People want to know where they stand. Groups care deeply about where other groups stand. When a new group immigrates in significant numbers, people first ask whether they come with friendly or hostile intent. Do they come to cooperate, participate, and assimilate, or do they come to exploit, compete, and steal? Naturally, people want to know who may help or harm them. However, immediately after determining who is friend and who is foe, people want to know whether the other is capable of enacting those intentions. A fundamental question is the group's perceived status and from it follows their perceived capability to enact their intent, for good or ill.
To an extraordinary degree, people assume that groups of high status deserve it. As we will see, people all over the world agree that rich people, professionals, employers, and entrepreneurial immigrants achieve their high status with traits reflecting intelligence, competence, capability, and skill. Conversely, people all agree that others who are poor, homeless, drug addicted, or unemployed likewise deserve it because they are stupid, incompetent, incapable, and unskilled.
As our data will indicate, the strength of this effect is huge. In the senior author's career spanning decades, she has never observed correlations of these magnitudes. Why should people be so convinced that those with high status are endowed with superior competence and those of lower status are denied the same traits? This chapter explores the evidence and the reasons for this status endowment effect.