Why and When Is Status Inconsistency Stressful?

A model for research on social stress shows the extensive literature on status incosistency to be almost devoid of studies that are both theoretically and methodologically adequate. This model implies that status inconsistency effects should be evident (1) on proximate, perceived stresses (e.g., role conflict, anger) as opposed to distal outcomes (e.g., prejuice) and/or (2) for persons with certain personality or social characteristics. Specific hypotheses of both types are tested for occupation-education inconsistency in a sample of 310 men. Empirical evidence of inconsistency effects is found for only one of several types of proximate, perceived stresses: underload. However, as predicted, inconsistency effects of high occupation combined with low education are quite strong for men either over 45 or low in extrinsic work motivation but are not evident in other parts of the sample. Based on a small number of inconsistent persons, these results must be viewed cautiously; yet they suggest that more careful theorizing about status inconsistency may prove empirically fruitful.