A high-profile court case about meritocracy and college admissions has captured much attention. A group called Students for Fair Admissions alleges that Harvard University uses highly subjective personality ratings to penalize Asian applicants. The former tend to outperform white applicants on every measure except for so-called personality, but the number of Asian-American students at Harvard has fallen relative to the Asian-American population, while the number for white students has risen, during the last 25 years. Defenders of the policy, meanwhile, said that the personality ratings are necessary to account for the different challenges students face growing up.
While the case is sensational because of the allegations of racism, fundamentally it’s about a deeper question. Does meritocracy still make sense as a guiding principle for the modern American economic system?