Date of this Version



Alexander Funcke


meritocracy, measurement, social stratification, mobility, statistics, fairness


What is meritocracy? Those left behind by systems claiming to be meritocratic, and those interested in their fate, have called the possibility of a fair meritocracy into question, and recently these calls have gotten louder. Our driving conviction behind the project is the idea that much of the disagreements stem from the ambiguity in the term, and that this ambiguity is perpetrated because it has never been measured or even operationalized. We spend the first two sections distilling the definition and tensions. We position our definition between the critics who view it as the modern version of “Just World Hypothesis” and the proponents who hope to have solved issues of distributive and allocative justice once and for all. We find quickly that complete meritocracies are nonexistent (and not interesting to our purposes), and that the best working definition is that of a negative composite view of meritocratic processes in an industry. The strength of our negative model lies in measuring the weight of all the factors that should not have been of influence in moving from one stage to the next, had the process been meritocratic, minimizing confounding and selection bias. After introducing the operationalized form, we use structural equation modeling to apply our measurement to the medical and military industries in the United States. We find that elements contributing to a career process are best analyzed as discrete points: this lets us make more valuable statements than “the coding world is extremely meritocratic” or “people from poor socioeconomic backgrounds have worse career prospects” and identify the point where factors of convergence would have the biggest effect.



Date Posted: 08 January 2018


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