Sunday, January 08, 2012

Affirmative action backfire

The US Supreme Court will soon decide whether to hear Fisher v. University of Texas, a case challenging racial preferences in school admissions. Two of the Amici briefs filed in this case are particularly interesting.  They argue that the effect of affirmative action has been the opposite of intended.  Ed Whelan of National Review writes:

I’d like to highlight a provocative new line of attack on racial preferences made in two of the amicus briefs—one by law professor Richard Sander and journalist Stuart Taylor Jr., and the other on behalf of three members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Gail Heriot, Peter Kirsanow, and Todd Gaziano.

As Sander and Taylor summarize it, “a growing volume of very careful research, some of it completely unrebutted by dissenting work, suggests that racial preferences in higher education often undermine minority achievement.” This research focuses on the so-called academic “mismatch” effect of racial preferences—that is, the effect of placing the recipients of racial preferences in more advanced academic settings than their objective qualifications would warrant.

It is, of course, not surprising that anyone who is overmatched by his academic environment would tend to do poorly compared to others who are well matched for that same environment. (Sander and Taylor note that the “median black receiving a large admission preference to an elite law school … ends up with grades that put her at the 6th percentile of the white grade distribution.”)

But what recent research has discovered, according to the two amicus briefs, is the more striking finding that, across various measurements, the recipients of racial preferences perform worse than similarly qualified minority students attending less elite institutions. For example, mismatched students transfer at a higher rate out of science majors, are less likely to pursue a doctorate, are less likely to become college professors, have lower graduation rates from law school, and have much lower success rates on bar exams. Again, in each case the comparison is to similarly qualified minority students attending less elite institutions, so the broader implication is that racial preferences affirmatively harm many of their intended beneficiaries. [Emph. added]

Jeff Jacoby at the Boston Globe has more on this (hat tip: Instapundit).

PREVIOUSLY on affirmative action:
California offers tutoring only to those qualified racially
Asians try to cope with racist university admissions policies
Justice Scalia on the incoherence of Affirmative Action law
For liberals, "affirmative action" means "keep the Asians out"
Liberals oppose even research on the issue of whether affirmative action works
High school implements race-based punishments for misbehavior

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