past Project

Meritocracy and African-American Health

Many people believe that, with the right mix of talent, ability, hard work, and opportunity, anyone can achieve the wealth and success that the American Dream has come to represent. Yet the rise to the top in America is limited, especially for those who live in segregated neighborhoods and those who have few educational and economic opportunities. In this project, we (Naa Oyo A. Kwate, Ph.D. & Ilan H. Meyer, Ph.D.) propose that, for African Americans, living in a culture that so highly values self-determination can lead to demoralization, unhealthy coping strategies, and higher rates of illness and early death. We look at how widely ingrained such beliefs are across the United States, across time, and across race; consider how meritocratic beliefs may be linked to political views about the role of government and the plight of the disadvantaged; and examine the effects of these beliefs on African American health.