The Downside of Social Mobility: Status-Based Identity Uncertainty, Academic Achievement & Psychological Well-Being

Project: Research project

Project Details


The belief that people can transform their standing in society is an important American ideal. One of the primary means through which people pursue upward mobility is through higher education, making college and the period just after a time when social status may change. The proposed research investigates the antecedents and consequences of perceiving that one’s social status is in flux, called status identity uncertainty. The timing and triggers of this experience should differ by family socioeconomic status (SES). Undergraduates with low SES may have difficulty reconciling their past and (desired) future status identities, while high SES undergraduates may face uncertainty as they contemplate future careers and possible financial independence. Extending research on the benefits of knowing who you are (Campbell, 1990), the current proposal investigates the implications of status identity uncertainty for achievement and psychological well-being. An intended first step is to measure status identity uncertainty at critical periods (i.e., beginning and end of college) among students from different SES backgrounds. A second, longitudinal study plans to capture changes in status identity uncertainty over time. Both studies will assess academic engagement, current achievement, and psychological well-being. In a set of proposed laboratory experiments, students will be reminded of a past or future status identity, as a manipulation of status identity uncertainty, and then given assessments of academic engagement, well-being, and physiological stress. The proposed multi-method approach examines the experience and implications of status transitions.
Effective start/end date9/1/158/31/17


  • National Science Foundation (BCS-1531016)


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.