Santiago Pérez (Alesina Seminar)


Thursday, February 3, 2022, 4:30pm to 5:45pm


CGIS Knafel, room K354

Today's Speaker

Santiago Pérez (University of California, Davis), "Who Benefits from Meritocracy?" (Download paper below)


Does screening applicants using exams hurt or help the chances of candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds? A promise of exam-based selection is that, by limiting discretion, it can reduce bias and increase diversity in organizations. Yet, a common critique to exams is that they might exhibit systematic biases that negatively impact the chances of applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds. We investigate the equity implications of exam-based selection using evidence from the 1883 Pendleton Act, which introduced competitive exams for selecting some US federal employees. While the reform increased the representation of “educated outsiders” (individuals with high education but limited connections), it reduced the share of individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. This decline was driven by an increased representation of the middle class, with limited change in the representation of applicants from upper-class backgrounds. The drop in the representation of workers from poorer backgrounds was stronger among applicants from states with more unequal access to schooling.

Co-sponsored by FAS and IQSS, the Program on Political Economy (PE) supports research-related activities that integrate the study of economics and politics, whether by studying economic behavior in the political process or political behavior in the marketplace. In general, positive political economy is concerned with showing how observed differences among institutions affect political and economic outcomes in various social, economic, and political systems and how the institutions themselves change and develop in response to individual and collective beliefs, preferences, and strategies.

Zoom links for Political Economy Seminar are distributed via the seminar's mailing list. You can subscribe to the PE Mailing List here.

See the seminar's full schedule at the Program on Political Economy page.

All interested faculty and students are invited to attend.

who_benefits_moreira_perez_jan_2022_2.pdf5.72 MB