On the Content of our Character: The Myth of Meritocracy and African American Health

Award Year:
Naa Oyo Kwate, Ilan Meyer
Health Disparities
Many people believe that, with the right mix of talent, ability, hard work, and opportunity, anyone can achieve the wealth and success that the American Dream has come to represent. Yet the rise to the top in America is limited, especially for those who live in segregated neighborhoods and those who have few educational and economic opportunities. Co-PIs Naa Oyo A. Kwate, Ph.D. and Ilan H. Meyer, Ph.D. propose that, for African Americans, living in a culture that so highly values self-determination can lead to demoralization, unhealthy coping strategies, and higher rates of illness and early death. In their project, On the Content of Our Character: The Myth of Meritocracy and African American Health, Drs. Kwate and Meyer look at how widely ingrained such beliefs are across the United States. They also consider how meritocratic beliefs may be linked to political views about the role of government and the plight of the disadvantaged, and to disparities in health and well being. This project will shed light on the hidden consequences of meritocratic beliefs.