Defining Social Class Across Time and Between Groups

Dov Cohen, Faith Shin, Xi Liu, Peter Ondish, Michael W. Kraus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We examined changes over four decades and between ethnic groups in how people define their social class. Changes included the increasing importance of income, decreasing importance of occupational prestige, and the demise of the “Victorian bargain,” in which poor people who subscribed to conservative sexual and religious norms could think of themselves as middle class. The period also saw changes (among Whites) and continuity (among Black Americans) in subjective status perceptions. For Whites (and particularly poor Whites), their perceptions of enhanced social class were greatly reduced. Poor Whites now view their social class as slightly but significantly lower than their poor Black and Latino counterparts. For Black respondents, a caste-like understanding of social class persisted, as they continued to view their class standing as relatively independent of their achieved education, income, and occupation. Such achievement indicators, however, predicted Black respondents’ self-esteem more than they predicted self-esteem for any other group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1530-1545
Number of pages16
JournalPersonality and social psychology bulletin
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017


  • culture
  • ethnic groups
  • social class
  • socioeconomic status

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Defining Social Class Across Time and Between Groups'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this