Meritocracy, Self-Concerns, and Whites' Denial of Racial Inequity

Eric D. Knowles, Brian S. Lowery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We propose that embracing meritocracy as a distribution rule causes Whites to deny the existence of racial inequity. On this view, Whites who endorse meritocracy seek to regard themselves as high in merit, and maintain this self-view by denying racial privilege. Four studies show that preference for meritocracy better predicts denial of White privilege than anti-Black discrimination (Study 1), that the desire to see the self as meritorious mediates the relationship between preference for meritocracy and denial of privilege (Study 2), that this meritocracy-privilege relationship is moderated by Whites' need to bolster the self (Study 3), and that priming the meritocracy norm reduces perceptions of racial privilege among highly identified Whites (Study 4). Implications for the amelioration of social inequity are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-222
Number of pages21
JournalSelf and Identity
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Preference for meritocracy
  • White identity
  • White privilege
  • social inequity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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