Psychological research on socioeconomic status (SES) has grown significantly over the past decade. In this article, the researchers build upon and integrate existing approaches to direct greater attention toward investigating the subjective meaning and value that people attach to understanding their own SES as an identity. Drawing from multiple areas of research on identity, the researchers suggest that even temporary shifts in how people construe their status-based identities predict changes in thought, affect, motivation, and behavior.
This novel focus is positioned to examine the psychological effects of status transitions (e.g., upward or downward mobility). Further, in initial empirical work, we introduce a new measure to assess uncertainty regarding one’s SES (i.e., status-based identity uncertainty) and offer evidence that greater uncertainty regarding one’s status-based identity is associated with lower individual well-being. In sum, we argue that insight from the literature on identity will both expand and serve to organize the burgeoning literature on the psychology of SES and, in so doing, reveal promising new directions for research.