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Buffering-Resource or Status-Disconfirmation? How Socioeconomic Status Shapes the Relationship between Perceived Under-Reward and Distress

Sun, August 13, 8:30 to 10:10am, Palais des congrès de Montréal, Floor: Level 5, 520B


Compared to people who report being paid appropriately, do those who perceive under-reward report higher levels of depressive symptoms, physical health symptoms, and anger? And, more importantly, how does socioeconomic status—as measured by education and income—moderate any observed associations? Using data from a nationally representative sample of American workers from diverse occupations, sectors, and social statuses, I test two hypotheses that articulate those contingencies: buffering-resource and status-disconfirmation. Results for income support the buffering-resource hypothesis, such that the relationship between perceived under-reward and three measures of distress are weaker among those with higher income. The patterns for education, however, suggest support for both hypotheses: higher education buffers the effect of slight underpayment on the three distress outcomes, but does not buffer the effect of severe underpayment. I discuss the way these findings integrate theories from the sociology of stress and distributive justice in an effort to better describe emotional inequality in the population.