American Sociological Association

Modern Social Hierarchies and the Spaces between: How Are Subjective Status Inconsistencies Linked to Mental Well-Being?

Higher socioeconomic status is linked to higher mental well-being, but modern individuals inhabit multiple hierarchies and reference groups—and thus well-being may be determined between as much as within socioeconomic statuses. Drawing on proprietary national data collected by Gallup in 2017, I find that inconsistency between one’s perceived standing in society and one’s standing in more local hierarchies based in neighbors or friends is quite common. Individuals with negative status inconsistency (lower perceived status among one’s neighbors or friends relative to society) exhibit diminished mental well-being relative to those without. Relational or interpersonal mechanisms, including lower closeness to others, anomie or social disengagement, and diminished meaning in life, appear to partially or mostly explain how status inconsistencies undermine well-being. However, these relational mechanisms vary in their explanatory importance across types of inconsistencies and types of well-being. Positive and negative status inconsistencies both show links to lower-quality social relations.


Matthew A. Andersson





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