Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Keith B. Burt


Growing up in economic disadvantage is one of the strongest and most consistent predictors of mental health across the life course. Although the child development literature has largely focused on objective socioeconomic position (e.g., household income, parental education), some recent studies have explored how subjective social status (SSS), or perceived socioeconomic position, confers risk for youth psychopathology. Such studies have consistently found that youth with lower SSS are at increased risk for mental health problems compared to their higher SSS peers, regardless of the objective socioeconomic environment. Yet, it remains relatively unknown how SSS relates to objective socioeconomic measures and to mental health in marginalized groups and in objectively low socioeconomic settings. The current study aimed to address this gap by testing whether youth-reported SSS predicts mental health above and beyond objective socioeconomic indicators in a community-based sample of Black adolescents living in poverty. In contrast to prior findings, the current study found that lower SSS relative to society was modestly protective against externalizing problems, suggesting that the SSS-mental health relationship may be different, or more nuanced, for Black youth living in economically disadvantaged communities. However, the majority of mental health outcomes analyzed were not significantly associated with either objective or subjective socioeconomic measures. Instead, other cultural, rank-based dynamics may be contributing to mental health in this population. If interventions are to be developed targeting SSS to improve adolescent mental health and well-being, then cultural, contextual, and racial considerations should be considered.



Number of Pages

70 p.

Available for download on Saturday, June 07, 2025