Friday, May 09, 2008

Affirmative action and class boundaries

Affirmative action college admission policies lead to stratification of student income class. Admissions officers focus on rich minorities, which results in fewer kids from families with annual income under $40,000. Richard D. Kahlenberg discusses a report on college student diversity in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

One fascinating finding from the Chronicle's research is that public universities in states where affirmative action has been banned tend to have substantial amounts of economic diversity. In California and Washington, voters eliminated race-based affirmative action programs at public universities by ballot initiative in the 1990s. In Texas, the legislature adopted a plan to provide automatic admissions to students in the top 10% of their high school class after a Circuit court struck down race-based affirmative action. And in Florida, race-based preferences were banned by executive order. (Michigan also eliminated affirmative action in November 2006, but the move came too late to be reflected in the data examined by the Chronicle.) In the ranking of 39 public institutions, half (six of the top 12) of the most economically diverse universities are located in California, Florida, Texas and Washington. State demographic factors surely play into the relative economic diversity at leading public universities, but it seems likely that officials are also more likely to pay attention to economic diversity when they cannot easily make university classes racially diverse by admitting upper middle class students of color.


badmomgoodmom said...

I wrote about this in

"This is reminiscent of when my beloved UC Berkeley tried to justify their admissions process prior to Proposition 209. They said that without Prop 209, the number of white students would go down because they would be forced to admit more qualified Asian students. The alumni association, upon hearing this, and seeing statistics (the family incomes of white students were double those for Asian students and the average SAT for admitted white kids was 150 points lower than for admitted Asian kids), said that the old method was tantamount to affirmative action for rich white kids. They could not support that old system."

Kai Jones said...

We do keep moving the goalposts, so it's no wonder different admissions practices lead to different results.