Why do nominal characteristics acquire status value? A minimal explanation for status construction.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Why do beliefs that attach different amounts of status to different categories of people become consensually held by the members of a society? We show that two microlevel mechanisms, in combination, imply a system-level tendency toward consensual status beliefs about a nominal characteristic. (1) Status belief diffusion: a person who has no status belief about a characteristic can acquire a status belief about that characteristic from interacting with one or more people who have that status belief. (2) Status belief loss: a person who has a status belief about a characteristic can lose that belief from interacting with one or more people who have the opposite status belief. These mechanisms imply that opposite status beliefs will tend to be lost at equal rates and will tend to be acquired at rates proportional to their prevalence. Therefore, if a status belief ever becomes more prevalent than its opposite, it will increase in prevalence until every person holds it.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Mark, NP; Smith-Lovin, L; Ridgeway, CL

Published Date

  • November 2009

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 115 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 832 - 862

PubMed ID

  • 20503743

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1537-5390

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0002-9602

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1086/606142


  • eng