Meritocratic Tournaments: Income Inequality as a Determinant of Working Time

Zarah Westrich

The rise of meritocracy, a system in which economic and power resources are assumed to be based on performance, is accompanied by a transformation of work. Hereby, the meritocratic value of working hard becomes a means of justifying an individual’s social rank and inequality. Working hard includes allocating working time for paid employment and unpaid care work. The long downward trend of paid working time weakened towards the end of the twentieth century and even reversed for some countries. At the same time, the time spent on childcare has increased in recent decades. This research project integrates income inequality into the explanation of these trends. Theoretically, it explores how income inequality is linked to meritocratic tournaments, and empirically it investigates how income inequality affects the working time for paid and unpaid work. Based on a theoretical framework combining sociological, political science, and economic perspectives, the research depicts time use trends and conducts panel data analyses at the household level.

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