Social Affiliation in Same-Class and Cross-Class Interactions

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Abstract

Historically high levels of economic inequality likely have important consequences for relationships between people of the same and different social class backgrounds. Here, we test the prediction that social affiliation among same-class partners is stronger at the extremes of the class spectrum, given that these groups are highly distinctive and most separated from others by institutional and economic forces. An internal meta-analysis of 4 studies (N = 723) provided support for this hypothesis. Participant and partner social class were interactively, rather than additively, associated with social affiliation, indexed by affiliative behaviors and emotions during structured laboratory interactions and in daily life. Further, response surface analyses revealed that paired upper or lower class partners generally affiliated more than average-class pairs. Analyses with separate class indices suggested that these patterns are driven more by parental income and subjective social class than by parental education. The findings illuminate the dynamics of same- and cross-class interactions, revealing that not all same-class interactions feature the same degree of affiliation. They also reveal the importance of studying social class from an intergroup perspective.

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