Class Inequality and Meritocracy: A Critique of Saunders and An Alternative Analysis
Title: Class Inequality and Meritocracy: A Critique of Saunders and An Alternative Analysis
Citation: British Journal of Sociology, 1999, 50, 1, 1-27
Saunders' recent work claiming that contemporary British society is to a large extent 'meritocratic' is criticized on conceptual and technical grounds. A reanalysis of the National Child Development Study data-set, used by Saunders, is presented. This reveals that while merit, defined in terms of ability and effort, does play a part in determining individuals' class destinations, the effect of class origins remains strong. Children of less advantaged class origins need to show substantially more merit than children from more advantaged origins in order to gain similar class positions. These differences in findings to some extent arise from the correction of biases introduced by Saunders; but there are also features of his own results, consistent with those reported in the reanalysis, which he appears not to have fully appreciated.
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