Class in the mind: A psychological capital perspective on class disadvantage in organizations



Workers with lower socioeconomic origins are disadvantaged in terms of achievement even when they attain a high level of education and work competence, an issue known as the “class ceiling.” Research trying to explain the class ceiling has focused predominantly on discrimination and bias that workers with lower socioeconomic origins might face. I present a theoretical perspective that highlights the role of workers’ psychological capital in explaining why the class ceiling emerges. I describe two longitudinal examinations of the role of psychological capital in the emergence of the class ceiling among samples of highly educated workers entering high-status professions. In a year-long longitudinal, 4-wave field study in the finance and banking industry, we find little evidence of class-based discrimination. In contrast, we find support for the explanation that the class achievement gaps emerge as a function of supply-side forces of social anxiety and, in turn, social capital development. I next describe a psychological intervention designed to remedy the issue and a 3-month long longitudinal field experiment that finds evidence of the intervention’s effectiveness. I discuss implications of the psychological capital perspective for promoting class inclusive workplaces.

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Meeting ID: 983 2920 2570