Is America really a meritocracy?

I just finished reading the book Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs (Princeton University Press), which was written by Lauren Rivera, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management. She spent time in the recruiting process at several elite consulting/banking firms to research into how socioeconomic class played a role into landing elite jobs. Poorer students tend not to make it to elite schools, and even if they do, they rank behind their peers socially. Compounding things further, a lot of students have to work their ways through school, which limits time spent in recruiting, and results in poorer grades, EC's, etc. Even at top institutions, a much lower percentage of low income students ever make into elite careers in IB, law, etc. Anyways, this book really made me question whether America can even be considered a meritocratic or even a Democratic society. In so many cases, "pedigree" and "fit", which is largely determined by who your parents are and where you're from, supersedes intelligence and actual merit. The low-income kid raised in the projects never has a chance against the banker's kid from Connecticut.

I remember reading a statistic here which demonstrated that the United States ranked far behind other industrialized nations in terms of upward mobility. This was replicated in other similar studies. The "rags-to-riches" story does still occur occasionally, but it's way harder to do in the US than in other countries. Not to go all Bernie Sanders here, but is the American dream a myth? How much of your destiny is ultimately determined by your parents wealth or your crappy zip code? Is the recruiting in investment banking/consulting really attracting the best candidates?

Comments (92)

May 22, 2018

AVOCADO.

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May 22, 2018
Lloyd BIankfein:

AVOCADO.

https://media.giphy.com/media/d1FL4zXfIQZMWFQQ/source.gif

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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May 20, 2018

Nvm. Bump

May 21, 2018

Obama was a great president.

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May 22, 2018
Leon Dragonov:

Obama was a great president.

Obama was a great orator. I'll give him that. President? ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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May 21, 2018

You know, I never really bought into him being a great speaker. He was good, and generally kept things easy to understand. But I always thought his speaking ability was greatly exaggerated. We may have to agree to disagree.

May 21, 2018

His 2004 DNC speech is my favorite of all time.

"Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry."

May 21, 2018

I'll check it out. I'd have to say this is my favorite speech.

May 21, 2018

This is mine:

May 21, 2018

"It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too. The audacity of hope!"

Obama gave us hope. False hope? Maybe :) But he certainly inspired me.

"Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry."

Funniest
May 21, 2018

"Obama Was in Office for Eight Years and Nothing in Chicago Changed"
-- Kanye West

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May 21, 2018
Isaiah_53_5:
Leon Dragonov:

Obama was a great president.

Obama was a great orator. I'll give him that. President? ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Obama was solid. I talked to some guy the other day and he didn't know Obama cut taxes by extending Bush era taxes to the middle class and trough the American Recovery act in 2009. This is viewed as 'ending' the recession vs slowing or stopping it, which is what the Fed and Treasury did prior during the Bush administration.

You might not like his policies but he's had some notable achievements. If I were him, I'd pat myself on the back and you can't take it away from him. Paris agreement, Cuba, Iran, Healthcare, strong economy, etc. Don't listen to everything the media is telling you.

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May 21, 2018

Of course America is a meritocracy. Is high finance and consulting a meritocracy? In many respects, no. But get out of your bubble--the most elite of elite jobs do not define the United States.

Most Helpful
May 21, 2018

This has two elements.

The first is what Rivera's book aptly highlights: that there are 'soft' components that end up stacking up in favor of those from more comfortable backgrounds and against the favor of upwardly-hopeful aspirants.

Examples:

If you have to work in school, you have less time to spend on academic work, likely leading to lower grades. You also have less free time for extracurriculars like student leadership organizations, sports, or Greeklife, all places where young people develop not only attractive resume line items but also the informal broader social connections to peers who are the relatives and friends of successful and connected white-collar professionals.

If you don't have casual spending money or a parent's credit card behind you, you probably can't do the semester abroad that all your friends are going to do. If you do go, you can't do all the weekend trips to adjacent cities or countries everyone else is going on.

If you do manage to get the banking interview everyone is gunning for, you don't enjoy the benefit of a decade of social proximity to Dad and Mom's friends who are all lawyers, doctors, bankers, consultants, engineers, entrepreneurs, or other executives, so you aren't used to speaking a certain way, comporting yourself in a way that your interviewer is going to feel a lot of unconscious comfort with, or even simply being comfortable talking to someone more than double your age in a serious setting.

If you do manage to make it through the interview, once you're in the internship you look around furtively to see if the other interns are struggling to make sense of the office climate the way you are. You don't know how to handle yourself perfectly because all of this is new to you. You don't have the muscle memory of asking for help when you need it (because you weren't conditioned to letting your parents know you needed a tutor, or that it's possible to walk up to the teacher and ask to re-submit a paper for a regrade). You aren't used to the idea of taking your problems to a 'sponsor' who will make sure you get across the finish line safely (because you didn't attend a high school with a guidance counselor : student ratio of 1 : 8, you weren't in a fraternity where your big made sure things went okay for you).

///

The second is the counterpoint and the saving grace of this country. Nowhere else in the world is it possible to have the wild success you can here in America.

We have the right mix of an encouraging regulatory framework, ethos of individualism, celebration of work ethic, and large population (i.e. large addressable market for truly anything) that anyone can make a resounding success of themselves.

There's a reason over one quarter of the entire planet's billionaire set is American (585/2,208).

So, in short, yes, there's a surprising set of anti-meritocratic elements of our American society. At the same time, there isn't a better place to be if you think you're someone with potential exponentially beyond the average.

I am running out of time so I will skip digging out the research that shows that while other nations offer better upward mobility, it's with a much smaller standard deviation. Sure, you may be able to move from lower middle class to upper middle class way more easily in Denmark than the United States. You will have a way easier time moving from any original class to the hyper-elite class in the United States, however.

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May 21, 2018

lol

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May 25, 2018

well said. I'd rather be born homeless in the US than born in the slums of India or somewhere else in the world where the idea of "upward mobility" doesn't even exist.

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May 21, 2018

This is a fantastic article by The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/...
It's worth discounting a couple of lines of the author's obvious bias, but it's a fascinating read

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May 21, 2018

I'm going to put my reply at the bottom of the thread to bump it.

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Jun 21, 2018
CRE:

This is a fantastic article by The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/...
It's worth discounting a couple of lines of the author's obvious bias, but it's a fascinating read

Incredible indeed. There's even an audio version of the article. Listened to the whole thing while reading: truly inspiring and eye-opening. Very impressive, well-researched, and beautifully put-together.

Just of of curiosity, in what way precisely would the author benefit in having any bias in this piece. Isn't he a wealthy family man who obviously succeeded in life?

Thank you for sharing, btw. Really appreciated the read.

May 21, 2018

@APAE hashes out many of the main points to keep in mind. I was one of those kids that was fortunate to benefit from parents that were close with some of people who worked "cool" jobs in a non-NY metro area (so, not the biggest banks and law firms but some decent companies that were in my area). This led me to an internship I had no idea I would be fortunate enough to land at some point in my life.

The people around me had personal relationships with me so it always got me around the office 'safely' to be involved on some interesting projects. But, if I had to speak on my own behalf, it was no where near as impressive as the other kids, who were there because their families were the bosses. They definitely had the ability to speak like the bosses, as well as their culture was to take on different things that were probably a little more interesting. Even though we were working the same internship, they were closer to the social elites in the area because they were actually those big wigs, whereas I was just invited to come to the party.

That's how it is in school. During summers, the other interns would work FT like me, but they would then go on to end their internship at the conclusion of the summer, only take no more than 4 classes, and had plenty of time to just focus on school. I, on the other hand, returned for year round work, took 6 classes because I wanted to graduate in 4 years and not pay for summer/winter semesters, and I still had to try and get involved in orgs to get my name out there and be part of the social elite's culture.

When you ask is America a meritocracy, I would say that I believe it is. But, your asking this question is very millennial in form, because you are forgetting that great things take a lot of work and don't happen over night. Some of the kids I was around cme from families that have generational wealth, whereas my family doesn't. If I went to Harvard, I'm sure most of the kids would have the same privileged upbringings, where even if they come from modest families of small family doctor offices, at some point in there lineage you can trace their ancestors who passed those qualities down onto them.

When I went on to network, I landed at a teeny tiny boutique shop, because the people that went to Harvard and come from these families aren't going to recognize someone like me with a genuinely modest upbringing. If you have the opportunities of Harvard-->BB interviews, you're going to still face the upper and lower bands that guide your life. Family is important because, you traditionally would pass the baton to the next generation. It's why the real object of 'The American Dream' is usually said to make life better for your children and your grandchildren.

It just doesn't happen overnight. If you plan a life out well, you may not hit eureka, but it's possible to turn small fortunes into solid wealth through compounding wealth accumulation.

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May 21, 2018

For the most part, yes, when comparing apples to apples, the U.S. is the closest thing to a true meritocratic society that has ever existed (obviously it is far from perfect, but then again, human beings are inherently imperfect, so the importance of a comparison here lies in what has been and what is, rather than what could be). I'm not sure how anyone with even a cursory knowledge of world history could argue the contrary.

Increased government intervention has been the greatest threat to this meritocratic element. There's always room for improvement, but it's also important to remember that nirvana does not exist in this world.

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May 21, 2018

tl;dr America gives your more options to do well but has obvious advantages for those who win the genetic lottery and grow up in wealthy families.

Every country on this Earth has the same problems but don't usually offer as many options as the US. In the US, I'd bet more people move up a class than anywhere else in the world. That's because the middle class is so big compared to the rest of the world. Our "middle class" is really upper/middle/lower middle class all grouped into one. Few places in the world can you go to a JUCO, D3, or Regional school and come out making a middle class salary. If you even play your cards right, a person, like me, from Oklahoma, who went to OU can get the same job as someone from Cornell (which I did, FYI).

If you have any modest strategic mindset in the US you can do quite well for yourself. Most people can't connect the dots or have a strategic view. A lot of what being wealthy means is that you have the privilege to learn from those that had this strategic mindset or learn it via education. That is the single most important discriminator in our education system, but it can be overcome with common sense and a little guidance, the latter being the most difficult to come by in lower socio-economic circles.

Anyways feel free to @ me for saying there is a general level playing field for 90% of people due to the internet and availability of information. Plenty of the elite have benefits I can't even dream of, but fuck, if I can do it, so can others. I came from a middle middle class family. 2nd generation college student. I did my research, planned, and executed to achieve what I want. That's what separates me from my friend from my hometown who has a college degree and works at a Starbucks. Strategy is far more important than most things available to us via external education/systems/etc.

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May 21, 2018

Your third paragraph really resonated with me. I think more than anywhere else, America rewards people of the lower and middle classes who can think strategically about where they want to end up and process the steps to get there.

That being said there are two types of people who don't do this; (i) Those truly in poverty who cannot afford the basic food/water/shelter triangle needed to hold a job and those with mental disorders that prevent them from adequately integrating into society, these people have my empathy and are why I in general support forms of societal welfare that stem from my own paycheck; & (ii) those who cant/choose not to look ahead of the instant gratification/dopamine rush type excesses which then prevent them from moving forward in a meaningful way, these people kind of ruin it for those who actually need help and I can understand why people on the right side of the isle hate seeing their hard earned money get funneled to them (but not before paying a public sector employee who is a paper pusher).

At the end of the day to me, America is pretty dope, definitely some warts that still need tending to, but no place else I'd rather be.

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May 21, 2018
trustmeimanengineer:

tl;dr America gives your more options to do well but has obvious advantages for those who win the genetic lottery and grow up in wealthy families.

Every country on this Earth has the same problems but don't usually offer as many options as the US. In the US, I'd bet more people move up a class than anywhere else in the world. That's because the middle class is so big compared to the rest of the world. Our "middle class" is really upper/middle/lower middle class all grouped into one. Few places in the world can you go to a JUCO, D3, or Regional school and come out making a middle class salary. If you even play your cards right, a person, like me, from Oklahoma, who went to OU can get the same job as someone from Cornell (which I did, FYI).

If you have any modest strategic mindset in the US you can do quite well for yourself. Most people can't connect the dots or have a strategic view. A lot of what being wealthy means is that you have the privilege to learn from those that had this strategic mindset or learn it via education. That is the single most important discriminator in our education system, but it can be overcome with common sense and a little guidance, the latter being the most difficult to come by in lower socio-economic circles.

Anyways feel free to @ me for saying there is a general level playing field for 90% of people due to the internet and availability of information. Plenty of the elite have benefits I can't even dream of, but fuck, if I can do it, so can others. I came from a middle middle class family. 2nd generation college student. I did my research, planned, and executed to achieve what I want. That's what separates me from my friend from my hometown who has a college degree and works at a Starbucks. Strategy is far more important than most things available to us via external education/systems/etc.

90% level playing field is high. You're bringing your own personal bias into this. For one, only 73% nationally even have a computer at home setup with broadband access. And, we still have a divide amongst different people when you look at household income and race. The correlation between income and academic success doesn't mean people at the bottom can't move up, but there's a clear bias towards people at the upper echelons, which trickles down to the middle class.

Even though I think that merit plays a roll in turnout, there still is an important class piece in the dynamic where saying 90% level just sounds a little whacky. This has been a pet peeve of mine lately, where everyone views their own circumstances as representative of everyone else's and that's not remotely true. Sure your friend might've had a higher level of success if he had been more like you, and maybe you're smarter, but that means that maybe you and your friend had a 90% level playing field with respect to others. Doesn't mean it's true for others.

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May 21, 2018

But in a free society--and I emphasize "free society" because Europe isn't really a free society--you can't use gov't coercion to make a truly equal playing field. In a free society, the only thing you can do is make everyone equal before the law, and then individuals will have to struggle their way up the ladder, which is a good thing because that builds character.

May 21, 2018

So you're discounting the fact that more than 73% have a phone in their household, free computers in public libraries/schools, wifi everywhere, and the general invasion of technology into daily life? I don't understand that at all. 90% may be high, but I just threw that out as a general number. For the vast majority, there is almost a level playing field. Public education stinks in certain areas and is great in others, but on average, most people can obtain a high school education for the same price: zero. What you do with that education, lack thereof, and time/effort is up to you. I worked. I understand the limitations that can be put on people's time, but I also spent extra time learning and improving at night instead of sleeping. You get out what you put in.

I would agree that there is a correlation between income and academic success, in my opinion, that gap has closed as technology has improved and become more accessible. That issue is becoming less and less of a reason/excuse for people to throw mud at each other.

My anecdotal experience is my only frame of reference. I know certain people and have experienced certain things. All I am doing is providing as much context as I can, and since I came from a non-upper echelon family, it's fairly representative of the average American. Oklahoma is almost last in education spending and ranks almost last in quality of education. I would say I was probably at more of a disadvantage than most of the country, yet I succeeded. I definitely had the advantage of having 2 parents in the house and a mostly stable upbringing but that doesn't mean there wasn't adversity. All I am saying is that thanks to technology, I had as much opportunity K-12 as someone from the East/West coast.

Jun 16, 2018

Few places in the world can you go to a JUCO, D3, or Regional school and come out making a middle class salary.

Of course you can. Schools aren't as hierarchical elsewhere in the world as they are in the US. Other than Oxford/Cambridge/LSE, the idea of an "Ivy League"/"super-elite" tier of universities that dramatically impact your career options and life trajectory doesn't exist.

If you went to university in Germany or Japan, you would likely simply go to the one in the nearest major city and how good your grades were would have far more to do with getting a job afterward than the "brand" of the school.

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May 21, 2018

I think many people spend far too much time looking at the weeds rather than the forest. America is the greatest meritocracy that has ever existed. Just because some people have advantages doesn't mean that the system isn't a meritocracy, it just means that some people are likely to finish higher than others. The idea is that progress is available to be made every generation. If people finish worse than their parents that doesn't suddenly wipe the idea away. The reality is that the highest achieving families are much more likely to have generational downward slides than the lowest achieving families.

Follow the shit your fellow monkeys say @shitWSOsays

Life is hard, it's even harder when you're stupid - John Wayne

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May 21, 2018

I just finished an interesting book (Twilight of the Elites) where the author argues that America is no longer a meritocracy due to the following reason: a true meritocracy has both upward and downward mobility. America is really good at the former (going from immigrant to millionaire, accessibility of college, etc.) but awful at the latter. Most people who were born into the upper echelons of our society tend to stay there, even if they are a complete buffoon or can't work a job to save their life.

People who hold the power in this country tend to have a romanticized view of meritocracy and therefore tend to support it, because they benefited from it, of course. This rosy view of meritocracy leads the "successful" to pass laws and create motivations to keep their power and success. In fact, some of the most conservative economists have proposed a complete ban on inheritances and passing of generational wealth, as that would truly be the most meritocratic ideal. This doesn't address what previous posters have said about upbringing of the elite children, because that 100% plays into how successful those children are. Because of that I think the meritocracy more reflects the success of a family/social circle in propelling people upwards more so than an individuals effort, mainly in the cases of successful people brought up by successful parents.

To summarize, America doesn't have a true meritocracy because there is upward mobility but an almost absent downward mobility, therefore we have an American form of meritocracy.

Array
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May 22, 2018

Interesting! Would lowering income tax and raising estate tax change this? That being said, I'm sure a system with a greater percentage of tax revenue from estate tax would be easy to game.

May 21, 2018

There are plenty of businesses that go bankrupt and/or people who aren't financially savvy. You just don't hear about them. I would argue that the "there is no downward movement" idea is wrong. I know multiple people that squandered their trust funds/inheritances.

Additionally, I think we can count "staying wealthy" as a success rather than a non-event. Sometimes it truly is luck but to stay wealthy and not just float into the middle class by whatever means (poor planning, ridiculous spending, bad investments, etc) is a success in itself.

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May 22, 2018

Being born on third base and not getting pushed back to second is an impressive achievement?

Jun 16, 2018

Even people who squander their inheritance have been given a tremendous amount of social capital that can never be lost.

There are plenty of formerly powerful Northeastern WASP families that now don't have the wealth and influence they once did, but we can more or less guarantee that none of them are ever going to be working at Walmart.

May 21, 2018
andrewthefourth:

Most people who were born into the upper echelons of our society tend to stay there, even if they are a complete buffoon or can't work a job to save their life.

Where are you seeing data that proves this claim? Genuinely curious, as the data that I've seen shows the exact opposite in regards to the squandering of generational wealth.

May 21, 2018

It is pretty easy to game the statistics to show what you want. I.E. if you want to prove that generational wealth lasts, look fro g1 to g2 and go no further. If you want to prove that generational wealth gets highly diluted look from g1 to g5 and you can prove your point. The only things statistics are good at doing is helping people fill their own delusions of reality.

Follow the shit your fellow monkeys say @shitWSOsays

Life is hard, it's even harder when you're stupid - John Wayne

May 21, 2018
andrewthefourth:

To summarize, America doesn't have a true meritocracy because there is upward mobility but an almost absent downward mobility, therefore we have an American form of meritocracy.

This is completely and utterly false. People move up and down out of the upper echelons of wealth ALL the time. Once successful companies go bankrupt EVERY single day in America. I can't believe your post is serious...

Jun 16, 2018

America is really good at the former (going from immigrant to millionaire, accessibility of college, etc.) but awful at the latter. Most people who were born into the upper echelons of our society tend to stay there, even if they are a complete buffoon or can't work a job to save their life.

Part of the problem is that wealthy/elite people know that they've structured society to be miserable for anyone who isn't wealthy/elite, so they will do everything necessary to ensure their children are never put in that situation.

I went to a well-to-do high school and the kids who were major screw ups were practically dragged across the finish line by their parents: getting sent to intensive boarding schools that were also part rehab clinic and part "scared straight" program; unlimited money on tutors; so many "favors" from family friends for internships and jobs.

If they hadn't had parents to do that, they would have simply been written off as "not college material" and shunted into blue-collar work. And our country would likely be better off if that were allowed to happen.

If you want to move the "cream of the crop" of the working class upward, you have to also be willing to send the "chaff" of the wealthy downward.

May 21, 2018

love hearing the opinions of trust fund ppl on how meritocratic America is.

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May 21, 2018

Love hearing the deluded views of highly jaded sycophants.

Follow the shit your fellow monkeys say @shitWSOsays

Life is hard, it's even harder when you're stupid - John Wayne

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Jun 3, 2018

Dble post

Jun 3, 2018

The troll is 100% right. People who inherited vast sums of money have no business speaking on meritocracy. You've had zero life experience to assess that reality. No hate. I dream of my kids being in your position. But if they are and they attempt to discuss the reality of American "meritocracy", I'd check them on that.

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May 22, 2018

The thing about a meritocracy is that your skill set must align with the market and consumer demand.

If you don't have a skill set, effort and work will do nothing for you. The 'magic' only happens per se when one is talented in a field and the opportunity to excel is presented to them. In this aspect, the USA presents the most opportunities in the world, or is at least top 5 in the world, in my opinion.

There is no meritocracy in dying markets/industries. In this sense, there is structural unemployment.

I feel there are two caveats with the current meritocratic system:
- You have to get in to play. You need an offer from somewhere to begin to climb the ladder.
- In many corporations, high achievement isn't enough. You have to be visible and manage up to ensure your efforts are considered in the meritocratic system.

Of course, entrepreneurs don't need the first bullet point. They don't have to get in anywhere. Hence, for them, 'getting in' is having the market accept their product or service. And the market judges harshly.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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May 22, 2018

I like to think that the U.S. is generationally meritocratic. Sure, the kid from Compton may not get a BB IB gig straight out of undergrad. But he may land a solid F500 gig. So, he and his family go from poverty to middle-if not upper-class. Then his kids go to college, focus on EC's and grades instead of working, and get that IB job. So on, so forth. No matter how "meritocratic" a society claims, there's only so much the average person can move up in a lifetime. But many lifetimes? The possibilities are limitless.

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May 21, 2018
Varkey:

I like to think that the U.S. is generationally meritocratic. Sure, the kid from Compton may not get a BB IB gig straight out of undergrad. But he may land a solid F500 gig. So, he and his family go from poverty to middle-if not upper-class. Then his kids go to college, focus on EC's and grades instead of working, and get that IB job. So on, so forth. No matter how "meritocratic" a society claims, there's only so much the average person can move up in a lifetime. But many lifetimes? The possibilities are limitless.

No idea why someone threw MS at you for this comment, as it's spot-on and completely factual.

Having good parents and being raised properly are of utmost importance. No amount of hand-outs or tax-payer dollars thrown at shitty parents have ever, or will ever, solve the problem of shitty parenting. That's something that must come from within the parents of a child, and no bureaucratic self-righteous charlatan will ever be able to fill that role.

May 21, 2018

As others have pointed out long before me (Podcasters, analysts, etc.), a person's individual behavior--in 2018 America--completely controls his or her ability to rise out of poverty into the middle class. Now, that doesn't mean that a person who grew up in a single-parent household in a drug- and crime-infested ghetto has the knowledge and/or emotional or mental maturity to make the right decisions, but that doesn't mean that society or the government is forcing him or her to make bad decisions or is actively preventing his or her rise to the middle class. In that sense, moving into the middle class is 100% about merit/decision-making.

This is contrasted with the pre-Civil Rights era where non-white males had literal legal barriers to moving out of poverty (for women it was somewhat legal, but more cultural). In the pre-Civil Rights era, the USA was still a meritocracy for white males, but not for others (and, in fairness, a meritocracy for anyone as late as the middle of the 20th century was a relatively novel concept throughout the entire world and world history; although America has been wildly imperfect, one has to understand that our system has consistently unfolded to be more and more egalitarian, from throwing off the monarchy in the 18th century to universal male suffrage, to women's suffrage and on to civil rights--at least give the Devil its due).

May 22, 2018

Prolly gonna get some monkey shit but here's my "hot take" on what meritocracy means in the USA (at least for applicants looking to climb corporate ladders).

It's enough of a meritocracy so that if you're an individual who wants to succeed there's always more you can do or another path you can take to try to improve yourself so you're better positioned to succeed (e.g. get a better gpa, work your ass off preparing for interviews, take some free data science/programming courses, get your cfa , take a related role and try to backdoor your way into what you really want). There's also enough bullshit frictions and merit is generally hard enough to measure in most professions, at least at first, that you have to/can without too much guilt improve your chances by taking advantage of/not falling victim to whatever non-meritocratic opportunities/pitfalls there may be (e.g. Always be low key sucking your boss's dick/lady-dick, improve your low key dick sucking skills, people like their hookers classy so learning how to seem "upper class" and reflecting this in your resume can really help here, take advantage of any diversity programs you qualify for or whiten your resume or interview persona/try to low key show that you can be "one of the boys" if you can't, use your network to prove to people with the power to hire you that you give good low key head, if you're not Asian not worry too much about the fact that that you can get the same opportunities with lower scores on all objective measurements of merit because of assumptions about your low key head abilities, and if you are Asian take the necessary resume/interview whitening steps so you get treated as much like a white person with regards to your ability to give low key head as possible).

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May 22, 2018

Semi-unrelated note here: There was a royal wedding this past weekend. How the fuck do the British put up with this shit of 'welfare queens' sucking the biggest of tits off of England's taxpayers? The ancestors of these 'royal' people stole from everyday English people....how are they not disgusted by this?

I think the French way of dealing with royalty is much more appropriate.

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May 22, 2018

And people camp out for days to see that kind of shit. To borrow the English colloquialism, it's FUCKING NUTTERS!

May 21, 2018

It's ridiculous. The British are just detestable on so many levels right now.

May 22, 2018

A few random follow ups to a good, thoughtful thread.

  • I'd downplay the nepotism aspect, especially here in the US. It's more about "fit" (aka likeability) and generally how good you are at shooting the shit with the team. Not saying family won't/can't help, but it's more about sociability than intelligence, perhaps too much so.
  • It's a lot worse in certain countries, think Italy, France, China, etc. There, you could be an absolute buffoon BUT if your father is a big shot you're 100% in. Bonus that you don't have to do anything, just show up and take a 6 figure salary. The rest of the team could hate you / think you're dumber than a down syndrome kid, but you're still in.
  • GENDER. No one mentioned here, but this entire thread mainly applies to us guys. Think about it. When we're hiring (assuming for a non-techincal role, say front office S&T), a girl's appearance overrides everything. Her dad could be a janitor in Moldova but you'd probably still hire her if she's 5'10'' and looks downright stunning and can hold a decent conversation.
  • generally speaking, yes, if you're born into a family with parents on minimum wage, you're pretty much fucked. i often wonder why these people have children and put their (supposed) loved offspring through such mental/financial abuse and hardship.
  • i will also add, there's a certain "art" to appearing massively more wealthy/elite than you really are. it's about 90% in your demeanor and social style, the remaining 10% in your appearance/car/armcandy/material goods.

one last thing (slightly sexist, somewhat unrelated) is that essentially, a man's "wealth" fluxtuates through his life and is somewhat uncertain. on the contrary, a girl's wealth is pretty much determined when she hits puberty. it's why if you travel to Eastern Europe, rural agrarian families (unlike asian countries) pray and hope for a daughter, in the chance she is a solid 10 and marries into a wealthy family.

everything above is from personal observations.

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May 21, 2018

I generally agree with what you're saying here, but I would add that I'm not sure what height has to do with it. If a woman is hot she's hot; I'm not sure her height matters that much to men. When it comes to height, men are much more "egalitarian" than women (in that we care a lot less about her height than women care about it).

May 24, 2018

If you think any 20 something female can get a job in high finance just because she's hot, you're an idiot.

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May 21, 2018
dsch:

If you think any 20 something female can get a job in high finance just because she's hot, you're an idiot.

I wouldn't say any hot female could get a job in high finance, but the bar is much, much, MUCH lower than for men.

May 21, 2018

I agree with all of your points. I did think #4 is an underrated comment. I would never have a kid if I weren't financially responsible enough to provide a daily life for them that didn't revolve around money. Unfortunately, people today are fucking morons that can't do simple math. If they could, they'd wait to have kids or not have them at all.

May 24, 2018

America is more of a meritocracy than anywhere else in the world. This is having lived 6 yrs in EU, 8 in Africa, and 3 in South East Asia. On the other end, it seems those in the U.S. require more hand holding and therapy than anywhere else. Go figure.

What concert costs 45 cents? 50 Cent feat. Nickelback.

May 24, 2018

I would argue America has an obsession with the PERCEPTION of meritocracy. If meritocracy was truly valued, work accomplished and actual contributions would be valued far higher today than face time but that simply isn't the case. This isn't an American problem specifically per se as it is just the nature of politics, unconscious biases, and surface-level impressions.

What's the solution to this? Data and transparency. While manipulation exists abound in data, only data can really rip apart the results-producers with the pure bullshitters. This new age emphasis on data-backed results is why active management in equities is shrinking...too many shitty players in the space sucking off the teat of relationships are now facing the music that they destroy far more value than they add.

What I like about the finance industry is that there are close associations between a person's compensation and the P&L they drive to the business. As big data becomes more and more of a use case in the workforce, I think we'll see meritocracies become more prevalent in America...but also a realization that most people are fucking useless in general

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May 25, 2018

Of course it isn't. It was built on stolen land and enslaved labor. It has never been a meritocracy.

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May 21, 2018
MitchMitchell:

Of course it isn't. It was built on stolen land and enslaved labor. It has never been a meritocracy.

Lmfao.

Jun 3, 2018

From someone coming here as a political asylum seeker, I really can't stress enough how strong equality of opportunity is within the United States. You can largely learn whatever you want on the internet and develop acumen easily. If you have raw grit and network hard I truly think you can get any job regardless of your background. Can anyone give an example of countries with higher upwards mobility? Being from Europe I have never seen them. The only rare exceptions when I see meritocracy not in effect is through affirmative action and diversity initiatives.

Array

May 21, 2018
CRE:

This is a fantastic article by The Atlantic:
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/... It's worth discounting a couple of lines of the author's obvious bias, but it's a fascinating read

I have had the article open since first seeing @CRE's comment, I just finished it. I heartily recommend it, it's lengthy but thorough.

I found it refreshingly data-driven, borne out of a personal anecdote and deep reflection on his own individual circumstance. I didn't find the bias to be too strong, simply a strong inward gaze that led the author to study a phenomenon he himself is living within.

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Jun 11, 2018

It's a lot less of a meritocracy than it's perceived to be. Personally, I have no issue paying more in tax to create equal opportunities for everyone via better quality public education and healthcare.

Would love to see topics like managing personal finance better covered by high schools. It's very disturbing to me how many adults don't know anything about basic things like calculating APR, being able to really see how much they are paying for debt, etc... yet you have to learn derivatives in HS which I have literally not fucking thought about in 7 years until making this post.

May 21, 2018
m_1:

Personally, I have no issue paying more in tax to create equal opportunities for everyone via better quality public education and healthcare.

Do you really think bureaucrats are capable of accomplishing those things in the U.S.? Judging by the government's track record in both arenas, it seems every piece of evidence points to "absolutely fucking not."

If you actually believe you're better served with education and healthcare administered by the federal government (as opposed to private markets), then next year when you do your taxes, give an extra $10K to the IRS and put your money where your mouth is (you and I both know you won't actually do this).