Poor but Warm, Rich but Cold (and Competent): Social Classes in the Stereotype Content Model

Federica Durante, Courtney Bearns Tablante, Susan T. Fiske

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

153 Scopus citations


Social class divides worsened during and after the Great Recession; this article documents one cultural feature of this divide, social-class stereotypes, both at the societal level (across nations) and at the individual level (personal beliefs about social-class groups and individuals). The Stereotype Content Model provides the shared theoretical framework focused on perceived warmth and competence of different social classes. In the international data, across cultures, people with high SES (socioeconomic status) are perceived ambivalently as competent but cold, their warmth even lower in more unequal societies. Low-SES people are seen as less competent but warmer, their alleged incompetence exaggerated under high inequality. The exaggerated warmth-competence trade-off helps justify the social-class system, especially under inequality. For personal stereotypes, predictions focus on warmth-competence trade-offs for each social-class target, and these results are most stable for the competent-but-not-so-warm high-SES targets. Consistent with the international results, high-SES people as a group are generally rated as more competent than warm. Similarly, a high-SES individual exemplar is judged as competent but less warm, whereas lower-SES individuals are seen as either more warm than competent or equally as warm as they are competent. Like the society-level data, perceptions of high-SES people are more stable than perceptions of lower-SES people, within these American samples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)138-157
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Poor but Warm, Rich but Cold (and Competent): Social Classes in the Stereotype Content Model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this