Americans are taught to believe that upward mobility is possible for anyone who is willing to work hard, regardless of their social status, yet it is often those from affluent backgrounds who land the best jobs. Pedigree takes readers behind the closed doors of top-tier investment banks, consulting firms, and law firms to reveal the truth about who really gets hired for the nation’s highest-paying entry-level jobs, who doesn’t, and why.
Drawing on scores of in-depth interviews as well as firsthand observation of hiring practices at some of America’s most prestigious firms, Lauren Rivera shows how, at every step of the hiring process, the ways that employers define and evaluate merit are strongly skewed to favor job applicants from economically privileged backgrounds. She reveals how decision makers draw from ideas about talent—what it is, what best signals it, and who does (and does not) have it—that are deeply rooted in social class. Displaying the "right stuff" that elite employers are looking for entails considerable amounts of economic, social, and cultural resources on the part of the applicants and their parents.
Challenging our most cherished beliefs about college as a great equalizer and the job market as a level playing field, Pedigree exposes the class biases built into American notions about the best and the brightest, and shows how social status plays a significant role in determining who reaches the top of the economic ladder.
Lauren A. Rivera is associate professor of management and organizations at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
"Pedigree: How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs is an academic book with the requisite references to gender theory and Marxist concepts of inequality. But read it carefully and it becomes something far more useful--a guide on how to join the global elite."--Economist
"[Rivera’s] richly described account is mesmerising--and horrifying."--Gillian Tett, Financial Times
"[Pedigree] provides an insider look at how top-notch places hire, and explores how their processes serve those with the most privileged and affluent backgrounds."--Bouree Lam, The Atlantic
"Sociologist Rivera has written an exceptionally useful study of how hiring for elite starting jobs is actually done in the US. This insider study shows how the top investment banks, law firms, and consulting companies hire only from a double handful of leading universities, law schools, and business schools. . . . This significant sociological study will also likely be read as a how-to manual."--Choice
"In this riveting account of how the nation's top investment banks, consultancies, and law firms choose employees, Lauren Rivera goes inside the recruitment process, interviewing the interviewers and sitting in on their decision meetings. This eye-opening book exposes how the American elite keep the best jobs for themselves."--Frank Dobbin, author of Inventing Equal Opportunity
"Pedigree provides a rare behind-the-scenes look at the hiring processes for elite jobs. Rivera’s thoughtful ethnographic observations illuminate exactly how social class matters, and how the display of cultural skills can be crucial for job seekers to gain access to elite positions. It is an eye-opening book."--Annette Lareau, University of Pennsylvania
Table of Contents:
1 Entering the Elite 1
2 The Playing Field 29
3 The Pitch 55
4 The Paper 83
5 Setting the Stage for Interviews 113
6 Beginning the Interview: Finding a Fit 135
7 Continuing the Interview: The Candidate's Story 147
8 Concluding the Interview: The Final Acts 183
9 Talking It Out: Deliberating Merit 211
10 Social Reconstruction 253
11 Conclusion 267
Appendix A Who Is Elite? 287
Appendix B Methodological Details 291
Appendix C List of Interviews 307
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Lauren A. Rivera: