Not All Inequalities Are Created Equal: Inequality Framing and Privilege Threat for Advantaged Groups
Group Processes & Intergroup Relations
This paper investigates when and why members of privileged groups choose to describe inequality using disadvantage frames (e.g., “women have lower wages than men”) or advantage frames (e.g., “men have higher wages than women”). Four studies (N = 1,251) test the hypothesis that advantage frames are more threatening than disadvantage frames for privileged groups, and that privileged groups may strategically avoid using advantage frames when discussing illegitimate—but not legitimate—inequality. In Study 1, members of a privileged group (White Americans) exhibited more behavioral and cardiovascular indicators of threat when reading about, reflecting on, and discussing racial inequality framed as White advantage versus Black disadvantage. In Studies 2–4, members of privileged groups (but not underprivileged groups) used advantage frames less often when describing illegitimate inequality than when describing legitimate inequality. These studies suggest that subtle linguistic changes in descriptions of inequalities can threaten privileged groups, and that privileged groups may adjust their descriptions of inequality depending on its legitimacy.
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Dover, T. L. (2022). Not all inequalities are created equal: Inequality framing and privilege threat for advantaged groups. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 25(3), 746-767.