Affirmative Meritocracy

  • Walton G
  • Spencer S
  • Erman S
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We argue that in important circumstances meritocracy can be realized only through a specific form of affirmative action we call affirmative meritocracy. These cir-cumstances arise because common measures of academic performance system-atically underestimate the intellectual ability and potential of members of nega-tively stereotyped groups (e.g., non-Asian ethnic minorities, women in quantitative fields). This bias results not from the content of performance measures but from common contexts in which performance measures are assessed—from psycholog-ical threats like stereotype threat that are pervasive in academic settings, and which undermine the performance of people from negatively stereotyped groups. To overcome this bias, school and work settings should be changed to reduce stereotype threat. In such environments, admitting or hiring more members of devalued groups would promote meritocracy, diversity, and organizational per-formance. Evidence for this bias, its causes, magnitude, remedies, and implications for social policy and for law are discussed. " [A]ffirmative action has to be made consistent with our highest ideals of personal respon-sibility and merit., and several anonymous reviewers for detailed and helpful input. Correction added on 19 March 2013 after first publication on 7 January 2013. Due to an error during the proofreading process a small change needed to be made to this version of the article. The main change is reflected in a correction to Table 1, indicated by the following symbol: .

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  • Gregory M. Walton

  • Steven J. Spencer

  • Sam Erman

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