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Richer, More Confident, More Hireable: How Overconfidence Among the Upper Classes Is Hampering Social Mobility

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Studies strongly suggest that class differences in how kids are socialized create a barrier to upward mobility.

America likes to think of itself as the land of opportunity—but these days, there’s an excellent chance you’ll be stuck in the social class you were born into for the rest of your life. Precisely why it’s so hard to make that leap in status is a complicated question, but new research offers an intriguing clue.

A new study finds that people who occupy a higher place in the socio-economic hierarchy often believe, without evidence, that they are more capable than their lower-class counterparts. Crucially, this overconfidence can be misinterpreted by prospective employers to indicate higher competence, giving middle- and upper-class people a significant advantage in terms of hiring and, presumably, promotion.

“In the middle class, people are socialized to differentiate themselves from others, to express what they think and feel, and to confidently express their ideas and opinions, even when they lack accurate knowledge,” lead author Peter Belmi of the University of Virginia said in announcing the findings.

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