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Migration and Meritocracy:

Support for the idea that hard work will get you ahead in society among nine migrant groups in Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany

Troels Fage Hedegaard


The belief that hard work can lead to advancement in a society stands as a key motivation for migrating. The literature on migration, however, has viewed meritocratic attitudes in a different light, arguing that a belief in a meritocratic society can cause migrants to be more accepting of inequalities and blind them to structural explanations of it. To add to this debate, I therefore study whether migrants generally perceive their recipient countries to be meritocracies or not, as well as what can explain these attitudes. I answer these questions using a survey collected among nine migrant groups in Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany. The results show that all the migrant groups perceive the three recipient countries as meritocratic, though there are differences among the groups. The article further studies what these variations in the belief in the meritocratic society can be explained by.