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Can selecting the most qualified candidate be unfair? Learning about socioeconomic advantages and disadvantages reduces the perceived fairness of meritocracy and increases support for socioeconomic diversity initiatives in organizations.

While the majority of Americans today endorse meritocracy as fair, we suggest that these perceptions can be shaped by whether or not people learn about the presence of socioeconomic advantages and disadvantages in others' lives. Across five studies ( N = 3,318), we find that people are able to attach socioeconomic inequalities in applicants' backgrounds to their evaluation of the fairness of specific merit-based selection processes and outcomes. Learning that one applicant grew up advantaged-while the other grew up disadvantaged-leads both liberals and conservatives to believe that otherwise identical merit-based procedures and outcomes are significantly less fair. Importantly, learning about starting inequalities leads to greater support for policies that promote socioeconomic diversity in organizations. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2024 APA, all rights reserved).

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