What forces produce and maintain social inequality, and why do society members tolerate this inequality? The “One Percent” clearly benefit from having high status, but low-status individuals have strong incentive to challenge the established pecking order and try to improve their position. This conundrum is particularly striking in the societies of many primates and spotted hyenas, where females who are born to low-status mothers rarely manage to improve their position. Here we find that females who are strongly allied with their group-mates are more likely to improve their status, and that upward social mobility is often achieved with support from their closest allies. This suggests that, much like some animals compete physically for status, these species compete through social alliances.
Social alliances improve rank and fitness in convention-based societies
Eli D. Strauss and Kay E. Holekamp
PNAS April 30, 2019 116 (18) 8919-8924