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A Formal Interpretation of the Theory of Relative Deprivation


A. DAVIS, University of Chicago

NationalOpinion ResearchCenter is currently conducting a studyof financial and other factors affecting thecareerdecisions ofgraduate students in the traditional artsand sciences. In casting about fortheoretical tools,it occurred to us thatthe lot of the American graduatestudent mightbe characterized, notas one of actual economic destitution but as one of relative deprivation of thefamous sortexperienced byAmerican soldiers in WorldWar II. It occurred to us that if thiswere the case, the "theoryof relativedeprivation" might a gooddeal ofourdata. explain to themajorwritings The original We quicklyturned on thattheory. conceptualization, of course,occursin The American Soldier(3) volumesand a famouscritique of the conceptappearsin an essay by Mertonand Kitt (2). Rereadingthese two worksleftus shortof our goal. While The American informal Soldiertextwas highly and the theory was uncodified (Mertonand Kitt note that nowhere in The American Soldieris relativedeprivation detheMerton fined), and Kitt theory is devoidofsubstantive propositions about relative deprivation. In orderto bridgethisgap we proceeded to spell out,in formal fashion a theoretical willencompass a relatively which mostof system, the ResearchBranchauthors'interpretations of relativedeprivation. We do not claimthatthisis the theory the ResearchBranchauthors actuallyused, but we do believethat the theory goes some distancein makingexplicitthe Soldier. which arguments appearin The American we do not claim that the theory is "true" in the sense that Furthermore, abouthumanbehavior it. Rather, nowknown tendsto substantiate everything of propositions it is our beliefthatthe system is logically consistent, has an fortesting. and can generate empirical reference, hypotheses Empirical studies in their ofthehypotheses theirlimitamayresult rejection or,moreprobably, tion to specific circumstances and situations. However,we believethat one is that the assumptions can be conof the advantagesof such codification firmed or rejectedonlywhentheyhave been spelledout. The remainder of toan exposition ofthetheory. is devoted thisessaythen

in one or more somepopulation whichcan be partitioned Let us consider classes (e.g., married v. not married or drafted v. not waysintodichotomous is as follows: Ourfirst drafted). assumption 280



throughout the populais considered 1. At least one of thesepartitionings divides the in desirability. Such a partitioning tion to reflect differences thelatter state and thenon-deprived, population intotwoclasses,thedeprived to theformer. being universally preferred are in to sayingthatone or moreof the partitions Assumption 1 amounts It does not is consensus in thepopulation. terms of a "value" on whichthere assume that everyone outsidethe universe would agree on this evaluation. Partywouldnothave thesame deprivaThus,membership in theCommunist of theU.S.S.R. of theU. S. as it wouldin an analysis tionstatusin an analysis hereand do "ranking" In addition, we shouldnotethatwe are onlyassuming be acexperience pain, only that deprivation not requirethat the deprived The theory does not claim thannon-deprivation. knowledged as less desirable in values.Rather,the theory thatin all social groupsone will findconsensus wherethereis consensus. considers of situations some of the consequences can also occur,but Wherepeopledo notagreeon values,relative deprivation deprivation in a givengroupwillnot thenbe a simple theamountof relative function we are outlining. ofthevariables In orderto developthe specific we will use as implications of the theory, matrix our toola "comparison as a symmetrical matrix." This maybe defined of thepopulation consist of the cross-partitioning in whichrowsand columns beingassociated classes,the rowsbeingassociatedwithego and the columns the "viewpoint" of ego. While withalter,although the entire matrix is from is not obvious.The definition, its interpretation thiswill serveas a formal in the system under is to list all possiblecomparisons purposeof the matrix of a certain consideration. Sinceeach comparison consists typeof ego (e.g., a witha certaintype of alter (e.g., a nonhimself deprivedego) comparing all thepossibletypesof egos pairedwithall deprived alter),whenwe specify the possibletypesof alters,we have listed all of the possiblecomparisons. withthepossibletypesof alters, Sincethepossibletypesof egos are identical our of the classes in the population, and each is givenby the cross-partition willserveto produce definition a listofpossiblecomparisons. apparently If no population Let us consider twospecific other characteristics examples. are includedin the analysis,the mostsimpletypeof comthandeprivation matrix is as follows: parison

Matrix theViewpoint on Partitioned ofa Given Ego) fora Population Comparison (from Deprivation Only
Alter Deprived Non-Deprived


Deprived Non-Deprived

a c

b d



in the Four typesof comparison are possible,as designated by the letters fourcells. To anticipate cell "b" is what produces our argument somewhat, relative deprivation according to thetheory. Whenwe add a secondsocialcategory, thepossibilities increase considerably. matrixwill In general,given n categories in the analysis,the comparison consist of (2n)2 cells,sincethere of dichotomous characare 2ncombinations teristics in anygiven of identical rowsand population, and thematrix consists columns. Let us nowturn toassumptions 2 and 3. 2. Within thepopulation, comparisons are random. 2 is ratherimportant, Assumption both technically and substantively. Froma technical it enablesus to use thecalculusofprobabilities pointofview, as a language forderiving from thetheory. hypotheses Thus,if theprobability of comparison X is thesameas theproportion of comX, and theprobability thenit Y is thesameas proportion parison are random, Y, and all comparisons withX and also withY follows that theprobability of a personcomparing is theproduct ofthetwoprobabilities. From a substantive point of view, the assumption may appear dubious. However, we have littleor no empirical data on howpeopleactuallydo comto refute the assumption, is gathered we see pare,and untilenoughevidence no reasonto introduce one. Taken together, a morecomplicated assumptions 1 and 2 suggest an implicit do "realism"in the theory. While we certainly have evidence thatsocial perceptions are oftendistorted needs and by social in The structural location,the theoryof relativedeprivation(implicitly in thisessay) tendsto assumefairly American Soldierand explicitly simple in whichindividual in perception variation situations and evaluation is small. on therelations the theory between This maybe a goodplace to comment of ofsocialcomparisons relative and Festinger's deprivation theory (1). Whilewe out theformal thetwo,it appearsthatboth havenotworked relations between treatthesameempirical withthisdifference: theories thetheory phenomenon, theconsequences forthegroupwhere treats ofrelative deprivation perceptions are unambiguous; thetheory of social comparisons and evaluations treatsthe for the individual of where consequences comparisons perceptionsand evaluationsare ambiguous.It thus appears that both theoriesare special cases of some more generaluncodified theory, whichcan specifythe cirwherethe Festinger cumstances modelapplies and the circumstances where therelative deprivation modelapplies. Now thatwe have defined thepossibletypesof comparisons and theirfrelet us turnto theheartof thetheory, quency, a set of assumptions about the of varioustypesof comparisons. psychological consequences To do so, howa further distinction. If we consider ever,we mustintroduce any social cate-



goryotherthan deprivation, we can dividethe comparisons into two types, (a) in-group comparisons or comparisons between people in the same subcategory and (b) out-group comparisons or comparisons betweenpeople in different categories. Thus,whenmarried mencompare withmarried men this is an in-group comparison; whenenlisted men comparewithofficers, this is an out-group comparison. Now, let us specify our assumptions. In-Group Comparisons 3. If a person (ego) compareshimself with a person (alter) when ego and alterdiffer in theirdeprivation, ego experiences a subjective feeling opin to theevaluation ofalter'scondition. posite direction
a. When a deprived person compares himselfwith a non-deprived, the resultingstate will be called "relativedeprivation." b. When a non-deprived person compareshimselfwith a deprivedperson,the resulting statewill be called "relativegratification."

4. A person or relative either relative experiencing gratification deprivation statusis different willalso experience a feeling thathis deprivation from that of his peers.We willcall this"fairness," in thesensethatit indicates a belief in thein-group. thatthere is differential treatment 4 says thata cross-comparison will result in a person'sfeeling Assumption thathis treatment is different from thatof his peers,whileassumptions 3 a. and 3 b. predict how he will feel about it. 3 a. and 3 b. are the mostcomand in the textare implied monarguments used in The American Soldier, by suchstatements as:
. . . comparinghimselfwith his married civilian friendshe (the drafted marriedman) could feel that he had been called on for sacrifices which they were escaping altogether. (AS I, p. 125) (Relative Deprivation) . . . Relative to most Negro civilianswhom he saw in Southerntowns, the Negro soldier had a positionof comparativewealth and dignity.(AS I, p. 563) (Relative Gratification)

forout-group A similarset of assumptions may be specified comparisons. Out-Group Comparisons himself witha person(alter) in an out-group 5. If a person(ego) compares in theirdeprivation, whenego and alter differ ego will experience a feeling in direction toward alter'sgroupopposite to theevaluation ofalter'scondition.
a. When a deprived person compares himselfwith a non-deprivedout-groupmember, the resulting attitudetoward the out-groupwill be called "relative subordination." b. When a non-deprivedperson compares himselfwith a deprived out-groupmember, the resulting attitudetoward the out-groupwill be called "relative superiority."

6. A person either relative or relative subordination experiencing superiority



willalso experience a feeling thathis deprivation from that statusis different of theout-group. We willcall this"social distance." Assumptions of3 and 4 at theinter-group 5 and 6 are analogues levelrather thantheintra-group level. These six assumptions complete thetheory. Whether theyare "true"or not is, of course, unknown without considerable empirical research. Furthermore, we shouldemphasize thatalthough theanalysisof falsetheories is notalways the best investment of timeand effort, our interest is not in truth or falsity per se, but rather in whether our theory willsuccessfully codify the reasoning used by the ResearchBranchauthors. Our claimis thatin ten out of eleven examples it does. from Beforeproceeding to specific cases, let us drawa fewinferences our theory foruse in theanalyses.Fromassumption 2 and from the appropriate in 3 through assumptions 6 we can, by elementary define probability theory,1 the expected probabilities forour variousphenomena. Considering PA as the probability of deprivation amongthe A's and QA as the probability of nonfromthe deprivation amongthe A's, we get the following:(All inferences theory willbe givenArabicnumerals.) 1. The proportion of persons in A experiencing relativedeprivation 2. The proportion of deprivedin A experiencing = relativegratification = QA 3. The proportion of deprived in A experiencing relative deprivation in A experiencing 4. The proportion of non-deprived = relative gratification = 2 (PA X QA) ofA's experiencing of unfairness 5. The proportion a feeling = PA X QNA 6. The proportion of A's experiencing relativesubordination = QA X PNA of A's experiencing 7. The proportion relative superiority = (PA X QNA) + of A's experiencing social distance 8. The proportion

thefashion in which we developed theeightinferences We can illustrate by two of themin detail. Inference1 considersthe proportion of considering A who experience attribute relativedeprivapeople amongthosepossessing to the theory, an A will experience relative tion.Now, according deprivation of circumstances: in the following combination whenhe is deprived himself, and whenhe compares witha non-deprived A. Now,theproportion of A's who of his is PA by definition; thatan A, regardless are deprived theprobability A equals theproportion witha non-deprived deprivation status,willcompare
1 To keep the argumentsimplewe shall assume throughout that the numberof persons in the in-groupis so large that the subtraction of ego himselffromthe populationof alters on the probabilities. has only a negligible effect



of non-deprived A's (from assumption 2); hence,theprobability of the joint occurrence amongthe A's consistsof the productof the two probabilities, 8 will serveas another i.e. PA X QA. Inference example.Social distance, by in a given definition, ariseswhena person category compares withan out-group in deprivation. member who differs This can happen two ways: a deprived ego comparing witha non-deprived out-group alter,or a non-deprived ego compared witha deprived out-group alter.Using the same arguments as in forthefirst example1, theexpectation typeis (PA X QNA) or theprobability timestheprobability thattheout-group (amongtheA's) thatego is deprived is non-deprived. The expectation forthesecond alterwithwhomhe compares is similarly (QA X PNA) and the amountof social distance is thesum of the two. mustbe readwitha slight all of theequals signsin theequations Obviously, grainof salt,sincewe can hardlyexpectthatany dichotomous social science ofrelative measure wouldyieldtheprecise deprivation probabilities predicted, of measurement. giveninherent difficulties Thus, technically, the equals signs of." However,since the use to should be read as "is a linear function to comparing thetheory in terms which willbe put is limited social systems of rather thanestimating more orlessdeprivation, thequalificaexactproportions, thefollowing tiondoesnotaffect arguments. In short, all of theparameters implied by thetheory maybe deducedfrom in thesub-classes. thedistribution ofdeprivation

of relative elevenspecific We shallconsider examples deprivation reasoning. Mertonand Kitt list nine in theiressay (MK pp. 43-45). In additionwe and dividedtheir one more, number 6 intotwoparts.We discovered example 10 forourserendipitous shalluse theMK numbering, addingnumber discovery it is our 6 a. and 6 b. Of the number 6 into belief and dividing thatthe eleven, formalizes ten.This, of course,is not amazing, as thisis theory successfully to do. was designed whatthetheory precisely We will begin with our failure(MK number 3). The Research Branch authors say:
levels of aspirationthan the less educated,the bettereducatedman had more Withhigher to lose in his own eyes and in the eyes of his friendsby failureto achieve some sort of was greaterfor him . . . (AS I, p. 153) status in the Army.Hence, frustration

heretreatan intra-personal not an inter-personal The authors comparison, the boundaries of thus fall more within the and one, than Festinger theory The argument of relativedeprivation. is thus irrelevant the theory to the notcontradictory. theory,



cases (1, 2, and 10). In each onlya Let us beginwiththe threesimplest and thedependent is considered in addition to deprivation, singlepartitioning our theory. 3 from in inference variableis of the typeconsidered Men MK 1. Married and SingleDrafted in thiscase, only actuallyuse twoarguments The ResearchBranchauthors the from our model.Since Mertonand Kitt reproduce one of whichfollows from the quotation another argument we can beginby introducing non-model samepage:
to those marriedmen who psychologically A further elementmust have been important were drafted.The very fact that draftboards were more liberal with marriedthan with singlemen providednumerousexamplesto the draftedmarriedman of othersin his shoes who got relatively betterbreaks than he did.... Hence, the marriedman, on the average, was more likelyto come into the army with reluctanceand, possibly,a sense of injustice. (AS I, p. 125)

may be put as follows:the In terms of the theory, the authors'argument forsinglethanformarried Q is greater men; therefore value of P is greater since feelingsof relative for marriedmen than for single; consequently, married 3), drafted withQ (inference thedeprived increase among deprivation relative deprivation. to experience likely menwillbe more toDraft MK 2. HighandLow Educationand Reactions hereis exactlythe same as in case 1, the criticalquotation The argument being:
On the average, the non-high school man who was inducted could point to more than himself, who, nevertheless, acquaintances conceivablyno more entitledto deferment on occupationalgrounds. had been deferred

MK 10. Ageand Reactionto theDraft not citedin the Mertonand Kitt essay,the following exampleis Although identical: almost
in the draft... of older men than of youngermen got deferment . . . a largerproportion thus providingthe older soldiers,like the marriedsoldiers,with ready made examples of less deprivation.(AS I, p. 126) who were experiencing men with comparablebackgrounds

twoexamples. wouldbe thesameas in theprevious The interpretation but theyalso suggest Examples1, 2, and 10 notonlyseemto fitthetheory, in general. aboutrelative inferences deprivation twomore is withobjectivedeprivation, correlated social 9. If a given categorization in the more will be morefrequent amongthe deprived relativedeprivation favored category.



10. If a givensocial categorization is correlated withobjective deprivation, relativegratification will be more frequent among the non-deprived in the lessfavored category. of correlation as a disEach of thesecan be developedfrom a definition proportion between the levels of deprivation in sub-categories. The inthe threeexamples, ferences not onlyserveas a conciseway of summarizing but theyalso providea tool forfurther analysis,as theysuggestthat additionalinferences may be developedthrough usingthe knownalgebraicproperties ofmeasures ofassociation. This willbe particularly whenwe turn helpful toanalyzesystems ofsocialcategories. with larger numbers in which as instances Examples4, 6a., 7, 8, and 9 maybe grouped together two social categories or partitions, in additionto objectivedeprivation, are the used in the arguments about relative deprivation. As might be expected, implicit inferences fromthe theory are morecomplexthan in the previous from certain inferences our assumpexamples;butagainwe can derive general tionswhichappear to cover the situation. We can begin with example6a. MK 6a. Longevity, Educationand Promotion
... those soldierswho had advanced slowly relativeto othersoldiersof equal longevity in the Armywere most criticalof the Army'spromotionopportunities. But relativerate of standardsby different classes of the Armypopulaadvancementcan be based on different tion.For example,a grade school man who became a corporalaftera year of servicewould have had a more rapid rate of promotioncomparedwith most of his friendsat the same educational level than would a college man who rose to the same grade in a year. Hence, the bettereducated would be more likely we would expect,at a given rank and longevity, to complainof the slownessof promotion.... (AS I, p. 250)

of correlations, The sameargument maybe recastin terms as follows: between 1. Thereis a positivecorrelation longevity and promotion. of high longevity Therefore (frominference 9), non-promoted will show thannon-promoted of shortlongevity. morerelative deprivation between 2. Thereis a positive correlation education and promotion, within eachlongevity group. inference of higheducation Therefore (from 9), non-promoted shouldshow than non-promoted of low education. relativedeprivation greater the authorsdeduce,in effect, From thesepropositions, that the inference 2 shouldhold within from proposition levels (i.e., the partialsdo longevity is held constant). not vanishwhenlongevity from thetheory thattheargument is valid. It can be shown Considerthe following layout of the variables: promotion, longevity and education. to proveis that thereis morerelative Now, what the authorsare trying in cell "d" thanin cell "b" and thereis morerelative deprivation deprivation


and Education Promotion, Longevity,
Promoted Not Promoted

HighLongevity Low Longevity

Low Education HighEducation Low Education HighEducation

a c e g

b d f h

in cell "h" thanin cell "f" (i.e., thecorrelation between education and relative deprivation does not disappearwhenlongevity is partialedout). In the following table we can list the out-group cells withwhicheach of ourgroups DO NOT compare. in the relative of any two groupsmustbe Now, the difference deprivation due to thosegroups whichare used as comparisons by one and not the other, in relative since the commoncomparisons on differences have no effect Let us then ourtwopairsofcells: deprivation. consider The difference between "b" and "d" is thatthe b's comparewithe-f,and do not compare withg-h; whilethe d's compare withg-h,and not e-f.Now, theauthor's assumption thatthecorrelation between education and promotion holds withinlongevity groupsamountsto sayingthat thereare more promotedin g-h thanthereare in e-f.This means,then,that the d's (who DO comparewith g-h, and not with e-f) are more likely to comparewith a promoted personand hence experience relativedeprivation. The same argumentcan be applied in each of the levels of the table, with the following general inferences. 11. If A and B are social categories in thecomparison and A has a system, consistent withdeprivation whenlevelsof B are introduced relationship as a testvariable, A will have a correlation withrelative deprivation within both levels of B. the correlation between beingoppositein sign to the correlation A and objective deprivation. willgenerate thefollowing inferences: This,in turn, 12. If A and B are social categories, betweenA and (a) the correlation
Non-In-Group Comparisons
Group Not an In-Group Comparison

d b h

e,f, g,h a, ,
c, d



and objectivedeprivation differs in size or sign within levels of B and (b) within a specific level of A thereis no correlation betweenB and objective deprivation, therewill be a correlation betweenB and relativedeprivation within thelevelofA specified by2. MK 8 and 9. Race, Region, and Deprivation Inference 12 may not appear to be intuitively clear,but it is the implicit argument usedbytheResearch in their Branch ofrace,region, authors analysis and deprivation. These are reallythesame exampleand may be summarized as follows:
... the psychologicalvalues of Armylife to the Negro soldier in the South relative to the SouthernNegro civilian greatlyexceed the psychologicalvalues of Army life to the Negro soldierin the North relativeto the NorthernNegro civilian. (AS I, p. 564)

Considering thefollowing theargument in terms onlyNegroes, willre-state ofourtheory: 1. The correlation between civilian-soldier and objective deprivation varies In theNorth(to over-state by region. to make thepointclear) theargument the correlation is negative(soldiersare moredeprived thancivilians); while in the South the correlation is positive (soldiers are less deprivedthan civilians). 2. There is no difference in the objectivedeprivation of Negro soldiers in theNorth in theSouth. and Negrosoldiers to inference Thus, according will be a correlation 12, there between region and relative even though theirobjectivedeprivadeprivation amongsoldiers, tionis no different. concerns ExampleMK 7, which and promotion, rank, is identical longevity, in itsassumptions withexample 6 and theconclusion follows from 11, inference that thereis a correlation given the author'simplicitassumption between longevity and promotion each rank.We shall not thendiscussthisin within detail. MK 4. Combatand Overseas Service Our last multi-variable and therefore, case, MK 4, is of a different nature, in shouldbe examined somedetail.The problem is thatofexplaining whythere in theattitudes is onlya smalldifference of soldiers in theU. S. and stationed in objectivedeprivanon-combat difference troopsoverseas, despitea definite tion.The ResearchBranchauthors as follows: analyzetheproblem
it is, of course,truethat the overseassoldier,relativeto soldiersstill at home, In general, suffered a greaterbreak with home ties and with many of the amenitiesof life in the United States . . . But it was also true that, relative to the combat soldier,the overseas soldier (in rear areas of an active theater) not in combat and not likelyto get into combat far less deprivationthan the actual fighting man. (AS I, p. 172) suffered



considers twodeprivation Ratherthantwo"social" categories, thisexample categories-beingoverseas and being in combat. Their-cross-partitioning wouldgivethefollowing:
TABLE 4 Combat Comparisons andStation
Combat Non-Combat



a c

One of the combinations (combat soldierin U. S.) does not occur emcomparipirically. Now,let us consider soldiers in the"c" cell.Theirin-group sons will be "b" and "a," and other"c's." That is, in comparing themselves withother and in comparoverseas soldiers, theywillincludethosein combat, soldierstheywill includethosein the ing themselves withothernon-combat U. S. Whentheycompare with"a's" theywillsuffer relative deprivation; but when theycomparewith "b's" theywill enjoy relativegratification. Thus, the relative deprivation produced the existence of the "b" cell tendsto offset with"a's." Now, according to the theoryat least, this by the comparison solace is not available to thosein the "a" cell,since forthem"b" is an outwithpeople groupcomparison, and the theory assumesthatonlycomparisons deprivation or gratification. in thesamelogicalclassesproducerelative thepreceding We maysummarize sections which by sayingthatinferences fromthe assumptions followdeductively of the theory have enabled us to in eightof the thearguments formalize used by theResearchBranchauthors in the Merton-Kitt article.Furthermore, elevenexamples although collected we can not claim complete codification by any means,the analysishas sugcan be foras here formulated, gestedthat relativedeprivation hypotheses, fordeducing conclusions thewellknown systems malizedand codified through of thetheory should ofcorrelations. This property from theinter-relationships to testing with"survey" typedata as wellas through experimakeit amenable mental techniques. in The American Soldiertreatsattitudes towards Onlyone of theexamples as the dependentvariable,althoughthese attitudesare as an out-group in thegeneraltheory as relative and relative deprivation gratificaimportant as follows: tion.Example5 maybe summarized and Men MK 5. Officers
betweenofficers and men in the enjoyment of scarce . . . the less the differential case beingthatof actualcombat-thelesslikely extreme was theenlisted privileges-the oftheofficers.... manto be critical (AS I, p. 181)



subordination," The dependent variable hereis whatwe havecalled"relative are givenby inference 6 in the theory. and the expected probabilities terms whatis meantby "the less The problem is to assess in moreformal in the thedifferential." This maymeaneither theabsolutelevelof deprivation and deprivation. Now, acsystemor the correlation betweenthe category in is PA X QNA. If differwe are interested cording to inference 6, the thing while holdingthe the correlation, ential means correlation only,increasing amountsto adding the value of PA, absolutelevel of deprivation constant, fromthe value of PNA and thus adding to the value of QNA. subtracting the productPA X QN;Amustincreaseas "discrimination" against Obviously the A's increases. What,on the otherhand,happensif we mean "absolute" in deprivation? as adding a certain difference We can thinkof this effect it from QNA. If we think probability to both PA and PNA, thussubtracting forrelative subordination of thisadditionas X, the new formula amongthe A's becomes: RS = (PA + X) (QNA - X) --PAQNA + QNAX - PAX -X2 The value of thisformula whenever PAX + X2 is greater willbe decreased than QNAX, or whenever PA + X2 is greater than QNA.The exact circumstanceswill varywiththe value of X, but it is clear that even whenX is verysmall if both PA and PNA are greater than .50, additionof a constant of theA's. In short to bothprobabilities willlowertherelative subordination we mayconclude that, whendeprivation ratesare highin bothclasses,adding subordinaa constant to thedeprivation of bothgroupswill decreaserelative tend to supportthe authors' of "differential" tion. Thus, both definitions informal reasoning. We can nowadd thefollowing inferences: is held constant, 13. Whenthetotalrateof deprivation relative subordination varies directly with the correlation betweenthe social categoryand objective deprivation. 14. Whencorrelation is held constant, the deprivation probabilities raising in bothsocial classes equallywill decreasethe amountof relative subordinationif (a) theincrement of deprivation is quitelargeand/or(b) deprivation ratesin bothclasseswerequitehigh initially. MK 6b. Fairness between attitudes toward promotion Example6 b. is thefamous comparison in theAirForceand theMilitary Police.The ResearchBranchauthors begin thefollowing: with
Air Corpsmentended to takea dimmer viewof promotion opportunities formenof in theArmy thandid theMilitary Police... chances of promotion in theMilitary ability in any branch of theArmy-among Policewereabout theworst thissampleof menin



the Armyone to two years,only 24 per cent of the MP's were noncomsas comparedwith 47 per centof the Air Corps men. (AS I, p. 251)

arguadvance the following thisto be anomalous, theauthors Considering ment:

But considera high school graduate or college man in the Military Police with Army longevityof one to two years. The chances of his being a noncom were 34 out of 100. If he earned the rating,he was one of the top third among his fellows. If he failed to earn the rating,he was in the same boat with two thirds of his fellows with equal The schooling.Contrasthim with the Air Corps man of the same education and longevity. chances of the latter's being a noncom were 56 in 100, based on the proportionsin this sample at this time. If he had earned a rating,so had the majority of his fellowsin the was less conspicuousthan in the MP's. If he had failedto earn branch,and his achievement a rating, while the majorityhad succeeded,he had more reason to feel a sense of personal system... (AS I, p. 251) of the promotion as criticism whichcould be expressed frustration,

two separatesubsystems (they In our terms, the authorsare comparing of Police) in terms withMilitary makeno claimthatAir Forcemencompare a soldierwithabilityhas a fairness questionwas "Do you think (the survey to the theory in the Army?"). Now, according good chance forpromotion shouldequal 2PQ. SinceP equals .34 in theMilitary 5), unfairness (Inference is as follows: "unfairness" Police,and .56 in theAir Force,theexpected
TABLE 5 Feelingsof Unfairness ExpectedProportionExperiencing AirForce MilitaryPolice .49 .45

place, the In the first deserve comment. Two aspectsof thisinterpretation reaching its peak whereP = Q = .5, and of 2PQ is curvilinear, distribution 0 or 1. That is, we find justificaa formal steadily as P movestoward declining and Kitt'stroubled footnote: Merton tionfor
. . .it is scarcely probable that this relationshipbetween actual mobility rates and with mobilitychances holds throughout the entirerange of variaindividual satisfaction is curvilinear, and thisrequiresthe sociologistto work tion.... Presumablythe relationship underwhichthe observedlinearrelationfails to obtain. (MK, n. out toward the conditions p. 54)

is thatthe ResearchBranchauthors do not The secondpointworth noting but one which of thetheory, invalid.They say use our argument, is, in terms wereless happy and the non-promoted that in the Air Force the promoted thanin the Military Police. Then theyimplicitly assumethat moreunhappy itemtheyare considering measures and the questionnaire personalhappiness is greater in the Military Police. According to the thatthesum of happiness to inferences 1 and 2 theproportion thiscan not be so, foraccording theory,



Hence, gratified. relatively alwaysequals theproportion deprived ofrelatively If, howin theother. by an increase in one is alwaysaccompanied an increase variableis "fairness," as we have done,thatthedependent ever,one assumes, with are congruent of theauthors theconclusions notdeprivation-gratification, thedata in all instances. and with thetheory

While our theory was designedto codifythe examplesin The American a large the schemeis capable of generating Soldier,as in all formalizations, some will suggest the theory In particular, hypotheses. of additional number in considered whichare not of simplesocial systems aspectsof the structure differences on sub-group concentrates The American Soldier,whichtypically is as a whole.While the following of the system than characteristics rather it may withthetheory, which can be treated ofquestions onlyone ofa number someofitspossibilities. servetoillustrate ofeducation, ways,in terms in numerous maybe partitioned Anypopulation the etc., etc. In some of these instances, age, sex, hair color,introversion, as in the social divisions, logical divisionis also associatedwithrecognized an equally or political parties.In otherinstances, sub-groups case of religious trait,will not producesociallyrecdistinction, e.g., a personality important about conditions somehypotheses Our theory suggests sub-groupings. ognized self-conscious willproduce sub-groupings. which will be most To begin with,let us assume, by fiat,that sub-grouping sub-group of theparticular in a social system when: (a) members prominent and of the out-group, from members to be verydifferent themselves consider to each to be verysimilar consider themselves of thesub-group (b) members to our variablesof social distanceand other.These, of course,correspond fairness. in-group will reacha maximum when: (a) in. We can thensay thatsub-grouping is at a maximum. and (b) out-group distance is at a maximum groupfairness However, is trueby definition (i.e., tautological). Now,so far,ournewtheory shouldproduce we can beginto edgeout on a limbby askingwhatconditions consciousness. sub-group high theexpected we can write are inter-related, amount Sinceall ofourvariables of a number of different as a function consciousness variables. of sub-group in whichthe partitions consistof deprivaa simplesystem Let us consider Now, despiteall the wordswe have tionand a singleothersocial category. involvedis givenby a all the information used to describesuch a system, is cross-tabulated table in which deprivation against the simple four-fold in the table can of interest. social characteristic Now, the four numbers ofthetwo"marginals" ofas functions be thought (i.e., thenumber themselves



in the of persons in thesocial categories and the number of persons deprived in the table. If we then system)and the degreeof correlation or association consider a system in whichthe numbers of A's and NA's are equal, we can thenderivethe degreeof sub-group consciousness (and any othervariable in thetheory) as a function of (a) thetotallevelof deprivation in thesystem and (b) the randomness of deprivation beor correlation in the distribution tween thetwosub-groups. Givensuch a system, the expected in the totalpopulation who proportion are characterized as "in-group conscious"(i.e., whosecomparisons lead them to definethemselves as unlikethe out-group and like the in-group in terms of deprivation) is as follows:
(P2A) * (QNA + Q2A) * (PNA +


* (QA +



If we take a simplemeasureof correlation,2 it turnsout thatwhatwe get maybe summarized by thefollowing graph. The vertical axis indicates the probability thata persondrawnat random fromthe system will be "in-group conscious," while the horizontal axis indisdicatesthe degreeof correlation. At the leftwe findthe mostextreme discrimination crimination against the A's, at the rightthe most extreme disagainstthe NA's, whilepointR in the center indicates a purelyrandom tribution. Each deprivation level generates a separateparabola exceptthat the distribution is symmetrical, such thatthe resultsfor.20 are the same as conclusions .80; .30 is thesameas .70, and so on. We maydrawthefollowing from this: 15. Sub-group consciousness increases as thecorrelation between the social and deprivation of thetotallevelof deprivation category increases, regardless in thesystem. 16. Sub-group consciousness decreases as totaldeprivation departs from .50 towardeither0 or 1.00, regardless of the degreeof correlation betweenthe socialcategory and deprivation. In a less formal that the way to way we can say thatour theory suggests createsub-groups is to startrewarding themdifferentially and keep the total level of rewardin the systemnear .50; whileconversely the way to lower is treat both consciousness to sub-group groups equitably and move the
2 It should be noted that the exact resultsof such an analysiswill vary with the writer's The one we used was as follows: At each level of total deprivaof "correlation." definition tion, we definedan increasein correlationas an increasein the value of PA. We set the as the minimumPA could reach for that maximumas the maximumfor PA, the minimum and then plottedthe intervening level of total deprivation, pointsso that equal changesin PA producedequal changesin "correlation."

CaT 1


Probability 1.000 .901 .80 .70 Total Deprivation


*30 *20 0l.

_1.00 +n o 4

olO or



or generalgratificareward level to an extreme of either generaldeprivation overa toy.They either a pair struggling toy or removethe provideanother do whentheyobserve tion.This, of course, is whatparentsof smallchildren thedeprivation and pushing onlytoy, simultaneously removing anycorrelation thusappear intuitively level toward one or the otherextreme. Our inferences to our confirmation would add somewhat agreeable,althoughexperimental in thetheory. confidence here is not in sub-group consciousness itself,but However,our interest in noting thatthisis onlyone of a number of problems whichcan be rather of relative For instance, we couldlook analyzedusingthetheory deprivation. forthefactors between the two in the differences social categories underlying could of we the occurrence of an amount sub-group consciousness; predict that ego will feeldifferent state defined anomie-like from by the probability orwe couldlookat a variable thein-group; and from boththeout-group which between thegroups, suchas theprobability might predict mobility aspirations from his in-group and like the out-group. In short, thatego will feeldifferent of hypotheses a number whichhave thetheory appearscapable of generating in The American Soldieror in thisessay.Thus, again we not been discussed thatan attempt to attainclosure conclusion codificanotethefamiliar through



tionusuallyproduces morenew questionsthanit answers. Such, apparently, is thetaskand inevitable frustration oftheory construction.
Manuscript received: April 21,1959 Revised manuscript received: July 9, 1959 James A. Davis National Opinion Research Center University ofChicago Chicago 37,Illinois

1. Festinger, L., "A Theory of Social ComparisonProcesses,"Human Relations, 1954, VII, 117-140. 2. Merton, R. K., and A. S. Kitt, "Contributionsto the Theory of ReferenceGroup Behavior" in R. K. Merton and P. F. Lazarsfeld, Continuitiesin Social Research, Studies in the Scope and Method of "The AmericanSoldier," Glencoe, Ill.: The Free Press, 1950, 40-105. (Hereafterwe will designatethe essay by "MK.") 3. Stouffer, S. A., E. A. Suchman, L. C. DeVinney, S. A. Star, and R. M. Williams,Jr., N. J.: Princeton The AmericanSoldier: AdjustmentduringArmyLife, Princeton, University Press,1949. (Since thisworkwill be repeatedly citedin our analysis,we will refer to it hereafter as "AS Vol. I.")