A transdisciplinary analysis of the role of social identity on performance under social stratification and stigmatisation

The emergent fields of stratification economics and identity economics offer new theoretical insights for explaining economic inequality, specifically the unique role that intersectionality (the existence of multiple social identities) might play. Whilst relational social identities derive from interpersonal relationships, categorical identities (such as race and gender) are socially constructed and often suffer stigmatisation. In role settings, the latter social identity can become embedded in the former; this implies that personal identities are not selfconstructed, but are constructed in social settings that are both given and historically transmitted. Stigmatisation therefore needs to be understood in terms of intergroup dynamics and social (and economic) power hierarchies. Stratification and stigmatisation of social identities remains deeply entrenched in South African society; nowhere is this more evident than in the South African education system. This research project proposes to investigate the role of stereotype threat in explaining differences in schooling performance, taking into account differences in individual attachment to these social identities, as well as differences in stigma consciousness and perception of the permeability of social boundaries. The dominant site for the proposed research will be an elite, former white university where the study body has undergone significant demographic transformation.

Project leader(s):
  • Debra Lynne Shepherd (Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University)

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