Public Interest Welcomes a New Committee and Office on Socioeconomic Status

To advance recommendations and further APA’s work on SES, a two-year Task Force on Socioeconomic Status was established to examine psychological dimensions of the scope, nature, and effects of socioeconomic inequalities.

By Keyona King-Tsikata, MPH, and Heather E. Bullock, PhD

Public Interest is pleased to welcome a new committee to the directorate, the Committee on Socioeconomic Status (CSES). CSES will further advance APA’s overarching mission –“to advance psychology as a science and a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare”—by ensuring that issues related to socioeconomic status (SES) receive the full attention of the Association. The Committee is charged with (a) collecting information and documentation concerning SES; (b) promoting scientific understanding of the roles of poverty and SES in health, education, and human welfare; (c) developing approaches to the application of psychology that take into account the effects of SES on psychological development and well being; and (d) advocating for social policy that will alleviate or reduce the disparities between SES groups.
The newly formed committee met for the first time at the spring 2007 consolidated meetings in Washington, DC. Current committee members include: Heather Bullock, PhD (Chair); Sandra Graham, PhD (Vice Chair); Rand Conger, PhD; Mary Jansen, PhD; Alice McIntyre, PhD; and Vonnie McLoyd, PhD. The newly established Office on Socioeconomic Status, headed by Keyona King-Tsikata, MPH will manage and support the committee’s activities. The Office will also serve as a referral resource for issues related to SES, and will develop and disseminate reports, pamphlets, and other written materials.

Momentum to establish an Office and Committee on SES has been steadily building since August 2000 when APA’s Council of Representatives adopted its Resolution on Poverty and Socioeconomic Status, formalizing APA’s commitment to research, advocacy, and practice related to poverty, SES, and the reduction of socioeconomic disparities. The resolution offers a broad range of recommendations including calling for more research on prejudice and discrimination against low-income groups, encouraging greater attention to the causes and impact of poverty in graduate and postgraduate training, and supporting policies and programs that ensure adequate income, sufficient food and nutrition, and affordable, safe housing for all low-income and working families.

To advance these and other recommendations and further APA’s work on SES, a two-year Task Force on Socioeconomic Status was established to examine psychological dimensions of the scope, nature, and effects of socioeconomic inequalities. The work of the six-member Task Force, chaired by Susan Saegert PhD, culminated in COR’s adoption of their report. The Task Force report provides recommendations for addressing mechanisms and structures that would more effectively address, on an Association-wide scale, the causes and impact of socioeconomic inequality. One of report’s major recommendations was the creation of a permanent Committee on SES.

Commenting on the creation of the new committee, Heather Bullock, a former member of the SES Task Force and current CSES chair stated, “The committee is excited and energized by the work that lies ahead. Psychologists have a crucial role to play in understanding socioeconomic status and inequality, and advocating for economic justice.” The committee is now in the process of developing a strategic plan and prioritizing projects and goals for the coming year. Bullock notes, “We hope to have a major impact in terms of raising awareness of socioeconomic disparities and promoting strategies for their reduction.”

CSES looks forward to working closely with APA members and other PI committees. CSES will hold its first network meeting on Friday, August 17th from 2:00-3:00 in the Public Interest Suite at the San Francisco Marriott. The network meeting will provide a great opportunity to brainstorm about potential directions for the committee and to meet CSES members and other psychologists interested in issues related to socioeconomic status. To carry forward ideas from this meeting and stay up-to-date on policy initiatives related to SES, the Office on SES plans to launch a listserv this fall.

If you are unable to attend the network meeting in San Francisco and wish to be added to the listserv, send a message to The SES Office. There will be many opportunities to get involved with CSES, including upcoming opportunities to apply for a seat on the committee. 

Stay tuned for more news about the Office and Committee on SES. For additional information, reports, and policy statements, please visit the Office on Socioeconomic Status web page or telephone our office at 202-216-7601.