Jonathan J.B. Mijs
Ph.D. Date: May 2017 (Expected)
Dissertation Title: Heterogeneity and Meritocracy: How Social Institutions Shape the Development of Inequality Beliefs
Dissertation Committee: Jason Beckfield (Chair), Lawrence D. Bobo, and Devah Pager
Areas of Teaching/Research: Stratification and Inequality; Education; Causality and Morality; Sociological Theory
My dissertation is an investigation into how (young) citizens learn about social inequality, and how they come to explain setbacks and success in their own life and that of others. Through my work I try to understand in particular why some people hold a meritocratic view of their society, where success comes to those who work for it, whereas others see an uneven playing field, tilted by the weight of race, class, and gender, among other things that are beyond a person's control.
I draw on a combination of survey, longitudinal, and experimental data to describe the institutional foundations of belief formation. I suggest that socializing institutions like schools are inferential spaces that young people draw from in developing an understanding of the society they live in. The socioeconomic and racial heterogeneity of these spaces, among other factors, determines the range and type of information that is available to people as they develop their inequality beliefs—by inference from their experience.
In my dissertation, I set out an agenda for studying the formation of inequality beliefs, provide a framework for exploring the institutional factors that shape belief formation, and discuss the implications for the study and experience of inequality.