Socioeconomic Status and Cultural Difference
- Keiko IshiiKeiko IshiiDepartment of Cognitive and Psychological Sciences, Nagoya University
- and Charis EisenCharis EisenDepartment of Social and Cultural Sciences and Social Work, Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences
Socioeconomic status (SES) is a multidimensional construct based on access to material resources and one’s own rank relative to others in a social hierarchy. It fundamentally shapes individuals’ psychological and behavioral tendencies. In many ways, socioeconomic variation parallels East–West cultural dynamics. Like East Asian cultures, lower SES fosters interdependence, a reduced striving for personal choice, holistic thinking, and the attribution of events and behavior to external causes. In contrast, similar to Western cultures, higher SES supports independence, a strong desire for control, self-expression through choice, analytic thinking, and internal attribution. SES has also been found to shape additional psychological tendencies. Because limited access to resources and education makes it necessary to rely on other people, lower SES has been shown to be linked to a greater understanding of others’ emotions and a tendency to act altruistically.
Although the evidence is still limited, this article describes what is known about the simultaneous influence of SES and culture. Some studies have explored similar SES effects across cultures. However, reflecting the variation in the dominant ideas and practices shared among people within sociocultural contexts, some studies have suggested that socioeconomic contexts elicit different psychological processes across national cultures. Higher-SES individuals especially seem to adjust themselves to culturally sanctioned ideas and practices. The article suggests directions for future research that will enhance our understanding of the interplay between SES and national cultures.