USA Today: Lanya Olmstead was born in Florida to a mother who immigrated from Taiwan and an American father of Norwegian ancestry. Ethnically, she considers herself half Taiwanese and half Norwegian. But when applying to Harvard, Olmstead checked only one box for her race: white.
“I didn’t want to put ‘Asian’ down,” Olmstead says, “because my mom told me there’s discrimination against Asians in the application process.”
Her Mom is correct:
Asian students have higher average SAT scores than any other group, including whites. A study by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade examined applicants to top colleges from 1997, when the maximum SAT score was 1600 (today it’s 2400). Espenshade found that Asian-Americans needed a 1550 SAT to have an equal chance of getting into an elite college as white students with a 1410 or black students with an 1100.
Note that this is true even though there is a history of discrimination against Asians in the U.S., Asian children also do well on extra-curricular activities and many have poor, immigrant backgrounds.
Comparing schools which can and cannot legally discriminate suggests a lot of discrimination. At Yale the class of 2013 is 15.5 percent Asian-American, at Dartmouth 16.1 percent, at Harvard 19.1 percent, and at Princeton 17.6 percent. These figures are above the Asian share of the population but compare:
The California Institute of Technology, a private school that chooses not to consider race, is about one-third Asian. (Thirteen percent of California residents have Asian heritage.) The University of California-Berkeley, which is forbidden by state law to consider race in admissions, is more than 40 percent Asian — up from about 20 percent before the law was passed.
Interestingly, the Obama administration has recently reversed Bush era rules and interpretations in order to promote race-based admissions:
Bush guidelines: “Before using race, there must be a serious good faith consideration of workable race-neutral alternatives.”
Obama guidelines: “Institutions are not required to implement race-neutral approaches if, in their judgment, the approaches would be unworkable.”
Governor Jerry Brown would also like to repeal or limit CA’s ban on race-based admissions.