New AIAS working paper: Does desire for social status promote solidarity?

By Marii Paskov



Research has shown that solidarity – contributions to the wellbeing of others – is often rewarded with social status. This can give status seekers (i.e. people interested in elevated position in the social hierarchy) motivation to help others. However, the reputational gains resulting from solidarity can differ across societies. The objective of this paper is to study whether desire for social status promotes solidarity, and how societal context moderates this relationship. The study is based on individual-level data (N=161 727) from the European Social Survey that combines six waves of cross-sectional surveys collected in 27 countries over the period of 2002 to 2012. The results show that there is a strong positive relationship between status seeking and solidarity. However, the positive association is stronger in inegalitarian societies characterized by higher income inequality and lower governmental welfare effort. This suggests that the reputational gains of solidarity might be higher in inegalitarian societal contexts, as compared to egalitarian contexts. The combination of between- and within-country over-time empirical evidence adds to the strength of these findings.

Keywords: solidarity, status seeking, income inequality, welfare effort, contextual moderators.

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