Prosperous but Fearing to Fall:  The Wealth Paradox, Collective Angst and Opposition to Immigration

Jetten, J. (University of Queensland), Mols, F. (University of Queensland), Steffens, N. (University of Queensland)

Building on a growing evidence base that relative economic gratification may be associated with harsh attitudes and prejudice towards minorities such as immigrants, the question remains why prosperity and wealth may enhance opposition to immigration. In four studies, we explore a potential mechanism underlying this so called ‘Wealth Paradox” and focus on the notion that wealthy people fear downward social mobility (i.e., “fear of falling”). We experimentally studied the effects of potential (Study 1, N=294) or actual (Study 2, N=166) downward mobility among the wealthy, as well as stagnating wealth while an initially poorer group quickly gains wealth over time (Study 3, N=151). We complete the series with a correlation study in a community sample in Australia (Study 4, N=621). Across studies, we find that the fear of falling is associated with more opposition to immigration and collective angst mediates this effect.

Twitter: @jetten_j

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