November 5, 2015

Pedigree by Lauren A Rivera

Pedigree by Lauren A Rivera

How elite students get elite jobs.

Pedigree refers to the term that employers in elite firms as shorthand for a job candidate's record of accomplishment. Pedigree was widely seen as a highly desirable, if not mandatory, applicant trait. Higher education has become one of the most important vehicles of social stratification and economic inequality in the United States.

Income, wealth and other types of economic capital are the most obvious resources that well-off parents can mobilize to procure educational advantages for their children. The US is one of the few Western industrialized countries where public primary and secondary school funding is based largely on property values within a given region. Consequently, high-quality public schools are disproportionately concentrated in geographic areas where property values are the highest and resident tends to be the most affluent.

At the secondary school level, children from economically privileged homes are more likely to attend schools with plentiful honors and advanced placement (AP) courses, athletics, art, music and drama programs; these schools also are likely to have well-staffed college counseling offices. Attending school with such offerings not only enhances students cognitive and social development, but also helps them build academic and extracurricular profiles that are competitive for college admissions.

The choice of investment banks, consulting firms and law firms may strike some readers as a comparison among apples, oranges and pears. But for insiders, these three types of companies are peer organizations collectively referred to as elite professional service (EPS) firms, which work together and depends on one another for survival. It is also known as ‘the Holy Trinity’ or Ivy League “finishing schools.”

The chances of hiring at EPS firms might seem to have become an open contest. But hiring at elite firms is a sponsored contest. Anyone may apply, but in reality, employers consider only those applications sponsored by existing elites: either prestigious universities or industry insiders.

Bucketing merit - the process of resume screening.

To bucket resumes, evaporators reported ‘going down the page’ and the qualities that evaporators, most commonly used to sort applications in the following order of preference.

School prestige, extracurricular activities, grades, employment prestige, what did at last job, consistency of experience, career progression, & diversity.

Percent of Holt interviews whose performance in an evaluate category was debated during calibration by Gender and race
Polish - 45%; Case structure - 19%;  Case math - 30%; Fit - 19%

Polish - 35%; Case structure - 0%;  Case math - 60%; Fit - 10%

Polish - 49%; Case structure - 26%;  Case math - 19%; Fit - 23%

Polish - 50%; Case structure - 50%;  Case math - 63%; Fit - 0%

Polish - 31%; Case structure - 20%;  Case math - 29%; Fit - 24%

Asian /Asian Americans:
Polish - 33%; Case structure - 33%;  Case math - 33%; Fit - 0%

Indian / Indian-American:
Polish - 75%; Case structure - 0%;  Case math - 13%; Fit - 0%

Hispanic / Hispanic American:
Polish - 89%; Case structure - 0%;  Case math - 22%; Fit - 33%

Behind popular narratives of economic positions as entirely earned, there is a well-developed machinery in the US that passes on economic privilege from one generation to the next.  Elite professional service (ESP) firms - employers that serve as gatekeepers to high salaries and good jobs - play a critical role in this reproduction of privilege. In theory, the hiring practices of these firms are class neutral; elite employers simply seek to hire “the best and the brightest”. But in practice, as this book has shown, the way that these firms evaluate the worth of job applicants and make hiring decisions strongly tilts the competition for elite jobs toward students from socioeconomically privileged families.

By studying stratification to some of the nation’s highest-paying jobs use to make selection decisions, high-status extracurricular activities, polished interactional styles, and personal narratives of passion, self-reliance and self-actualization - were not artists or highbrow but were indeed classed.

However, hiring decisions were not made on the basis of cultural capital alone. Cultural capital worked together with social capital, visible status characteristics, and applicant and evaluator behavior to produce hiring outcomes and inequalities. Moreover, in certain cases, having the right social capital could compensate for a lack of cultural capital.

Over the past century, elite universities have shifted their admissions criteria to focus more heavily on students' extracurricular interests, well-roundedness, personal qualities, and personal stories. Elite corporations have followed suite, intentionally importing the logic and criteria of university admission into their hiring practices and heralding them as best practices.

Furthermore, elite schools and firms have a symbiotic relationship, providing one another with valuable resources. Having workers from the most elite ranks of American society could enhance the reputation and prestige of firms and industries. Employing elite workers could also facilitate feelings of comfort and trust among high-status clients.

Furthermore, selecting new hires based on cultural similarity could enhance cohesion and job satisfaction among employees. Creating a group of close-knit coworkers who have the potential to become instant friends and playmates could foster motivation and organizational commitment among junior employees; this might compensate for the grueling hours and mundane tasks requires of these workers. A strong social network of like-minded others is a critical marketing tool that firms use to attract a new applicants year after year despite the difficult lifestyles associated with these jobs.

Who is elite?
In many American’s eyes, being upper class or elite means the freedom from thinking about monetary constraints and/or having no one richer to which to compare oneself. Following the work of sociologist Shamus Khan, I define elites as individuals who have ‘vastly disproportionate control’ over scarce, valued resources that can be used to gain access to material or symbolic advantages in society at large. There are economic elites, which I define as individuals who fall within the top quintile of household incomes - a group whose children monopolizes access to society’s formal avenues of mobility, including the educational systems. There are educational elites who possess formal educational credentials of the highest magnitude and/or institutional status. There are also occupational elites, who work in the most prestigious fields of employment. Elites in my study may fall into any of these three categories. Given that education, occupation and income are highly-controlled, many fall into more than one.

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