Consensually held ideologies may serve as the cultural "glue" that justifies hierarchical status differences in society (e.g. Augustinos, 1998). Yet to be effective these beliefs need to be embraced by low-status groups. Why would members of low-status groups endorse beliefs that justify their relative disadvantage? We propose that members of low-status groups in the United States may benefit from some system-justifying beliefs (such as the belief in meritocracy) to the extent that these beliefs emphasize the perception of control over future outcomes. In 2 studies, among women, lower-SES women, and women of color, we found a positive relationship between the belief in meritocracy and well-being (self-esteem and physical health) that was mediated by perceived control. Members of low-status groups may benefit from some system-justifying beliefs to the extent that these beliefs, like the belief in meritocracy, emphasize the perception of control over future outcomes.
Keywords: Meritocracy; Self-Esteem; Socio-economic Status; System Justification.