The Social Ladder: A Rank-Based Perspective on Social Class

Michael W. Kraus, Jacinth J.X. Tan, Melanie B. Tannenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Scholars across the social sciences have studied social class for centuries. In this review, we suggest that social class is a fundamental means by which individuals are ranked on the social ladder of society. A rank-based perspective on social class shines light on several future areas of research: Specifically, understanding how social class ranks individuals vis-à-vis others leads to predictions about how class is signaled in interactions, influences social cognition and health, is shaped by global economic inequality trends, and changes across the life course. Importantly, our theory highlights the potential of experimental manipulations of social class rank for testing the causal role of social class in shaping basic patterns of cognition, emotion, and behavior. Future predictions regarding the channels of social class rank signals, along with how position on the social ladder shapes political attitudes and interacts with cultural values, are considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-96
Number of pages16
JournalPsychological Inquiry
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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