Archive for the 'affirmative action' Category

When Affirmative Action Stops

A working paper finds:

Proposition 209 banned using racial preferences in admissions at California’s public colleges. We analyze unique data for all applicants and enrollees within the University of California (UC) system before and after Prop 209. After Prop 209, graduation rates of minorities increased by 4.4%. We characterize conditions required for better matching of students to campuses to account for this increase. We find that Prop 209 did improve matching and this improvement was important for the graduation gains experienced by less-prepared students. At the same time, better matching only explains about 20% of the overall graduation rate increase. Changes after Prop 209 in the selectivity of enrolled students explains 34-50% of the increase. Finally, it appears UC campuses responded to Prop 209 by doing more to help retain and graduate its students, which explains between 30-46% of the post-Prop 209 improvement in the graduation rate of minorities.

Full post here.

Affirmative Action – Not Win-Win

Duke University professors Peter Arcidiacono and Jacob Vigdor have a forthcoming paper in Economic Inquiry “Does the River Spill Over? Estimating the Economic Returns to Attending a Racially Diverse College”, Mark Perry provides a summary:

“Do white and Asian students at elite schools benefit from the presence of Under- Represented Minority students on campus or in the college classroom? While not all the evidence in this article suggests that interracial exposure is uniformly negative, it strongly suggests that the predominant policy tool designed to increase the representation of minority groups, affirmative action, has a negative net impact on students not directly targeted by the program.

Using data on graduates of 30 selective universities, we find only weak evidence of any relationship between collegiate racial composition and the postgraduation outcomes of white or Asian students. Our empirical results cover a broad range of outcomes, including earnings, educational attainment, and satisfaction with both one’s life and one’s job. Across these varying specifications, we fail to find any significant evidence that white or Asian students who attend more diverse colleges do better later in life. Moreover, the strongest evidence we uncover suggests that increasing minority representation by lowering admission standards is unlikely to produce benefits and may in fact cause harm by reducing the representation of minority students on less selective campuses.

Further analysis suggests that affirmative action is actually counterproductive, if its goal is to improve the productivity of majority race students. Preferential admissions for certain groups may still have a role in higher education, but they should be understood for what they are: redistributive mechanisms that create benefits for the targeted racial groups but costs for others.”

The full post can be found here.

More Vargas Testimony


Update: Expired video updated with a more complete one.

Vargas Testimony In The Sotomayor Hearings

I haven’t seen this discussed much in the blogosphere so I thought I would provide it here:

ACTING CHAIRMAN: Mr. Ricci, thank you very much for your testimony. We’ll now hear from Lieutenant Ben Vargas. Ben — Benjamin Vargas is a lieutenant in the New Haven Fire Department and was a plaintiff in the case of Ricci vs. DeStefano. He also worked part-time as a consultant for a company that sells equipment to firefighters. Mr. Vargas?

VARGAS: Thank you. Members of this committee, it is truly an honor to be invited here today. Notably, since our case was summarily dismissed by both the District Court and the Court of Appeals panel, this is the first time I am being given the opportunity to sit and testify before a body and tell my story. I thank for this — thank you to this committee for the opportunity.

Senators of both parties have noted the importance of this proceeding, because decisions of the United States Supreme Court greatly impact the everyday lives of ordinary Americans. I suppose that I and my fellow plaintiffs have shown how true that is. I never envisioned being a plaintiff in a Supreme Court case, much less one that generated so much media and public interest.

I am Hispanic and proud of their heritage and background that Judge Sotomayor and I share. And I congratulate Judge Sotomayor on her nomination.

But the focus should not have been on me being Hispanic. The focus should have been on what I did to earn a promotion to captain and how my own government and some courts responded to that. In short, they didn’t care. I think it important for you to know what I did, that I played by the rules and then endured a long process of asking the courts to enforce those rules.

I am the proud father of three young sons. For them I sought to better my life, and so I spent three months in daily study, preparing for an exam that was unquestionably job-related. My wife, a special education teacher, took time off from work to see me and our children through this process.

I knew we would see little of my sons during these months, when I studied every day at a desk in our basement, so I placed photographs of my boys in front of me. When I would get tired and wanted to stop — wanted to stop, I would look at the pictures, realize that their own future depended on mine, and I would keep going. At one point I packed up and went to a hotel for a day to avoid any distractions, and those pictures came with me.

I was shocked when I was not rewarded for this hard work and sacrifice, but I actually was penalized for it. I became not Ben Vargas, the fire lieutenant who proved themselves qualified to be captain, but a racist statistic. I had to make decisions whether to join those who wanted promotions to be based on race and ethnicity or join those who would insist on being judged solely on their qualifications and the content of their character.

Milton Friedman On Race, Poverty And Government


From an old speech but just as relevant today as it was then.

John McWhorter On BloggingHeads

A video of John McWhorter and Glenn Loury can be found here. McWhorter with Megan McArdle can be found here.

Update: Another one here (this video is a must watch, far better than the two above. Again, highly recommended!).

Quote Of The Day

“There was very little civil rights law before Title VII; nevertheless the black-white income differential narrowed more rapidly in that benighted era than it has since. It is possible that antidiscrimination laws do not benefit their intended beneficiaries, because they give the beneficiaries a sense of entitlement and victimhood, foster tokenism, increase employers’ costs, cast a shadow over the real achievements of outstanding members of the “benefited” group, create an unhealthy preoccupation with racial and ethnic identity, and cause white backlash. It is also possible that the sexual revolution of the 1960s promoted the break-up of the black family–of the white too, but the whites were in a better position to adapt. To the extent that the “Great Society” programs of the 1960s and the social disorder of the same period are correlated phenomena, together constituting a lurch to the Left, the net effect on black progress may have been negative”. — Richard Posner, writing about The Black-White Income Differential

Quote Of The Day

“Question to think about: If right-wingers are underrepresented in universities relative to the population and discriminated against by the left-wing majority, as Larry suggests, should there be affirmative action for right-leaning academics? It seems that, on principle, those on the left (who favor affirmative action to promote diversity and correct past injustice) should endorse such a university policy, and those on the right (who more often oppose affirmative action) would be against.” –Greg Mankiw, professor of economics at Harvard University

Quote Of The Day

“I agree entirely with David Bernstein’s previous post: affirmative action in higher education should not be categorically forbidden, but it should be both more transparent and better designed. As David writes, “it’s important to . . . have a theory as to which people you are giving preferences to, and why, rather than just give a preference to anyone who meets rather arbitrary ancestry rules.” This is particularly important in light of the fact that different rationales for affirmative action imply very different admissions policies. If affirmative action is based on the “diversity” rationale, which holds that students benefit from having classmates with varied backgrounds, then it might make sense to give affirmative action preferences to white immigrants from countries such as Sweden or Russia. Such people will, on average, contribute more to diversity than native-born American whites. The same goes for black immigrants from Africa or the Caribbean relative to native-born blacks.” — Ilya Somin, Assistant Professor at George Mason University School of Law, blogging at Volokh Conspiracy blog

Quote Of The Day

“I should note that some or all of these “preferred practices” [of how to better perform affirmative action at Universities] may be inhibited or prevented by the Supreme Court’s affirmative action jurisprudence, which allows preferences only for “diversity” purposes. Of course, no one really takes this seriously, least of all the Court itself; if this had been taken seriously, Grutter would have had to come out the other way, because the district court found as a factual matter that despite Michigan’s denials, the law school gave preferences only to select Hispanics (Mexican-Americans and mainland Puerto Ricans). Taking the tenth Mexican-American over the first Cuban or Columbian-American may make sense from a redistributivist perspective, but it hardly contributes to “diversity.” Nevertheless, universities must at least pretend to obey the law.”" — David Bernstein, professor at the George Mason University School of Law, blogging at Volokh Conspiracy blog

Quote Of The Day

“White liberals frown on independent thinking by minorities. Some of them claimed that Thomas was pulling up the ladder behind him and so they pulled the rug out from under him. These are the folks who claim credit for the success of those minorities they agree with while trying to discredit those with whom they disagree.” –Ruben Navarette, on Clarence Thomas and his treatment by liberals

The Reality Of Affirmation Action

Gail Heriot, professor of law at the University of San Diego and a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in an article titled, Affirmative Action Backfires, in the Wall Street Journal writes:

Three years ago, UCLA law professor Richard Sander published an explosive, fact-based study of the consequences of affirmative action in American law schools in the Stanford Law Review. Most of his findings were grim, and they caused dismay among many of the champions of affirmative action — and indeed, among those who were not.

Easily the most startling conclusion of his research: Mr. Sander calculated that there are fewer black attorneys today than there would have been if law schools had practiced color-blind admissions — about 7.9% fewer by his reckoning. He identified the culprit as the practice of admitting minority students to schools for which they are inadequately prepared. In essence, they have been “matched” to the wrong school.

No one claims the findings in Mr. Sander’s study, “A Systemic Analysis of Affirmative Action in American Law Schools,” are the last word on the subject. Although so far his work has held up to scrutiny at least as well as that of his critics, all fair-minded scholars agree that more research is necessary before the “mismatch thesis” can be definitively accepted or rejected.

Unfortunately, fair-minded scholars are hard to come by when the issue is affirmative action. Some of the same people who argue Mr. Sander’s data are inconclusive are now actively trying to prevent him from conducting follow-up research that might yield definitive answers. If racial preferences really are causing more harm than good, they apparently don’t want you — or anyone else — to know.

Mr. Sander’s original article noted that when elite law schools lower their academic standards in order to admit a more racially diverse class, schools one or two tiers down feel they must do the same. As a result, there is now a serious gap in academic credentials between minority and non-minority law students across the pecking order, with the average black student’s academic index more than two standard deviations below that of his average white classmate.

Not surprisingly, such a gap leads to problems. Students who attend schools where their academic credentials are substantially below those of their fellow students tend to perform poorly.

The reason is simple: While some students will outperform their entering academic credentials, just as some students will underperform theirs, most students will perform in the range that their academic credentials predict. As a result, in elite law schools, 51.6% of black students had first-year grade point averages in the bottom 10% of their class as opposed to only 5.6% of white students. Nearly identical performance gaps existed at law schools at all levels. This much is uncontroversial.

Supporters of race-based admissions argue that, despite the likelihood of poor grades, minority students are still better off accepting the benefit of a preference and graduating from a more prestigious school. But Mr. Sander’s research suggests that just the opposite may be true — that law students, no matter what their race, may learn less, not more, when they enroll in schools for which they are not academically prepared. Students who could have performed well at less competitive schools may end up lost and demoralized. As a result, they may fail the bar.

Specifically, Mr. Sander found that when black and white students with similar academic credentials compete against each other at the same school, they earn about the same grades. Similarly, when black and white students with similar grades from the same tier law school take the bar examination, they pass at about the same rate.

Yet, paradoxically, black students as a whole have dramatically lower bar passage rates than white students with similar credentials. Something is wrong.

The Sander study argued that the most plausible explanation is that, as a result of affirmative action, black and white students with similar credentials are not attending the same schools. The white students are more likely to be attending a school that takes things a little more slowly and spends more time on matters that are covered on the bar exam. They are learning, while their minority peers are struggling at more elite schools.

Mr. Sander calculated that if law schools were to use color-blind admissions policies, fewer black law students would be admitted to law schools (3,182 students instead of 3,706), but since those who were admitted would be attending schools where they have a substantial likelihood of doing well, fewer would fail or drop out (403 vs. 670). In the end, more would pass the bar on their first try (1,859 vs. 1,567) and more would eventually pass the bar (2,150 vs. 1,981) than under the current system of race preferences. Obviously, these figures are just approximations, but they are troubling nonetheless.

Mr. Sander has his critics — some thoughtful, some just strident — but so far none has offered a plausible alternative explanation for the data. Of course, Mr. Sander doesn’t need to be proven 100% correct for his research to be devastating news for affirmative-action supporters.

Suppose the consequences of race-based admissions turn out to be a wash — neither increasing nor decreasing the number of minority attorneys. In that case, few people would think it worth the costs, not least among them the human costs that result from the failure of the supposed beneficiaries to graduate and pass the bar.

Under current practices, only 45% of blacks who enter law school pass the bar on their first attempt as opposed to over 78% of whites. Even after multiple tries, only 57% of blacks succeed. The rest are often saddled with student debt, routinely running as high as $160,000, not counting undergraduate debt. How great an increase in the number of black attorneys is needed to justify these costs?

The article goes on to discuss recommendations the civil rights commission is making mainly regarding transparency. The full article can be found here. Responses from the article can be found here.

Update: More here.

Common Sense?

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, in his majority opinion ruling that race cannot be a factor in the assignment of children to public schools, wrote,

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.”

Clarence Thomas, the only black Supreme Court justice, in his concurring opinion wrote,

“ Every time the government uses racial criteria to ‘bring the races together,’ someone gets excluded, and the person excluded suffers an injury solely because of his or her race.”


“It is the height of arrogance for Members of this Court to assert blindly that their motives are better than others.”


“The Constitution enshrines principles independent of social theories.”

“Indeed, if our history has taught us anything, it has taught us to beware of elites bearing racial theories.”

For more on todays ruling go here, here, and here.

Quote Of The Day

In California, which outlawed preferences in 1996, more black and Hispanic students are enrolled in college today than ever before — and more importantly, a higher percentage of them are graduating. In 1995, only 26 percent of black and Hispanic students actually graduated from the UC system; now 51 percent graduate, roughly equal to the white and Asian rate…. It’s about time we ended racial double standards once and for all. In doing so, we will actually improve the chances that more black and Hispanic students will earn college degrees”. –Linda Chavez, chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity

Multiculturalism: Fact or Threat?

This is why I think everybody should read Dinesh D’Souza’s writings:

Multiculturalism: Fact or Threat?

There has been a remarkable demographic shift that has changed the complexion of American society over the last 40 years. One reason for this change is the fact that most immigrants today come from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, rather than from Europe. A second contributing factor is birthrates: those of non-white minorities are substantially higher than that of whites. Taken together, these have led to what some have called the “browning of America.” In this sense, we can speak of multiculturalism as a fact. But it is important to distinguish this fact from the ideology that goes by the same name. The ideology of multiculturalism demands the transformation of America’s educational and political institutions in response to the new demographic reality. This ideology of multiculturalism, unlike the fact of multiculturalism, poses a threat to what is best and highest in America.

Multiculturalists insist that we change how we teach our children, in order to reshape how they think. Specifically, they must stop thinking of Western and American civilization as superior to other civilizations. The doctrine underlying this position is cultural relativism — the denial that any culture can be said to be better or worse than any other. Cultural relativists take the principle of equality, which in the American political tradition is applied to individuals in terms of rights, and apply it instead to cultures in terms of their value.

One approach taken by multiculturalists to extinguish feelings of cultural superiority is to revise reading lists in our schools to minimize the influence of those they deride as “dead white males.” A few years ago the novelist Saul Bellow set off a controversy when he said, “Find me the Tolstoy of the Zulus, or the Proust of the Papuans, and I would be happy to read him.” In the storm of outrage that followed, Bellow was accused of racism. But the charge was unjustified. Bellow was not saying, after all, that the Zulus and Papuans are incapable of producing great novelists. He was saying that as far as he knew, they hadn’t. But just by raising the possibility that some cultures have contributed more, if you will, to the dining table of civilization, he had violated one of the chief tenets of multiculturalism.

A few years ago I attended a panel at the American Historical Association where the participants were almost coming to blows over the question of whether Columbus “discovered” America or “encountered” America. For a while I was puzzled, but then I realized that there was an important issue at stake. The idea of discovery involves a subject and an object, as in “Fleming discovered penicillin.” It suggests that one person takes the initiative and finds someone or something else out. An encounter, on the other hand, is a chance event: “The hiker encountered a bear in the woods.” To say that Columbus discovered America suggests that Columbus’s civilization was engaged in a remarkable project of exploration and evangelization; by contrast, the term encounter implies that it was accidental that European ships came to America, rather than American Indian ships landing on the shores of Europe.

Whence Western Civilization?

Continue reading ‘Multiculturalism: Fact or Threat?’

Democrat Senator Joseph Biden On Barack Obama

“I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy,” he said. “I mean, that’s a storybook, man.” –Democrat Senator Joseph Biden On Barack Obama

Just one more example of how liberals view minorities.