Katharina Roesler

Department of Sociology

Class Bias and Perceived Consensus in Moral Evaluations, or When Does it Pay to Be Rich?


My project examines the conditions under which people express class bias in their moral evaluations of others. In particular, I hypothesize that when people believe there is low consensus about a non-normative behavior, they will judge working-class individuals less moral than upper-middle class individuals who engage in it. I predict that a lack of consensus will make evaluators uncertain how to respond (in the first- and third-order), causing them to use moral expectations that disadvantage working class individuals to evaluate the behavior. On the other hand, when people believe there is high consensus about the behavior, they will express bias against upper-middle class actors, whose behavior challenges the evaluators’ moral expectations, making them anxious and angry. By the same token, working class individuals in high-consensus conditions may be evaluated more favorably than in low-consensus conditions, as they confirm evaluators’ moral expectations more in the former.