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An Interdependence Advantage: Working Together Leads Groups from Working-Class Contexts to Outperform Groups from Middle-Class Contexts
Keywords: social class, culture, inequality, achievement gap
Abstract: The current research challenges a deficit model of social class differences, which assumes that people from working-class contexts have fewer skills than their middle-class counterparts. We theorize that one reason why people from working-class contexts often underperform is that standard U.S. measures of achievement assess people working individually. In contrast, we theorize that working together on measures of achievement will create a cultural match with the interdependent selves common among people from working-class contexts, therefore improving their performance and sense of fit. Three studies support our theorizing. Utilizing archival data on college student grades, Study 1 finds that groups with more students from working-class contexts perform better than those with fewer. Next, two experiments (Studies 2-3) show that working together (vs. individually) leads groups from working-class contexts to outperform groups from middle-class contexts, and individuals from working-class contexts to feel a greater sense of fit than individuals from middle-class contexts.