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.
Awards and Recognition
- 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
"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
"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
"Rivera identifies the myriad ways that class influences every stage of the hiring process at top-tier firms, showing how it is that individuals from affluent backgrounds have come to dominate the most elite segments of the American labor market. She pulls back the curtain time and time again, revealing how processes that are apparently class, race, and gender neutral are anything but."—Elizabeth A. Armstrong, coauthor of Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality
"Pedigree sets a new standard of rigor for qualitative social-science research. Rivera shows how educational stratification in the United States is particularly pronounced and caste-like at the gateway to elite professions, and how the boundary between elite colleges and the elite firms that recruit from them is so fuzzy as to be only ceremonial."—Mitchell L. Stevens, author of Creating a Class: College Admissions and the Education of Elites