Yusuke Narita from Yale University will present "Meritocracy and Its Discontents: Long-run Effects of Repeated School Admission Reforms", (joint with Mari Tanaka and Chiaki Rieti Moriguchi).
We study the short-run and long-run impacts of changing admissions systems in higher education. We take advantage of the world’s first known implementation of nationally centralized admissions and its
subsequent reversals in early twentieth-century Japan. This centralization was designed to make admissions more meritocratic, but our analysis finds a sharp tradeoff between meritocracy and equal regional access to higher education and career advancement. Specifically, in the short run, the meritocratic centralization led
students to make more inter-regional and ambitious applications. As high-ability students were located disproportionately in urban areas, increased regional mobility caused urban applicants to crowd out rural
applicants from higher education. Most importantly, the impacts were persistent. Four decades later, compared to the decentralized admissions, the meritocratic centralization increases the number of urban-born career elites (e.g., top income earners) relative to rural-born elites. We also find that the meritocratic centralization
produced more top-ranking bureaucrats relative to the decentralized system.