Comparative Disadvantage

Kevin Lewis

February 08, 2024

Perceptions of Falling Behind “Most White People”: Within-Group Status Comparisons Predict Fewer Positive Emotions and Worse Health Over Time Among White (but Not Black) Americans
Nava Caluori et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Despite the persistence of anti-Black racism, White Americans report feeling worse off than Black Americans. We suggest that some White Americans may report low well-being despite high group-level status because of perceptions that they are falling behind their in-group. Using census-based quota sampling, we measured status comparisons and health among Black (N = 452, Wave 1) and White (N = 439, Wave 1) American adults over a period of 6 to 7 weeks. We found that Black and White Americans tended to make status comparisons within their own racial groups and that most Black participants felt better off than their racial group, whereas most White participants felt worse off than their racial group. Moreover, we found that White Americans’ perceptions of falling behind “most White people” predicted fewer positive emotions at a subsequent time, which predicted worse sleep quality and depressive symptoms in the future. Subjective within-group status did not have the same consequences among Black participants.

Elaborating Embodied Boundaries: Medical Expertise and (Trans)Gender Classification
Tara Gonsalves
American Journal of Sociology, forthcoming

As coverage for gender-affirming surgery and hormone therapy has expanded over the past two decades, insurers are increasingly tasked with deciding which body modifications are necessary for accomplishing masculinity and femininity. Drawing from extensive records on coverage decisions and national health insurance plans, I investigate how insurers marshal gender categories to make decisions about medically necessary care. While insurers might be expected to draw on medical expertise to make decisions about gender-affirming care, I find that they use standards and stereotypes of normative, “ideal” gender. In doing so, expansions in coverage lead to an elaboration of ideal embodied gender based on a white, thin-bodied aesthetic. Ironically, as transgender people succeed in expanding insurance coverage, normative embodied gender becomes more defined and less ambiguous. In showing how insurers and the medical experts they consult mobilize and reconstitute embodied gender, I advance theories of classification, embodiment, and expertise.

New Results on the Disparities between Same-Sex and Different-Sex Couples in the Home Mortgage Market
Nir Eilam & Yeonjoon Lee
Federal Reserve Working Paper, January 2024

Despite improving public sentiment towards same-sex couples, research suggests that they still face discrimination in various markets. We empirically estimate disparities between same-sex and different-sex couples in the home mortgage market, an under-studied, yet important, market. Improving previous research, we use confidential administrative data on the universe of home mortgage applications in the US from 2018 until 2021. We identify same-sex and different-sex couples according to the gender of the mortgage applicant and co-applicant. Then, controlling for a rich set of lender, borrower, and loan characteristics, some of which are important in mortgage decisions but were not available in previous research like credit scores, we find that same-sex couples are 8.8 percent more likely to be denied a home mortgage than similar opposite-sex couples and conditional on being approved, are quoted an interest rate that is 0.8 percent higher. We explore heterogeneity by regions, by acceptance of same-sex marriage, and pre- and post-COVID. Interestingly, we also find that same-sex couples default significantly more (53.9%) than similar different-sex couples, which suggests an unobserved characteristic that causes same-sex couples to default more, and could explain a part of observed disparities in mortgage approval, undermining results in previous research.

Autistic People Are Believed to Feel More Pain than Non-Autistic People
Abha Basargekar et al.
Social Psychological and Personality Science, forthcoming

Members of some marginalized groups are erroneously considered relatively insensitive to pain, an assumption that seems to reflect beliefs that they have been toughened up by the hardship they have endured. Autistic people represent a marginalized group, and some clinical accounts erroneously suggest that they, too, are relatively insensitive to pain. In two pre-registered studies involving college students and Prolific workers in the United States (N = 287), we found that both autistic and non-autistic participants believed that an autistic target had experienced more hardship than a non-autistic target and (unexpectedly) would feel more pain than the non-autistic target or themselves. We speculate that our findings may reflect that autistic people are infantilized, viewed as vulnerable, and as lacking the agency to toughen up from life hardship.

Devaluation by Omission: Limited Identity Options Elicit Anger and Increase Identification
Sean Fath & Devon Proudfoot
Psychological Science, forthcoming

In the present research, we explored social-identity threat caused by subtle acts of omission, specifically situations in which social-identity information is requested but one’s identity is not among the options provided. We predicted that being unable to identify with one’s group -- that is, in the demographics section of a survey -- may signal social-identity devaluation, eliciting negative affect (e.g., anger) and increasing the importance of the omitted identity to group members’ sense of self. Six preregistered experiments (N = 2,964 adults) sampling members of two minority-identity groups (i.e., gender minorities and members of a minority political party) support these predictions. Our findings document the existence of a subtle but likely pervasive form of social-identity threat.

Unpacking the model minority stereotype: Different pathways to self-esteem through internalized stereotypes of hard work and innate intelligence
Melissa Witkow, Taylor Thompson & Lisa Kiang
Asian American Journal of Psychology, forthcoming

Asian Americans are often stereotyped according to the model minority myth, which falsely indicates that all Asian Americans experience success and are without the problems experienced by other minoritized groups. According to various definitions of the stereotype, this success stems from hard work and/or innate intelligence, although previous work has not considered possible differential implications of these two explanations. Using data from a sample of 241 Asian American emerging adults recruited through Qualtrics Panels, the goal of the present study was to examine whether there are distinct pathways between internalization of hard work and innate intelligence stereotypes and self-esteem. Consistent with hypotheses derived from research on implicit theories of intelligence, the results indicated that internalization of a hard work stereotype was indirectly and positively associated with self-esteem through grit, while internalization of an innate intelligence stereotype was indirectly and negatively associated with self-esteem through having a fixed mindset. Future work should continue to examine the stereotype as multifaceted in this and in perhaps other ways to more fully understand the impact of the model minority stereotype on Asian American youth and adults.

Digital Rage: Testing “the Obama Effect” on Internet-Based Expressions of Racism
Rob Eschmann et al.
Social Media + Society, December 2023

The concept, “White Rage,” has previously been used to describe the way Whites have historically responded to Black advancement with policies and practices designed to quietly disrupt the progress Blacks had been making. White rage is typically subtle, masking its true intent. In contrast, recent research has found that the covert, subtle expressions of racism that are so normal in most mainstream spaces may be less common in internet-based communication. The extent to which online racism is connected to real-world racist attitudes, behaviors, and events, however, is unclear. In this article, we test the effects of real-world racialized events on explicit expressions of racism in online spaces using days that Obama gave speeches as our treatment effect and explicit usage of the “n-word” on the social media platform X (formerly Twitter) as our measurable outcome. Does usage of the n-word, a racial slur, increase in the days following speeches made by President Obama? Our results of over 9 years and more than 2.9 million tweets demonstrate a statistically significant increase of racist speech in response to those speech cycles, which are further placed in contrast to the speeches of other political actors, including President Trump.

Effects of Voice Pitch on Social Perceptions Vary With Relational Mobility and Homicide Rate
Toe Aung et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Fundamental frequency (f-o) is the most perceptually salient vocal acoustic parameter, yet little is known about how its perceptual influence varies across societies. We examined how f-o affects key social perceptions and how socioecological variables modulate these effects in 2,647 adult listeners sampled from 44 locations across 22 nations. Low male f-o increased men’s perceptions of formidability and prestige, especially in societies with higher homicide rates and greater relational mobility in which male intrasexual competition may be more intense and rapid identification of high-status competitors may be exigent. High female f-o increased women’s perceptions of flirtatiousness where relational mobility was lower and threats to mating relationships may be greater. These results indicate that the influence of f-o on social perceptions depends on socioecological variables, including those related to competition for status and mates.


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