occupier may be fractured along lines of class but also along the axes of age, wealth and timing, particularly as this relates to the housing market. It builds on understandings of residential status and place as central to the formation of class, orienting this around the recognition of both people and place as mutable, emphasizing that changing economic and social processes generate new class positionalities and strategies for class reproduction. We argue that these processes are writ large in practices of belonging and claims to place, with wider repercussions within the urban landscape.

Concepts: Property, Middle class, Social class, Real estate, Social groups, Working class, Social classes, Bourgeoisie


There is a hypothesis that low socioeconomic status (SES) may explain the link between cannabis use and poorer academic performance and mental health. A key question, therefore, is whether adolescent cannabis use is associated with poorer academic performance and mental health in high SES communities where there is reduced potential for confounding.

Concepts: Socioeconomic status, Sociology, Middle class, Social class, Social status, Social classes, Lower middle class, Upper middle class


Little is known about the interaction between socio-economic status and ‘protected characteristics’ in Scotland. This study aimed to examine whether differences in mortality were moderated by interactions with social class or deprivation. The practical value was to pinpoint population groups for priority action on health inequality reduction and health improvement rather than a sole focus on the most deprived socioeconomic groups.

Concepts: Demography, Socioeconomic status, Sociology, Political economy, Social status, Social stratification, Social classes, Relations of production


The paper was stimulated by the relative absence of the working class from work-life debates. The common conclusion from work-life studies is that work-life imbalance is largely a middle-class problem. It is argued here that this classed assertion is a direct outcome of a particular and narrow interpretation of work-life imbalance in which time is seen to be the major cause of difficulty. Labour market time, and too much of it, dominates the conceptualization of work-life and its measurement too. This heavy focus on too much labour market time has rendered largely invisible from dominant work-life discourses the types of imbalance that are more likely to impact the working class. The paper’s analysis of large UK data-sets demonstrates a reduction in hours worked by working-class men, more part-time employment in working-class occupations, and a substantial growth in levels of reported financial insecurity amongst the working classes after the 2008-9 recession. It shows too that economic-based work-life imbalance is associated with lower levels of life satisfaction than is temporal imbalance. The paper concludes that the dominant conceptualization of work-life disregards the major work-life challenge experienced by the working class: economic precarity. The work-life balance debate needs to more fully incorporate economic-based work-life imbalance if it is to better represent class inequalities.

Concepts: Middle class, Social class, Marxism, Working class, Social classes, Bourgeoisie, Proletariat, Upper class