Abstract

This article describes micro-macro processes through which simple structural conditions cause a nominal characteristic such as gender or race to acquire independent status value. These conditions are sufficient but not necessary and may or may not be involved in the actual historical origin of a given characteristic's status value. The argument assumes that a nominal characteristic becomes correlated with a difference in exchangeable resources. Blau's (1977) structural theory specifies the effects of the distribution of resources and the nominal characteristic on the likely characteristics of interactants in encounters. Expectation-states theory describes the situational beliefs about worthiness that develop among the resulting types of interactants. I combine the two theories to show where the nominal characteristic is likely to be connected with such situational beliefs, how this connection is affected by transfer and diffusion among types of interactants, and how this process can produce consensual beliefs in the characteristic's status value.

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I would like to thank Robin Stryker, John Skvoretz, Lynn Smith-Lovin, Barry Markovsky, Edward Lawler, Mary Glenn Wiley, Janet Chafetz, Margaret Mooney Marini, Sheldon Stryker, Randall Collins, the anonymous reviewers, and the Iowa Workshop on Theoretical Analysis for their helpful comments on various drafts of this article.