Social Science

Carlos Doesn't Remember - American Meritocracy

Podcast REVISIONIST HISTORY: ""Carlos Doesn't Remember" - S1 E4

Here we are looking at the widespread belief that America is a meritocracy, that our capitalization rates (the number of people who achieve their full potential) are very high. Gladwell believes they are very low. Carlos is an example: a high-achieving student from a poor family, he is unable to go to Choate because of his mother going to jail. Gladwell argues that poor kids just don’t get as many chances as their wealthier classmates do. One mistake, one misstep and they are finished.

Evidence: Harvard makes itself essentially free to any poor child who can qualify. Fewer than 15 a year take them up on it. Hoxby study shows that there are 35,000 children per year who come from poor families and score in the top ten percent of all SAT/ACT testers. Gladwell believes that this number is low (how many smart but poor kids drop out or lose interest in school after puberty?).