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Status Hierarchies and the Organization of Collective Action

Brent Simpson, Robb Willer, and Cecilia L. Ridgeway. “Status Hierarchies and the Organization of Collective Action.”  Sociological Theory, 2012, 30(Sept): 149-166.

Most work on collective action assumes that group members are undifferentiated by status, or standing, in the group. Yet such undifferentiated groups are rare, if they exist at all. Here we extend an existing sociological research program to address how extant status hierarchies help organize collective actions by coordinating how much and when group members should contribute to group efforts. We outline three theoretically derived predictions of how status hierarchies organize patterns of behavior to produce larger public goods. We review existing evidence relevant to two of the three hypotheses and present results from a preliminary experimental test of the third. Findings are consistent with the model. The tendency of these dynamics to lead status-differentiated groups to produce larger public goods may help explain the ubiquity of hierarchy in groups, despite the often negative effects of status inequalities for many group members.

Sociological Theory
2012
Brent Simpson