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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Influencing the World Versus Adjusting to Constraints: Social Class Moderates Responses to Discrimination

  • Author(s): Townsend, SSM
  • Eliezer, D
  • Major, B
  • Mendes, WB
  • et al.

Although higher social class carries mental and physical health benefits, these advantages are less robust among members of racial and ethnic minority groups than among European Americans. We explore whether differential reactions to discrimination may be a factor in explaining why. Working-class and middle-class Latino American women engaged in an evaluative interaction with a European American woman who rejected them and held either prejudiced or unprejudiced attitudes. We examined how participants responded to this rejection by measuring neuroendocrine reactivity, executive functioning, and the affective content of their verbal responses during the interaction. Among middle-class Latinas, rejection from a prejudiced, compared to unprejudiced, out-group member was associated with less adaptive stress responses, greater cognitive depletion, and more feelings of uncertainty. In contrast, among working-class Latinas, neuroendocrine, cognitive, and affective responses were similar across the two sources of rejection. Results suggest that social class is an important moderator of responses to discrimination. © The Author(s) 2013.

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