It’s Privilege (and Race), not Effort

In the tradition of Mel Riddile (see here and here), I want to assert: In the U.S., it’s privilege (and race), not effort.

The U.S. has a powerful addiction to a false myth, the myth of meritocracy—that success comes from hard work and that failure comes from laziness. Against that myth consider the following:

  • Matt O’Brien reports: “Even poor kids who do everything right don’t do much better than rich kids who do everything wrong. Advantages and disadvantages, in other words, tend to perpetuate themselves.”
  • Matt Bruenig concludes, based on data from the Pew’s Economic Mobility Project: “So, you are 2.5x more likely to be a rich adult if you were born rich and never bothered to go to college than if you were born poor and, against all odds, went to college and graduated….Therefore, the answer to the question in the title is that you are better off being born rich regardless of whether you go to college than being born poor and getting a college degree.”
  • Drawing on the report Young Invincibles, Susan Adams explains: “African-Americans college students are about as likely to get hired as whites who have dropped out of high school.”
  • Bruenig also notes: “Black families with college degrees have a mean wealth of $162.8k, which is effectively the same as the mean wealth of white families with less than a high school education.”

The evidence refutes the myth, then, since race and the economic status of any child’s home are far more powerful influences on success than effort. As long as we cling to the false myth and fail to dismantle privilege, however, meritocracy will never become a reality.

One comment

  1. Pingback: Bankrupt Cultural Capital Claims: Beware the Roadbuilders, pt. 3 | the becoming radical

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