High-status outgroups tend to be stereotyped as competent, while low-status groups tend to be stereotyped as incompetent. These stereotypes provide legitimacy to hierarchical social systems. However, research to date has tended to focus on the socio-structural correlates and cross-cultural stability of these stereotypes, emphasising universality over malleability. The current research demonstrates that, although strong, the association between status and competence, but not status and warmth, is moderated by ideological beliefs and attitudes towards inequality. In two studies, participants high in belief in a just world (BJW) or social dominance orientation (SDO) were more likely than those low in BJW or SDO to view a high-status target as more competent than a low-status target. Findings support the view that status stereotypes justify social inequalities, and demonstrate that they are sensitive to ideological orientations. Implications for theory and research on status and power stereotypes are discussed. Copyright © 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.