When Success Fails You: On the Law and Economics of Discrimination of Excellence

9 Pages Posted: 25 May 2019

See all articles by Julia M. Puaschunder

Julia M. Puaschunder

Harvard University; New School for Social Research; Princeton University; George Washington University Center for International Business Education and Research; The New School - Bernard Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (CEPA)

Date Written: April 24, 2019


Discrimination is unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things. Long-standing, ample evidence of discrimination and most important attempts exist to legally abolish, economically counter-weight and societally alleviate the negative impacts of discrimination around the world. Yet to this day, there is hardly any description of discrimination of excellence. Unfair treatment of outperformers occurs when focusing away from merit leads to economic inefficiency based on arbitrary decision making excellent outperformers face mostly put up by relative underperformers who fear not being able to keep up with outperformance.

Theoretically, the paper introduces discrimination of excellence legally including the most recent case of standardized admission test outperformers suing a U.S. higher education institution over fair admission standards and admission fraud scandals coupled with an economic modeling of socio-economic losses implied by discriminating against strivers. The societal value of outperformers will be outlined in Veblen's trickling down of excellence, The American Dream ideals of striving being an economic driver as well as political science comparisons of different regimes’ conduct around excellency. The social psychology categorization of society into so-called 'ingroups' and 'outgroups' is spearheaded with integrating 'übergroups' as natural strivers who face unprecedently captured discrimination. Socio-psychological motives – such as envy, jealousy, inferiority complex, reputation greed and suboptimal group norms – explain discrimination towards outperformance to provide coping and alleviation strategies. Intergenerational aspects and leadership features of discrimination of excellence are proposed.

Empirically, qualitative case studies, diary technique collected data and an external review report in the higher education sector vividly outline discrimination based on excellence (Study 1). Qualitative analyses of PhD studies blog entries reveal a pattern of outperformers being forced out of higher educational institutions to successfully continuing in higher-ranked institutions (Study 2). Evidence of intangible admission criteria, unfair testing situations and delayed or unsuccessful academic promotion statistics serve as additional evidence on discrimination based on excellence. Resistance to share information on testing and promotion criteria transparently is detected to allow for discrimination (Study 3). Macro-economic analyses reveal industries that are prone to breed discrimination based on excellence (Study 4) to estimate the short- and long-term losses of discrimination of excellence based on economic trickling down and too-big-to-fail arguments but also Keynes' multiplier innovatively applied in endogenous growth theory alongside including health and societal risks in the wake of discrimination (Study 5). Macro-economic cross-sectional and time series analyses in the laboratory of modern world history outline socio-economic costs of slowing outperformers and abolishing intellectual advancement (Study 6). Artificial intelligence increasing the currently unprecendently wide divide between skilled and unskilled labor is predicted to even higher importance of attention to excellency in the future (Study 7).

Legal codifications, economic action and public policy making as well as corporate workplace incentives can foster performance free from discrimination. Outperformers and underperforming segments should transfer coping in lieu of performance strategies and strategically align in the striving towards a discrimination-free economy and society. Awareness building, transparency and mandatory access to information on hiring, testing and promotion criteria appear as natural remedies besides legal action to combat excellency-discriminating individuals and institutional structures. The research provides a truly heterodox economics standpoint on reconsidering discrimination in a novel light with attention to those who are put down due to their stellar excellence outshining underperformers, whose inappropriate discriminatory conduct deserves to be left behind for the sake of upholding individual well-being derived from dignity, economic prosperity grounded in respect for striving and societal advancement founded on excellency.

Keywords: Defamation, Discrimination, Discrimination based on Excellence, Excellence, Fairness, Higher Education, Human Rights, Injustice, Justice, Natural Strivers, Outperformance, Outperformers, Prejudice, Reputation, Social Ingroup, Social Outgroup, Social Übergroup, Workplace Relations

Suggested Citation

Puaschunder, Julia M., When Success Fails You: On the Law and Economics of Discrimination of Excellence (April 24, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3377646 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3377646

Julia M. Puaschunder (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

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New School for Social Research ( email )

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Princeton University ( email )

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George Washington University Center for International Business Education and Research ( email )

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The New School - Bernard Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis (CEPA) ( email )

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