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How Elite Students Get Elite Jobs
Lauren A. Rivera
With a new afterword by the author

Winner of the 2016 Max Weber Book Award, Organizations, Occupations, and Work Section of the American Sociological Association
Winner of the 2016 Mary Douglas Prize for Best Book, Sociology of Culture Section of the American Sociological Association
Co-Winner of the 2016 Distinguished Book Award, Sociology of Law Section of the American Sociological Association
Co-Winner of the 2016 Silver Medal in Career (Job Search, Career Advancement), Axiom Business Book Awards
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2015

Paperback | 2016 | $17.95 | £14.95 | ISBN: 9780691169279
400 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | 4 line illus. 16 tables.
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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

"Forget Hollywood. Forget the American Dream. In Pedigree, Lauren Rivera discloses the harsh reality of landing a job on Wall Street. . . . In this valuable book, [she] sheds light on [the] selection process, homing in on how employers contribute to elite reproduction. The outcome is a highly informed analysis of class and cultural capital."--Angelia Wilson, Times Higher Education

"By demonstrating how leaders of firms select upon educational status, traits they already find in their midst, and prefer applicants that mirror their own pasts, trajectories, and skills, Rivera has provided important evidence for mechanisms of the (re)production of inequality. Those interested in the sociology of culture, in labor markets, and in elites and stratification will find Rivera’s book necessary reading."--Shamus Khan, American Journal of Sociology

"A rich and yet remarkably clear book."--Bruno Cousin, European Journal of Sociology


"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

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments xi
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
Afterword to the Paperback Edition 287
Appendix A Who Is Elite? 291
Appendix B Methodological Details 295
Appendix C List of Interviews 311
Notes 319
References 351
Index 369

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