Social Status and Anti-Immigrant Attitudes in Europe: An Examination from the Perspective of Social Dominance Theory


  • Beate Küpper University of Bielefeld
  • Carina Wolf University of Bielefeld
  • Andreas Zick University of Bielefeld



A full test of the Social Dominance Theory model addressed immigration as one of the most prominent current intergroup conflicts in Europe. The hypothesis that members of high status groups tend to discriminate members of low status groups because they are more prone to Social Dominance Orientation (SDO) and refer more to legitimising myths such as prejudice was tested using representative samples from eight European countries (N = 1000 each), considering income and migrant background as social status indicators, SDO, anti-immigrant prejudice and diversity beliefs, and the intention to discriminate immigrants. The results confirm that individuals with higher SDO are more likely to discriminate immigrants, partly because of stronger anti-immigrant prejudice and partly because they believe less in diversity. However, the results question the role of social status. Contrary to the expectations of Social Dominance Theory, individuals with lower income are more prone to SDO and have stronger anti-immigrant attitudes and weaker diversity beliefs. The impact of migrant background was weak and ambivalent. We suggest reconsidering the role of social status to stress status maintenance and enhancement as general social motives. Regardless of their social position, people seemingly try to enhance their relative position by devaluing lower status groups.

Author Biographies

Beate Küpper, University of Bielefeld

Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence

Senior Research Manager

Carina Wolf, University of Bielefeld

Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence

Research Manager

Andreas Zick, University of Bielefeld

Faculty for Educational Science



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Focus: Prejudices and Intergroup Differentiation – Within and Between Cultures