Socioeconomic Inequalities Impact Support on Campus: A France-USA Comparison
Professor Hazel Markus and I aim to investigate the relationship between growing economic inequality and social cohesion by studying the psychology and behavior of people from contrasted socioeconomic backgrounds. At university, although collaborative work including individuals with diverse social backgrounds is highly promoted, psychological consequences of social comparisons between co-actors students can negatively affect social cohesion in the group. Research in psychology demonstrated that students from higher (vs. lower) socioeconomic status feel more competent, more at ease in teamwork environments and thus tend to experience collaborative projects as more positive. We believe that, on collaborative tasks for which performance is important for one’s self-definition (e.g., academic task that are perceived to be a proxy of intelligence), being outperformed by relevant peer is more harmful for self-worth and self-esteem among higher (vs. lower) socioeconomic status students. These psychological consequences dampen collaborative behaviors towards outperforming peers. We will investigate students’ way of being and acting at different positions on the spectrum of economic inequality and competitiveness in two regions and cultures where the level of structural inequality is relatively high (US California) versus relatively moderate (France Auvergne). This research will help us to understand how to facilitate collaboration between students.