The social psychology of socioeconomic mobility

Colloquium | February 12 | 12:10-1:15 p.m. | 1104 Berkeley Way West

 Mesmin Destin, Associate Professor, Northwestern University

 Institute of Personality and Social Research

American society is devoting growing attention to issues of inequality and the existence of opportunities for socioeconomic mobility. Comprehensive data regarding actual rates of socioeconomic mobility do exist, however people show systematic biases in their perceptions of how likely they are to move up or down the socioeconomic hierarchy. Further, studies demonstrate that people’s exposure to different levels of societal inequality signal to them whether socioeconomic mobility is likely. These malleable beliefs about socioeconomic mobility have significant consequences. Experiments show that perceptions of socioeconomic mobility influence how young people develop and pursue their academic goals. Perceptions of socioeconomic mobility also influence a range of beliefs and behaviors related to meritocracy with complex and important implications for society.

Mesmin Destin is an associate professor at Northwestern University in the Department of Psychology and in the School of Education & Social Policy. He is also a fellow of Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research. Destin directs a multidisciplinary lab group and engages in research that investigates social psychological mechanisms underlying socioeconomic disparities in educational outcomes during adolescence and young adulthood. He uses laboratory and field experiments to identify social factors and interactions that influence how young people perceive themselves and pursue their futures. At the university level, he examines how social experiences and institutional resources shape the motivation and educational trajectories of low socioeconomic status and first-generation college students., 510-642-5050