We assessed the changes in cardiac index and total peripheral resistance underlying blood pressure reactions and recovery from acute mental stress, in relation to socioeconomic status. A sample of 200 men and women aged 47-59 years was divided on the basis of occupation into higher, intermediate, and lower socioeconomic status groups. Blood pressure was monitored using the Portapres, and hemodynamic measures were derived by Modelflow processing of the arterial pressure waveform. Blood pressure increases during two stressful behavioral tasks were sustained by increases in cardiac index and total peripheral resistance. During the 45-min posttask recovery period, cardiac index fell below baseline levels, whereas peripheral resistance remained elevated. Peripheral resistance changes during recovery varied with socioeconomic status and blood pressure stress reactivity, with particularly high levels in reactive low status participants. Results are consistent with the hypothesis that disturbances of stress-related autonomic processes are relevant to the social gradient in cardiovascular disease risk.