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Stratification and Meritocracy in the United States: Class and Occupational Recruitment Patterns

Larry J. Griffin and Arne L. Kalleberg
The British Journal of Sociology
Vol. 32, No. 1 (Mar., 1981), pp. 1-38
DOI: 10.2307/589761
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/589761
Page Count: 38
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Stratification and Meritocracy in the United States: Class and Occupational Recruitment Patterns
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Abstract

It has been argued that achievement in the United States is governed by 'meritocratic' processes. In this paper we examine a number of aspects of this thesis. We argue that previous researchers have failed to sufficiently demonstrate the validity of the 'meritocratic' thesis because they have restricted their focus to occupation and have not considered the processes allocating people to unequally rewarded class positions. We first identify six class positions: employers, managers, technocrats, supervisors, semi-autonomous employees and proletarian workers. We then examine the mechanisms by which men are allocated into these class positions. We find that men are not generally sorted into class positions on the basis of 'meritocratic' criteria, at least as we measured these variables in this paper. This conclusion holds for a variety of equation specifications and for a number of data sets. We finally indicate the implications of our findings for discussions concerning the degree of meritocracy in the United States.

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