NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Meritocracy in America: An Examination of Wages Within and Across Occupations

John Cawley, James Heckman, Edward Vytlacil

NBER Working Paper No. 6446
Issued in March 1998
NBER Program(s):   LS

In The Bell Curve, Herrnstein and Murray argue that the U.S. economy is a meritocracy in which differences in wages (including differences across race and gender) are explained by differences in cognitive ability. In this paper we test their claim for wages conditional on occupation using a simultaneous model of occupation choice and wage determination. Our results contradict Herrnstein and Murray's claim that the U.S. labor market operates only on meritocratic principles.

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Published: Cawley, John, James Heckman and Edward Vytlacil. "Meritocracy in America: An Examination of Wages Within and Across Occupations." Industrial Relations, July 1999, 38(3): 250-296.

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