I am not entirely sure how comparable reputation and badges are across Stack Exchange sites. Of course, an obvious concern is that if the reputation points needed to earn certain privileges are uniform across Stack Exchange sites, then sites with a lower number of people will unambiguously be less conducive to mobility.

If this is indeed the case, should the reputation points needed to ascend to a new privilege not be scaled by number of users on the sites?

Reputation is an increasing function of likes, which are in turn an increasing function of number of users. If this is not already the case, this should be taken into account!

For instance, a 10,000 reputation on the Economics site implies much more of an 'impact' as regards the number of users on the site as opposed to, say 10,000 on Mathematics. My point is simple- a user on the 90th percentile in the reputation distribution should have the same privileges across sites.

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    Interesting idea, which might have already been proposed, but please edit the question so it won't look like a wall of text. – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask Dec 3 '15 at 15:02
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    @Chenmunka true for badges, but question here also ask for scaling of privileges, which is a different thing – Shadow Wizard Wearing Mask Dec 3 '15 at 15:34

First, the Economics site is in "beta", so the requirements for privilieges are already lower than on fully established sites like Mathematics, to reflect the fact young sites need user-moderators quickly. If/when it graduates, people will have to work hard to re-earn them to the new standard.

If there are constantly-moving goalposts, you'd have to choose what happens in the many times users drop below the threshold for a privilege they earned as a result of other users earning rep. Either:

  • Have people frequently lose privileges they earned while other users post good content, raising the average. Expect a lot of angry "Why can't I X anymore?" posts on meta, and a lot of users getting disillusioned because they can't keep up with what they can and can't do on each site.
  • Have users never lose privileges, meaning some users have more privileges than other users who have more rep, because the latter users joined later when reaching the top percentiles was harder.

Both options sound very confusing.

Then there's the weird possible case of, a user who is just outside of the 90th percentile, slipping up into the 90th percentile not through earning it by actually doing anything, but because a flood of new users joined after a question went viral, lowering the average.

I also don't think it's possible to design a system that eliminates differences between sites. Even if we adjust for averages or percentiles, there will be different distributions and patterns. I think this introduces a lot of potential confusion and complication for not very much gain.

The most important case - very young Beta sites vs mature sites - is already coverred by the difference between beta sites and launched sites.

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