Social Class and Test Performance

Jean-Claude Croizet and Mathias Millet

in Stereotype Threat

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199732449
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918508 | DOI:
Social Class and Test Performance

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Each year, the profile report issued by the College Board systematically reveals that Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) scores are strongly related to parental annual income (College Entrance Examination Board, 2009). The very rich get the best scores, the very poor the lowest. This chapter focuses on the ways in which stereotypes that portray the poor as not intelligent impact test achievement. Compared to other literatures on gender or race, research on stereotype threat associated to social class remains largely underdeveloped, albeit consistent. First, we present research on the attitudes and stereotypes that people hold toward those who are poor. Poor people are the victims of a contemptuous stereotype that portray them as unintelligent and lazy. We then review the work that has studied the impact of such negative stereotypes on both achievement and ability testing. Borrowing from work on intersectionality and social reproduction (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1970), we next advocate for conceptualizing socioeconomic status, not as a personal variable, but more as a social process involving power asymmetry in the social structure. We then propose that stereotype threat is the psychological manifestation of a symbolic violence embedded in evaluative settings. We finally suggest that future research should investigate how ideology (stereotypes), institutional practices (evaluative settings), and behavior (performance) work together to recycle power and privilege into individual differences in intellectual merit.

Keywords: stereotype threat; socioeconomic status; poverty; intelligence; power; symbolic violence

Chapter.  6378 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social Psychology

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