Meritocracy and Its Discontents: Long-run Effects of Repeated School Admission Reforms

Moriguchi, Chiaki; Narita, Yusuke; Tanaka, Mari

What happens if selective colleges change their admission policies? We study this question by analyzing the world’s first implementation of nationally centralized meritocratic admissions in the early twentieth century. We find a persistent meritocracy-equity tradeoff. Compared to the decentralized system, the centralized system admitted more high-achievers and produced more occupational elites (such as top income earners) decades later in the labor market. This gain came at a distributional cost, however. Meritocratic centralization also increased the number of urban-born elites relative to rural-born ones, undermining equal access to higher education and career advancement.

Keywords: Elite Education, Market Design, Strategic Behavior, Regional Mobility, Universal Access, Persistent Effects

JEL: D47, I23, I24, N35

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Center on Japanese Economy and Business
Center on Japanese Economy and Business, Graduate School of Business, Columbia University
Center on Japanese Economy and Business Working Papers, 388
Published Here
June 27, 2024