August 07, 2020

Credit: Chayapon Bootboonneam / EyeEm

*This piece was originally published on September 20th, 2019.

Those in the highest paying jobs are working longer hours than ever before. Meanwhile, the middle class is falling behind, as employers demand more qualifications from employees. America is supposed to be a meritocracy, but perhaps meritocracies - which aim for fairness - aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Daniel Markovits, a professor at Yale Law School and author of The Meritocracy Trap: How America's Foundational Myth Feeds Inequality, Dismantles the Middle Class, and Devours the Elite argues that meritocracy is actually dividing the country. And though the richest among us might be pleased that wealth is increasingly concentrated at the top, Markovits says: this system isn’t a benefit to anyone, including the 1%.

Three Takeaways:

  • According to Markovits, the post-WWII reinvention of American meritocracy has cost the middle class economic mobility. He says that in the past, a person may have been able to lead a stable life and work a well-paying job with just a high school diploma. But now, many jobs demand a level of education that fewer and fewer can afford. This, Markovits argues, has lead to stagnation, loss of income, and feelings of marginalization among the middle class.
  • The top 1% of earners work over 50 hours a week, more than people at any other income level. In some professions, working 70 hours a week isn’t uncommon. For the elite, this translates into lots of money, but little time or energy to do much else.
  • The solution lies in education, according to Markovits. He argues that if elite universities start increasing enrollment of students from lower income families, opportunity and mobility for the middle class will improve, and there will be decreasing pressure on those already in demanding jobs.

More Reading:

Business, Elites, Meritocracy, middle class, economy

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