IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/gam/jscscx/v7y2018i8p131-d162689.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

What Meritocracy Means to its Winners: Admissions, Race, and Inequality at Elite Universities in The United States and Britain

Author

Listed:
  • Natasha Warikoo

    () (Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA)

Abstract

How do winners of processes of meritocracy make sense of those processes, especially in the face of forceful public critiques of their unequal outcomes? In this paper I analyze the meaning-making with respect to merit in university admissions of White, native-born undergraduates attending elite American and British universities. I find that United States students support the “calibration” of evaluations of merit, and emphasize evaluations of applicants’ contributions to the “collective merit” of their university cohorts. British students espouse a universalist, individualist understanding of merit. While conceptions of merit differed across national contexts, students in both reproduced the notions of merit espoused by their universities. I conclude that in spite of a long history of student protest on college campuses, rather than engagement with symbolic politics on liberal-identified campuses, self-interest in status legitimation dominates student perspectives, ultimately reproducing understandings of merit that will reproduce inequality. The paper draws upon 98 one-on-one in-depth interviews with White, native-born undergraduates attending Harvard University, Brown University, and University of Oxford.

Suggested Citation

  • Natasha Warikoo, 2018. "What Meritocracy Means to its Winners: Admissions, Race, and Inequality at Elite Universities in The United States and Britain," Social Sciences, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(8), pages 1-17, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jscscx:v:7:y:2018:i:8:p:131-:d:162689
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-0760/7/8/131/pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    File URL: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-0760/7/8/131/
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Miles Corak, 2013. "Income Inequality, Equality of Opportunity, and Intergenerational Mobility," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 79-102, Summer.
    2. Lisa J. Dettling & Joanne W. Hsu & Lindsay Jacobs & Kevin B. Moore & Jeffrey P. Thompson, 2017. "Recent Trends in Wealth-Holding by Race and Ethnicity : Evidence from the Survey of Consumer Finances," FEDS Notes 2017-09-27, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Harvard Prof: Merit-Based Admissions "Reproduce Inequality"
      by Tyler Durden in Zero Hedge on 2018-09-10 23:05:22

    More about this item

    Keywords

    meritocracy; admissions; affirmative action; race; United States; Britain;

    JEL classification:

    • A - General Economics and Teaching
    • B - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology
    • N - Economic History
    • P - Economic Systems
    • Y80 - Miscellaneous Categories - - Related Disciplines - - - Related Disciplines
    • Z00 - Other Special Topics - - General - - - General

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:gam:jscscx:v:7:y:2018:i:8:p:131-:d:162689. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (XML Conversion Team). General contact details of provider: https://www.mdpi.com/ .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.