Merit, approbation and the evolution of social structure

R. Cowan*, N. Jonard

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


We examine a society in which individuals gain utility from income and social approbation. Approbation is given to an unobservable trait, signalled through social mobility. Two environments are studied: in one players care for absolute approbation; in the other relative approbation matters. In both environments, individuals’ quest for approbation both affects and is affected by social structure. We study the long run implications of that interaction on social organization. Various forms of dynasties and meritocracies are possible. Even though social mobility is driven purely by meritocratic principles, pure dynasties can emerge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)295-315
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior & Organization
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

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