Tag: affirmative action

Racial preferences at elite American universities

In this post, I explore racial preferences in elite universities in the United States. I’ll start by outlining the basic racial demographics of top universities. Then I’ll compare this data to the demography of top achieving American high schoolers. This comparison highlights the consequences of extreme racial preferences in the admissions process of our elite institutions of higher education. Next, I’ll estimate the demography of top universities after separating Jewish whites and non-Jewish whites. My estimates suggest the surprising finding that non-Jewish whites are perhaps the most under-represented racial group at these elite institutions.

Following that, I’ll review studies that attempt to quantify the magnitude and patterns of racial preferences at selective universities. These reviews reveal the surprising finding that elite universities have little to no preferences for low-SES or low-income applicants. Next, I briefly cite a few reviews of affirmative action case law, in order to understand the primary legal defenses of racial preferences that have been presented by selective universities in landmark Supreme Court cases. The review of affirmative action case law leaves me with a few important questions which I believe have not been adequately addressed by elite universities. Finally, I end the post explaining why racial preferences at elite universities are important.

Two arguments in defense of affirmative action

Thomas Nagel (1981) distinguishes between two forms of affirmative action. “Weak” affirmative action refers to “to special efforts to ensure equal opportunity for members of groups that had been subject to discrimination”. This can include public advertisement of positions to be filled, active recruitment of qualified applicants from the formerly excluded groups, and special training programs to help them meet the standards for admission or appointment. “Strong” affirmative action refers to “some degree of definite preference for members of these groups in determining access to positions from which they were formerly excluded.” The “weak” vs “strong” distinction has also been referred to as the “minimalist” vs “maximalist” distinction (Beauchamp 1998) or the “procedural” vs “preferential” distinction. As Nagel and Beauchamp note, most people agree that “weak” or “procedural” affirmative action is justified (and perhaps even morally obligatory). However, there is significant controversy regarding “strong” or “preferential” forms of affirmative action. In this post, I will defend “strong or “preferential” affirmative action.