A meritocracy is a social system in which people are rewarded on the basis of their own merit (i.e., ability and skills) rather than characteristics like race, sex, and social class. In addition to being a fundamental interest of sociological studies, meritocratic ideas are closely linked to the American dream, or the notion that any hard-working person in America has an equal opportunity of experiencing upward social mobility. Upward social mobility refers to an adult achieving a higher social class than that of his/her parents. Research in sociology of education is particularly informed by meritocratic notions, because Americans perceive their public school system as providing equal opportunity to all citizens, building merit, and certifying who has merit (with diplomas and degrees). This article describes the ...

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