Don’t Check Asian

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.


"Promote race-based admissions". Translation: "be racist". But good racism, not the bad kind.

It ain't nothing more sad and pathetic than caucasians moaning about losing what they presumed to be their earned entitlement.....don't be mistaken about it, however. America is America precisely because the elites interchange . You Europeans are, sadly, becoming the big minority in the old USA.... Rude awakening, needless to say, but your kids will lack the entitlement you enjoyed. Can you say BROWN in spanish?! LA, Chicago, New York,,,,uhm... it ain't looking good at all!

Happy Camper.

Actually, the point of the post was that Asians are the ones getting screwed here, not whites.

But keep on with your intelligent commentary. Happy Camper.

"Can you say BROWN in Spanish?"

I always thought it was funny back in high school Spanish classes when the latino kids who grew up speaking Spanish were still getting wiped off the floor by the white and Asian students when it came to the grades and AP test scores.

One could probably make a joke about latinos and floor wiping there.


The fact that under performing minorities demand and get racial preferences is another very strong argument for immigration restriction. We don't want or need people using their skin color to demand race based handouts. That fact that they need them is even worse.

A quick check of the elites in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York... shows the obvious limits of the BROWN entitlement mindset. A few members of La Raza gorge on racial spoils... The rest languish.

The biggest under performing group is blacks and they are hardly "immigrants". Not willing immigrants at least.


Hispanics outnumber blacks of late. Worse, Hispanics have no plausible claim of "centuries of slavery / discrimination" to justify racial quotas. Instead, we have the basic "we can't compete, we don't want to compete, but we ARE going to use the political system to demand and get racial spoils" mindset. Pure racial entitlement.

However, even if you were right, what's the justification for tolerating immigration on the part of people who won't be competitive in our society and then will demand race privileges to compensate? Why should America tolerate immigrants who bring additional racial divisions into our nation? Do we have a shortage of racial conflicts as it is?

For the record I oppose all race based privilege schemes whether they are called (honesty) quotas or disingenuously "affirmative action" or "diversity". I do favor limited income based AA. However, the limits need to be reasonable to avoid mismatch (see Richard H. Sander) and income based AA should not be as a cover for race based AA.

To be fair, Hispanics as a group are not as vehement in demanding AA as other groups. Conversely, the Hispanic leadership is every bit as rabid on the subject.

@ Peter

What are the 'other groups' that are rabidly demanding AA then?

"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.”"

How exactly is the ultimate effect of these starkly different?

In admissions, colleges care a lot about future alumni donations and they extensively model which applicants will have the highest long-term ROI. Unfortunately, they keep that data pretty secret. Just from looking at the names of new buildings on campuses I'm familiar with, however, I would guess that South Asians tend to be big donors but not East Asians. (But I could be very wrong on this due to small sample size). The biggest donors of all, in my impression, are smart legacy jocks. For example, USC just got $215,000,000 from a white Republican male legacy (both parents went to USC), who was the shotputter on its 1965 national championship track team and then made a fortune in steel fabrication in Fresno.

This is one of the greatest continuing outrages of the twenty first century. You hear all these claims about racism and its evil, but the mainstream continually abets this institutionalized racism against what have been model minorities. The truth is that the rules are stacked against the groups who have worked hard to get to the US on merit grounds and continue to do well, have well behaved kids, low crime rates, and high productivity. Yet NAMs are given preference after preference. In contrast, any hint of anti Jewish quotas is immediately quashed. And worst of all, new Latino immigrants, who have never had to suffer historical prejudice (unlike 3d gen Japanese Americans whose grandparents suffered) gain a leg up in admissions.

This continuing ulcer in American race relations tells you how much of anti-racism gets to be "shaped" by the tastemakers of culture in academia, journalism, and politics.

Sadly, I've even heard a Democrat politician bamboozle Asian groups by saying that Republicans would discriminate against them. And he was believed by many of these Asians.

I find it amazing that no politician finds it in his interest to run on a platform of reversing this nonsense and head on attacking the evils of race biased admissions and work rules.

And of course, because top private colleges will not release data on applications, school performance, etc to researchers, we cannot test their claims that "other" characteristics (whether it be athletics, extracurriculars, or writing ability) permit non-Asian admits with lower scores and worse records to perform better than Asians who were admitted or rejected.

What all the Sturm und Drang in the comments says to me is that there is certainly a higher ed bubble. (It also confirms that superficial identity politics is alive and well all across the color/hue spectrum.)

I wonder if trade schools have to be careful of admitting too many or too few folks of one particular hue....

And don't look at religion at the Ivies. That's the third rail of the third rail.

What do you mean? Jewish? Presbyterian?

There are probably ten Jews to every Presbyterian at the Ivies. White Protestants might be the most underrepresented demographic in elite universities in relation to their share in the general population.

"the most underrepresented demographic relation to their share in the general population": but that shouldn't be relevant. What might matter is whether they are underrepresented in relation to their share in the population of youngsters of sufficient abilities for the elite universities who actually apply there.

Yes, but that should apply to everyone.

'White Protestants might be the most underrepresented demographic in elite universities'
As if the term WASP was never applied to the class associated with the Ivies.

Only in America can someone complain that 'white Protestants' are underrepresented at institutions where legacy admission is still an operable criteria.

On the other hand, it is true that young earth creationists, for example, are globally underrepresented at any university that considers itself to represent centuries of Enlightenment traditions. Illiterates tend to be be underrepresented at elite institutions, too.

It's wrong to dismiss the claim out of hand. If you have evidence, please share. I have never heard this before and don't see why it should be true, but it could.

What's your basis for saying this? I attended an Ivy 10 years ago, and I didn't notice a shortage of people who were nominally Christian. Many of them preferred to spend their Sunday mornings doing homework, watching football, having sex, sleeping off a hangover or pretty much anything other then listening to a musty old man tell them fairy tales... in other words, very representitve of contemporary America.

Who is at fault there? Despite a century of racism and religious prejudice as soon as the doors loosened just a bit the whites were crushed by Jews and now Asian Americans in every sphere of intellectual competition.

That's because the Ashkenazi are superior to WASPs, even though a lot of them seem to be leftists for some strange reason.

The great thing about objective standards is that they reveal, like nothing else can, the disparate abilities that different ethnic groups posses.

It would be nice racial and ethnic differences were only skin deep, and everyone was equal where it counted. But that just isn't how things are. This saddens me because it means that the current issues that exist with certain ethnic and racial groups being concentrated within the underclass will not change. It means that their presence there, rather than being correctly identified as the result of incompetence, will continue to be blamed on "racism" and a myriad of other fictional reasons created and promoted by the left to pave the way for their long dreamt of socialist revolution. It means that the world of the future, rather than being a better place, will look much the same as it does today, if not worse.

re: Ashkenazis

Anyone who believes they are "pure" anything is uninformed and ignorant. It is very interesting what DNA testing reveals - try it and prepare to have your illusions about "skin deep" disabused.

8, Jamie_NYC,

I don't discrimination against Protestants / Presbyterians is real. However, discrimination against people who are more likely to be Protestants / Presbyterians is deep and profound. See "How Diversity Punishes Asians, Poor Whites and Lots of Others" ( Quote

"But what Espenshade and Radford found in regard to what they call "career-oriented activities" was truly shocking even to this hardened veteran of the campus ideological and cultural wars. Participation in such Red State activities as high school ROTC, 4-H clubs, or the Future Farmers of America was found to reduce very substantially a student's chances of gaining admission to the competitive private colleges in the NSCE database on an all-other-things-considered basis. The admissions disadvantage was greatest for those in leadership positions in these activities or those winning honors and awards. "Being an officer or winning awards" for such career-oriented activities as junior ROTC, 4-H, or Future Farmers of America, say Espenshade and Radford, "has a significantly negative association with admission outcomes at highly selective institutions." Excelling in these activities "is associated with 60 or 65 percent lower odds of admission.""


"Distressing as many might consider this to be -- since the same institutions that give no special consideration to poor white applicants boast about their commitment to "diversity" and give enormous admissions breaks to blacks, even to those from relatively affluent homes -- Espenshade and Radford in their survey found the actual situation to be much more troubling. At the private institutions in their study whites from lower-class backgrounds incurred a huge admissions disadvantage not only in comparison to lower-class minority students, but compared to whites from middle-class and upper-middle-class backgrounds as well. The lower-class whites proved to be all-around losers. When equally matched for background factors (including SAT scores and high school GPAs), the better-off whites were more than three times as likely to be accepted as the poorest whites (.28 vs. .08 admissions probability). Having money in the family greatly improved a white applicant's admissions chances, lack of money greatly reduced it. The opposite class trend was seen among non-whites, where the poorer the applicant the greater the probability of acceptance when all other factors are taken into account. Class-based affirmative action does exist within the three non-white ethno-racial groupings, but among the whites the groups advanced are those with money.

When lower-class whites are matched with lower-class blacks and other non-whites the degree of the non-white advantage becomes astronomical: lower-class Asian applicants are seven times as likely to be accepted to the competitive private institutions as similarly qualified whites, lower-class Hispanic applicants eight times as likely, and lower-class blacks ten times as likely. These are enormous differences and reflect the fact that lower-class whites were rarely accepted to the private institutions Espenshade and Radford surveyed. Their diversity-enhancement value was obviously rated very low. "

I have to agree that this is pretty sad. The effort to end second class citizenship for African-Americans has been transformed into another spoils system.

Really, this looks like Democratic politicians securing places for members of ethnic groups that support them at the polls (I'm aware that Republican politicians contributed to this mess, by omission and commission, but it appears the Democrats contributed with more enthusiasm). Its very late nineteenth century.

Perhaps the best explanation is that college officials simply consider it undesirable for their schools to be dominated by overachieving Asians. Based on anecdotal evidence, it seems that whites and blacks tend to do better in the "real world" than their academic credentials would suggest. On the other hand, eventhough Asians form a plurality of students at California's top schools they seem underrepresented in Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and among the state's political leaders.

Maybe this is because of discrimination against asians outside of academia. Since dicrimination against Asians is seen as fine because everyone knows they are grinds, companies pick up on this signal and fail to hire them except for grind type positions, where they don't make into management.

The pervasiveness of this kind of discrimination can be seen in American comedy shiws, SNL in particular, who give Asians the unique joy of seeing non asian actors regularily play them in insulting manners while wearing yellowface. It is kind of amazing, just open your eyes.

No, Asians do better in the real world too: higher median income than whites.

The anecdotal evidence is probably a result of something peculiar to middle-age male whites -- I saw this in a study 5-10 years ago -- iirc for whatever reason, they tend to abandon safe careers and take on risky entrepreneurial endeavours at a much higher rate than any other demographic. Of course most of them probably fail, but the successes stand out.

Income is a very problematic indicator. Asians are concentrated in states with higher salaries like California, New York and New Jersey. Whites still have much higher net wealth than Asians.

For college administrators, students are simply future alumni, and alumni who not only accumulate wealth, but also gain political and cultural eminence can be extremely valuable to their alma mater. In this sense, limiting the number of Asians to accept mainly more Jews/Whites is quite rational.

Yes, but unless we assume that happened by accident then we must believe they ended up there precisely in order to take advantage of those high incomes.

Since Asians tend to have immigrated more recently, it's not surprising they have accumulated less wealth.

Net worth is even more problematic, given the impact of the housing crisis and the higher-and-higher levels of Asian immigration each year and the age distribution of Asians vs. Whites.

In this sense, limiting the number of Asians to accept mainly more Jews/Whites is quite rational.

Well of course it's rational - why else would they be doing it? Discrimination is often rational - the relevant question is whether it's fair - particularly in light of affirmative-action policies for non-Asian minorities.

I'm not sure if ensuring fairness should be the highest goal of a society. It's not exactly fair that the wealthy have to pay a higher rate in taxes, but most people don't seem to mind it.

Higher *marginal* tax rate.

No, higher overall.

Also, as pointed out elsewhere, they still get about the same number of whites either way. What they really get is more blacks and Hispanics, who have neither higher income nor higher wealth, so it isn't because they want to get more money.

I was focused on California because it is the most prominent example of race-based preferences being outlawed. Whites have clearly been negatively effected the most in absolute terms from the decision. And again, I don't know if Berkeley, Cal Tech and UCLA, who are all approaching half Asian student bodies, are better off for it. Admittedly, the Ivies are a different situation.

I don't think so, the transfer seems to be mainly between Asians who are added at the top and blacks/Hispanics who fall off the bottom end.

Jermaine - where has it been established that "Whites have clearly been negatively effected the most in absolute terms"?

Jermaine - that's your evidence for "Whites have clearly been negatively effected the most in absolute terms"? The "study" (it's a pretty shallow analysis) presents no such evidence. White enrollment has declined in absolute terms in the colleges reviewed, but so have whites' share of the population in these states - and in terms of the % admitted, it's been flat - lending credence to the assertion made in this thread that the benefits of eliminating preferences has largely gone to Asians, with whites being mostly unaffected.

No, Asians do better in the real world too: higher median income than whites.

Which whites? I am sure the above is correct when general population is considered but would not be surprised if more of the apples to apples comparison restricted only to particular program's graduates (say, economics at MIT) shows exactly the opposite.

Right, he actually needed to compare Berkeley graduates of various races to make that claim.

I'm Asian. Although I do not deny the existence of the kind of discrimination suggested by this article, I think that Jermaine's interpretation is tenable. It seems likely that SAT scores aren't sufficient to predict success, even academic success. My subjective impression is that Asians tend to be comparatively weak in areas like critical thinking, rhetorical skills, and some forms of creativity. Would you say that the underrepresentation of Asians in philosophy is also purely a result of discrimination?

SAT scores actually over-predict college performance for blacks, and appear to be about right for Asians.

See here (p. 11).

What SAT score does a Jewish-Asian kid need to get into an Ivy?
Wait, don't answer. I know: 2500.

If a Jewish-Asian kid identifies as simply Jewish he or she will have a greater chance of getting admitted. This despite the fact that Jews are more overrepresented in elite colleges than Asians in relation to their numbers in the general population.

since judaism is matrilineal this is unlikely to occur, at least if self-identification is accurate.

I think the deal the famous Tiger Mom (Amy Chua) made with her husband was that the kids would be educated by her but raised in Judaism.

Not sure what her oldest SAT was, but last I heard she had been admitted to an Ivy or two - so this is a counterexample.

Yeah. Legacy admissions have nothing to do with that little fact.

Yeah this kid's got the Jewish thing AND the legacy going. Chua TEACHES at Yale doesn't she? It's a triple threat.

This article is basically about how Asian people are getting screwed out of spots at top universities. The Ivies are about 15% Asian but would arguably be at about 30% if race was not a factor.

It's pretty obvious which racial group benefits the most from this situation. Here's a hint: minorities are minorities.

That's probably too subtle for this group of commenters. White people are the biggest beneficiaries of this situation.

Princeton doesn't want to look like CalTech. They want some students who are very strong mathematically and may become scientists but not too many. That's why they put a huge emphasis on athletics, extracurriculars, social activities in admissions. Oh yeah, and whether or not your parents went to Princeton.

But go on, Al Sharpton, spoils system, Democrats, religion, liberal elites.

How the hell do whites benefit from this situation? In elite universities it might be the case that non-Asian minorities get favored, Asians are discriminated against, and whites neither benefit nor lose. Of course, this applies only in elite university admissions, and cannot be generalized to most affirmative action programs.

Are you serious? When Princeton turns down an Asian science nerd in favor of a legacy with less good test scores who can play on the lacrosse team, which racial group do you think benefits?


Espenshade showed that legacy admits are, on average, much better qualified than black and Hispanics AA admits. Asian nerds are passed over in favor of blacks and Hispanics, not white lacrosse players.

How many black students are at Princeton? If there are 3 black students at Princeton, then their SAT scores could have been negative, that still doesn't have any bearing on whether or not Asian science nerds are passed over in favor of white lacrosse players.

JL is right. As I wrote further below: "Whites don’t benefit, even if we consider legacy and athletics. 4/5 of black spots at elite schools would be taken by Asians, according to Espenshade and Chung."

Being a Legacy applicant or an athlete is a big advantage, but the numbers are not significant. And if you eliminated them, their spots would be taken by Asian and white applicants - the Epenshade study indicates a small (1%) reduction in white enrollment if you eliminated Legacies and athletic scholarships. Non-Asian Minorities would of course not benefit at all by eliminating Legacy admissions, since they are already grossly over-admitted.

Don't worry - our heads won't explode - not when the data and logic are on our side.

I'm quite ready to believe this is happening, but East Coast private colleges are a bad comparison with West Coast public colleges. I grew up on the East Coast and knew many people who went to the named schools, but nobody who even applied to UC Berkeley. Moved to the West Coast and knew tons of people who went to UC Berkeley, and few had applied to schools on the East Coast. And, of course, the Asian population is much larger on the West Coast than the East Coast.

Also, East Coast private colleges have a high number of legacy admissions, which might have an affect of lifting the number of whites attending the school, but should be understood as a very distinct process of choosing only certain white people, which box-checking would not effect.

Stanford's y1 class is 16% Asian. Caltech isn't a public school. Does anyone know the racial breakdowns at e.g. Michigan pre- and post- Gratz v. Bollinger?

Legacy admissions is a separate process. it's a set-aside which is basically all white, but isn't "racist" or discriminatory. White people attended these colleges in previous decades and their kids are up to bat now. Cool. No problem. But the Espenshade study controls for legacy status. It compares unhooked applicants, i.e. kids who aren't athletes, legacies, etc., and finds that Asians are penalized in order to nudge up NAMs. Remember, affirmative action doesn't really benefit white people (it actually significantly hurts poor white people); the percentage of white people at elite colleges would remain the same without it. It advantages NAMs by disadvantaging Asians.

So, you're right that the box-checking thing wouldn't/shouldn't affect legacy admissions; legacies are legacies regardless of race. But for the "general" admissions pool, judicious box checking would help if you're white-Asian by taking you out of the minority competition, which is Asians (artificially underweighted) vs NAMs (artificially overweighted), and into the white competition which is basically neutral.

The frustrating thing as an Asian is that there is no political force out there that considers this an outrage. Democrats don't care because their favorite minorities are benefiting from the system. Republicans don't care because they're scared as hell of getting called racist by Al Sharpton.

And so the injustice grinds on, and will only be rectified once there emerges a viable alternative to American academia. And that will be a long time coming.

Go go Peter Thiel, and the strengthening of academia elsewhere in the world.

Does anyone know whether this preference system exists at Oxbridge and other European universities?

Not in Oxbridge:

Those racist Brits

Or until people come to see all forms of racism as wrong. I still hold out hope for that.

'I still hold out hope for that.'
Must make reading comments here really hard sometimes. But that is the only hope worth holding in the end.

Hey bloggers get the commentators they deserve

Or troll for.

What do you mean?

Unfortunately, reality is not optional.

Or until the Asian-American population grows large enough to be a formidable political force.

I can’t speak to college bias for Asians, but I can speak to medical school bias. The numbers do not lie - If an applicant is Asian, they need a higher GPA, a higher MCAT, and more extra curriculars than a white candidate. And a white candidate needs higher stats than a black or hispanic candidate. Men in all catagories need higher scores than women.

Then I hire those Asians and find that they are not performing up to the level of their test scores. It has been very disappointing.


care to elaborate?

Via an anecdote, I can explain the concept, although I don't think you can meaningfully generalize.

My cousin came over from Japan for a year after high school to learn English. She took some English courses here, and she had a continuous problem with being placed in English classes way above what she could handle. We eventually intervened at the school only to find out that they used a placement testto determine which class she should be in and despite her lack of English skills, she was placing much higher than was useful for her.

When the situation was finally resolved, she pointed out (with some frustration) that anyone from the Japanese school system would fall into this trap since learning how to write tests successfully was a heavily stressed life skill for which you got a *lot* of practice. This would be on top of her belief that the Japanese school system encouraged a cram and then dump of facts which didn't result in integration of those facts into long term memory.

I doubt this is generally true with Asian students (and especially not of students from the American school system), but that sort of generalized belief probably underscores the idea of Asians under-performing what their test marks would imply in real-world situations.

It's not hard to see how such a belief would result in wide-spread discrimination in work-place hiring practices.

This is generally what I find in graduate students. Scores over-predict real life performance for Asians.

Men need higher scores? Undergraduate schools have been skewing their admissions process in favor of men for a while to boost their numbers. I would have thought this had worked its way up to medical and law schools by now.

I believe that "men need higher test scores" is true for elite schools. From what I understand, the male over-achievers are still alive, quite well and in similar numbers to the past. The concern about lack of male academic achievement in high schools and universities is mostly around the average or median student.

That's because you hear only one side of it.

"a higher MCAT"

When you account for how terrible they do on the verbal portion of the MCAT, Asians and Whites score about the same.

Is it finally OK to call BS on this so long as we use Asians as our mascots?

Non-racism good, racism bad better.

This is a classic example of the left-liberal attempts to engineer around incentives and it does no favor to blacks and Hispanics. Cultures don't change absent incentives.

My kids are going to face this same problem. I'm seriously considering going with the "f**k you" approach and putting African since it gives the strongest advantage. Hey, we all started out there, right?

Admission standards for Africans are tougher than for African Americans. does no favor to blacks and Hispanics. Cultures don’t change absent incentives.

Um, are you implying the African-Americans have it so good now that they have no incentive to improve their situation?


"Let's show those blacks what *real* suffering is. That'll make 'em mend their ways!"

"Um, are you implying the African-Americans have it so good now that they have no incentive to improve their situation?"

They have affirmative action, the support of the PC zeitgeist, and entire "cultural studies" departments making excuses for their chronic underachievement and telling them that their failures are due to evil white oppression.

Latinos have it almost as good as African Americans do in this respect.

I'm saying to the extent certain cultural factors prevent cultures from being more successful relative to others, it is going to be very painful for them to change those cultural factors. If we lessen the incentives for such change, we only make their long-term plight worse -- and in fact, we often create such bad incentives that we make things even worse for them, such as with the dissolution of the black nuclear family in response to the altered incentives of the post-1950s welfare programs.

'White people are the biggest beneficiaries of this situation.'
Of course they are - we are talking about the USA. A country equally notable for the feeling of its majority Christian population that they are also subjected to endless persecution.

But the outrage at how white people continue to gain a higher preference in admissions due to their race is extremely unlikely be found in more than a minor percentage of the active commenters here.

The reason why is pretty clear - but the attempt to either ignore or dismiss it is likely to be amusing in this thread. Though I'm willing to at least partially get on board with the idea that elites remain elites by ensuring access to elite institutions, without being in the least concerned with such mundane concerns as ability. See a certain 3rd generation Yale legacy for how this turns out in American public life, and let's see what happens with his 4th generation Yale legacy daughter (though when checking into her wiki bio, it seems as if Barbara Bush is to be commended for how well she has used her advantages while ensuring that she remains firmly ensconced in the elite class before turning 30, in a way that likely pleased her Yankee patrician grandfather - she heads this, after all - )

White people would only be net beneficiaries of such a system if they were competing against more Asians than blacks + Hispanics, which might be possible at some engineering schools but seems unlikely to be true generally.

The USA Today article is specifically about admissions to elite American universities, where Asians are already 15% or so of the population and are arguably under-represented by a factor of two. What percentage of the Ivy applicant pool is black and Hispanic?

Even at the elite schools, I would bet their applications outnumber Asians' except perhaps at the techs.

The Ivy League is only eight schools, but even there I would bet a white student is more likely to lose a seat to blacks or Hispanics than gain one at the expense of an Asian, as compared to if all scores were considered without racism.

Right - do you have any involvement in the admission process for an Ivy school?

My mom did (yes, she was able to reject candidates - and did - though not determine their admission) - and to suggest that the Ivies are swimming in applications from people who weren't amazingly like the people who already graduated from the Ivies is uninformed.

With all due respect to your maternal anecdote, the number of whites (who I assume you mean by "amazingly the people who already graduated from the Ivies") is irrelevant to the question of whether whites are "benefitting most" from the policy. For that to be true, Asians admissions would have to greatly outnumber blacks and Hispanic, otherwise the policy lifts blacks and Hispanics at the expense of pushing down Asians.

At any rate, you are the one who seems to be uninformed -- the Ivies get enough nonwhite applicants to make up 40% of admissions. Here are some CO2015 numbers

Ethnic Diversity
The admitted class is 17.8% Asian-American, 11.8% African-American, 12.1% Latino, 1.9% Native American, and 0.2% Native Hawaiian

Ethnic Diversity
Dartmouth College admitted 44% students of color and 7.3% international students.

Ethnic Diversity Cornell
For the Class of 2015, 22.3% of admitted students identified themselves as underrepresented minorities (URM) (Hispanic, African American, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, or Native American). This percentage increased from the Class of 2014 when 20.9% of admitted students identified themselves as URMs.

How do whites benefit? Don't Espenshade's numbers suggest that absent affirmative action, there would be hardly any blacks and Hispanics in elite schools, whereas the number of whites would remain about the same and the Asian numbers would go up?

Whites don't benefit, even if we consider legacy and athletics. 4/5 of black spots at elite schools would be taken by Asians, according to Espenshade and Chung.

Best satirical commenter on the web

"...white people continue to gain a higher preference in admissions due to their race..."


Legacy admissions.

Have nothing to do with race?

Hilarious. If Asians are under-represented relative to their accomplishments at Yale, Harvard, Princeton, etc., who do you think is filling up those slots instead? Only Hispanics and African-Americans?

Yes, that's what Espenshade's analysis suggests. Affirmative action in elite schools is about giving the spots Asians deserve to Hispanics and blacks. Whites aren't much affected.

The USA Today article quotes Espenshade to simply compare the SAT cutoffs for whites, Asians, and blacks at elite schools. How do you know that the cutoff for whites is the same as what the cutoff would be under a race-blind system? From Espenshade's analysis, how do you know that it isn't the case that Princeton is 75% white, 15% Asian, 15% other, and that under a pure-test-score system Princeton would be 70% white, 25% Asian, 5% other?

In your hypothetical, the number of whites is reduced by less than 10%, while the number of Asians nearly doubles and the number of other is reduced by 2/3.

Thus "Whites aren’t much affected."

I'll quote from Espenshade and Chang (2005):

Data for the 1997 entering class indicate that eliminating affirmative action would reduce acceptance rates for African-American and Hispanic applicants by as much as one-half to two-thirds and have an equivalent impact on the proportion of underrepresented minority students in the admitted class. White applicants would benefit very little by removing racial and ethnic preferences; the white acceptance rate would increase by roughly 0.5 percentage points. Asian applicants would gain the most. They would occupy four out of every five seats created by accepting fewer African-American and Hispanic students. The acceptance rate for Asian applicants would rise by one-third from nearly 18 percent to more than 23 percent. We also show that, even though athlete and legacy applicants are disproportionately white and despite the fact that athlete and alumni children admission bonuses are substantial, preferences for athletes and legacies do little to displace minority applicants, largely because athletes and legacies make up a small share of all applicants to highly selective universities.

Thanks, I looked up the article, interesting read. I take back what I said, it looks like I was wrong, the overall effect of race/athlete/legacy preferences is only a slight benefit to whites.

I will note that at Harvard and Princeton, legacies are about 15% of the student body and athletes are about 20% of the student body (Espenshade's numbers are based on a sample of students that are 6% legacy/10% athlete).

JL, You might want to read the legacy study below.

I think you have it wrong.

The reason you see whites entering Yale, Harvard etc. With lower SAT scores is because of legacy admissions, whereas Caltech has no legacy policy. Blacks have no legacies.

The world is also a subtle discriminant. How many hockey scholarship admissions go to blacks. How many Asian basketball scholarships?


This ongoing debate about racial equality in college admissions is tiresome, and it lends testimony to how far we are willing to depart from any sensible notions of fairness. I am of the view that perhaps we should replace the traditional admission application with a "lottery" in which everyone has the same odds of admission. Is this not consistent with equal opportunity? To the extent that a college degree only complements advantageous factors such as family background, pre-college schooling, maybe even IQ---why should these things be ultimately decisive in a truly fair society? This beg a question of course, what doe a fair and just society look like? I say it' is deliberately egalitarian, and everyone's wellbeing has the same weight in some reasonable social welfare function.


These talks bring me optimism, that we as a society seem to be slowly realizing what a canard race-based preferences are, and that we're tiring of ineffective policies that punish certain races in favor of others.

This beg a question of course, what doe a fair and just society look like? I say it’ is deliberately egalitarian, and everyone’s wellbeing has the same weight in some reasonable social welfare function.

The entire history of humankind shows that such an organization is against human nature and basic economic efficiency. As such, not only attempts to institute it will fail but they will fail spectacularly - with Gulags and/or mass starvation.

Re Caltech differences, you need to control for the number of Asians who persue science degrees as a percent of Asian students compared to the percentage of other ethnicities that peruse science degrees. As a father of a Caltech grad I can assure you this is 90 percent science and math applied school.

"Does anyone know whether this preference system exists at Oxbridge ...?": not to my knowledge. But you need to know that admission to the Oxbrdge colleges is in the hands of the "dons", the people who will teach the students, not of administrators. So they are looking out for bright enthusiasts. In my experience, everything else matters far less. If you want to read for a degree in history, you have to persuade several historians that you are mad about history, and bright as buttons. They're unlikely to give a hoot about much else unless they need a tie-breaker for equally compelling candidates for the last vacancy.

This tells us nothing about race. The legacy admissions are no doubt crowding out other more qualified applicants, who would be a mix of Asian and whites - which we know since Hispanics and blacks are already grossly over-admitted. The article also notes the legacy admits are more highly qualified than the average applicant, and that the numbers are not large - but no numbers or even estimates are provided.

'But you need to know that admission to the Oxbrdge colleges is in the hands of the “dons”, the people who will teach the students, not of administrators.'
Not according to the British teachers at the school my children go to. But then, they are only responsible for having their students apply (and hopefully get accepted) to the British university system, and thus base their advice on previous experience. Including their former students who are studying at Oxford or Cambridge.

This is based on listening about the whole process over a number of dreary hours in the last 18 months - maybe somebody was mistaken.

"’Not according to the British teachers at the school my children go to": then either they are wrong, or things have changed since I did Oxbridge admissions interviews.

Bill, just saying "legacy admissions" tells us next to nothing. What % are legacy admissions, what are their SAT scores relative to their peers, etc?

Let's hear it.

D, Since, by your previous comment, and now with this one, let me supply you with some information:

"At Elite Colleges, Legacy Status May Count More Than Was Previously Thought

By Elyse Ashburn

Family connections help you get into college. And a new paper suggests that at highly selective colleges, they may count even more than was previously thought.

A researcher at Harvard University recently examined the impact of legacy status at 30 highly selective colleges and concluded that, all other things being equal, legacy applicants got a 23.3-percentage-point increase in their probability of admission. If the applicants' connection was a parent who attended the college as an undergraduate, a "primary legacy," the increase was 45.1-percentage points."

You can continue reading the rest of the article here in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Here is the rest of the article:

"In other words, if a nonlegacy applicant faced a 15-percent chance of admission, an identical applicant who was a primary legacy would have a 60-percent chance of getting in.

The new study is sure to add fuel to the debate over the role of legacy admissions, particularly in determining who gets into the country's most-sought-after colleges. And it sheds light on advantages that colleges themselves may not have even been fully aware of. The author, Michael Hurwitz, controlled for a broader range of variables, such as student character and high-school activities, than had traditional analyses. In doing so, he found that the other, more-common method underestimates the advantage for legacies.

"Some colleges may think this admissions advantage is justifiable or they may use the findings to reshape their policies," says Mr. Hurwitz, a doctoral candidate in quantitative policy analysis at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

He also looked at the difference between legacies with a primary connection and those with looser connections—a parent who attended graduate school, or a sibling, grandparent, aunt, or uncle who attended as a graduate or undergraduate. He found that the tighter connection, while less common, provides a much larger benefit.

"The takeaway to me is that here's a study that seeks to control for a number of factors and finds that legacy status is even more important than previously thought," says Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and the editor of Affirmative Action for the Rich: Legacy Preferences in College Admissions. "It's more evidence that this is not a feather on the scale."

For an individual applicant, legacy or nonlegacy status may indeed matter a lot. But Mr. Hurwitz cautions that because of the size of the applicant pools at the sample colleges, legacy admits don't greatly decrease other students' already-long odds of acceptance. Of the 290,000-plus applications he studied, only about 6 percent had legacy status.

An article on his study, "The Impact of Legacy Status on Undergraduate Admissions at Elite Colleges and Universities," was published last month in the journal Economics of Education Review. The data come from 133,236 unique applicants for freshman admission in the fall of 2007 at 30 highly selective private colleges and universities.

Mr. Hurwitz's research found that legacy students, on average, had slightly higher SAT scores than nonlegacies. But he was able to control for that factor, as well as athlete status, gender, race, and many less-quantifiable characteristics. He also controlled for differences in the selectivity of the colleges.

He was able to do so by focusing on the large number of high-school students (47 percent) who submitted applications to more than one of the colleges in the sample. A given applicant's characteristics, like the wealth of their family or strength of their high school, wouldn't vary from college to college. But their legacy status would, and so too might their admissions outcomes. (Mr. Hurwitz also ran an analysis that showed that students who applied to multiple colleges were representative of the overall pool.)

He found that traditional analyses, which control for some of the major quantifiable measures, like SAT scores, but for fewer variables over all, underestimated the legacy advantage. What that means, he says, is that some unquantifiable aspects of legacies' applications—such as life experiences, type of high school, or extracurricular activities—must otherwise work against their chances of admission. But he says, "the data aren't rich enough to tell what that is."

Thomas J. Espenshade, a professor of sociology at Princeton University who has done key research on legacies, says that the new estimates are not widely different from those in previous studies, but that, nonetheless, the larger advantage is notable. Previous studies also had not looked at differences between various familial connections, he says.

A Handed-Down Benefit

Across the board, primary legacies got a greater advantage than secondary legacies. The difference seemed to matter the most at the most-selective colleges in the sample, those with an average base acceptance rate of just under 10 percent. Secondary legacy status at those top-tier colleges conferred an estimated advantage of 8.7 percentage points, while primary legacy gave a 51.6-point advantage.

Legacy status of any kind mattered more at the most-selective and least-selective colleges than it did at those in the middle tiers. The data didn't reveal why, but Mr. Hurwitz thinks that, because such a small proportion of qualified applicants are admitted at the most-selective colleges, any edge over another applicant is magnified—while the less-selective colleges may be most eager to cultivate alumni loyalty and giving.

The data set did not contain information on giving, so Mr. Hurwitz could not look at how much of the legacy advantage comes simply from having relatives who attended a college versus from having relatives who not only attended a college but also donated to it.

Mr. Hurwitz also looked at how students within certain SAT ranges fared against one another. There wasn't a clear-cut pattern, but generally the higher the SAT score, the more legacy status mattered. That finding, Mr. Hurwitz says, seems in line with colleges' argument that legacy status matters the most in deciding between two highly-qualified candidates. "It's easier to justify nudging the student if they're really strong academically," he says.

Legacy and the SAT

The legacy advantage varies depending on what SAT range an applicant falls in. Below are the percentage-point increases in admissions probability for three different types ...[data tables ommitted because they do not print in this is by SAT score, legacy, primary legacy and secondary legacy]

Richard H. Shaw, dean of undergraduate admission and financial aid at Stanford University, says his office considers students to be legacies only if one of their parents earned a degree from the university, with an emphasis on undergraduate degrees. Such status is taken into account among many factors, he said, but it certainly does not trump competitive expectations. Mr. Shaw said the university's legacy admits are generally stronger than the median of the admitted class, based on quantitative measures, like test scores, rigor, and grades.

"Stanford also has a high percentage of admitted and enrolling first-generation students each year whose parents did not graduate from a four-year college or university," Mr. Shaw wrote in an e-mail. "We consider access and opportunity a very important principal. We also value intergenerational connections to the Stanford experience."

Several other highly selective colleges declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment. Mr. Hurwitz will not name the colleges in his sample; he signed an agreement pledging not to do so in exchange for what would otherwise be private data.

Very few colleges, however, have admissions rates approaching anything as low as 10 percent. The study also references other research that has relied on similar data from a group called the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, which comprises all the Ivy League institutions and two dozen other highly competitive private universities and liberal-arts colleges.

Whatever their identity, the colleges in the study are very selective. And Mr. Hurwitz says the findings are most likely to be of relevance to officials and would-be students at similarly-competitive colleges."

Yes, but legacies are such a small share of applicants to elite universities that the effect on overall admissions is tiny.

Also, the effect is still smaller than being African-American, Hispanic-American, or Athletic-American:

6.^ Thomas J. Espenshade and Chang Y. Chung (June 2005), Study "The Opportunity Cost of Admission Preferences at Elite Universities", SOCIAL SCIENCE QUARTERLY 86 (2), Study

Blacks: +230
Hispanics: +185
Asians: –50
Recruited athletes: +200
Legacies (children of alumni): +160[6]

TallDave, The study you cite was earlier than the one I quoted, and included more controls. Read the study first.

They measure different things, Bill.

Quite right, Tall Dave. That later study most certainly did not find "a greater effect from legacy." It found a "greater effect than most people think", which means nothing. It presented no evidence on the actual impact on other applicants. In fact it admits the effect is probably minor It was a completely different analysis from the Epenshade paper.

ziel, No, that's not true. You can see yourself from the tables that are published in the paper and summarized in the Council of Higher Education article. Look at the SAT data that was published.

TallDave and ziel, Hurwitz's data, showing a 45% advantage due to legacy, was compared to racial preferences, and preliminary results show legacy beat other preferences:

"How does the 45-percentage-point increase given to primary legacies compare with other preferences such as those for under-represented minorities? Hurwitz’s study doesn’t say. But Bowen and colleagues (using earlier data, from a smaller set of schools and controlling just for SAT scores) found that being an under-represented minority increased one’s chances by 27.7 percentage points. If Hurwitz’s method of effectively controlling for the other variables would not dramatically change the racial numbers—a big if—then one might conclude that legacy preferences (which generally go to more advantaged applicants) have an even larger bite than racial preferences (which go to members of less advantaged racial groups). Bowen found colleges gave no preference to low-income students.

To be clear, comparing Hurwitz’s findings on legacies with Bowen’s findings on race is imperfect, given the different methodologies. But further research is certainly warranted to find out whether the 45-percentage-point boost provided primary legacies is, in fact, larger than the boost provided to racial minorities."

From the Chronicle on Higher Education:

So, we have

1) a study that actually looked at the question and found legacy status wasn't that important relative the others

2) a study that didn't look at the question of how it stacks up to the others, but hey if you look at this other study that used different data and different controls it seems to be bigger!

And we're supposed to go with #2? What is this, climate science?

TallDave, No, we have a study that was LATER, included more variables and controls, and found that Legacy was stronger than any other preference.
Careless, What we have been talking about is Asian admissions. And, controlling for African American legacy prevails. Go look at the subsequent article.

Later is irrelevant. We're not talking the 1800s vs 2011 here, it's only about 5 years.

It did not find Legacy was stronger than any other preference, because it didn't study other preferences, it just compared them to another study that used different controls.

Actually, the Epenshade study covers both athletic scholarships and legacy admissions. Eliminating both, along with racial preferences, would only reduce the presence of whites by 1 percent in their simulations.

And, the Epenshade study was before the most recent study cited in my comment above which found a greater effect from legacy.

Yes, but your study doesn't say anything about the prevalence of legacies.

TallDave, That's not true. The report says: "all other things being equal, legacy applicants got a 23.3-percentage-point increase in their probability of admission."

I think you're confused about the word prevalence and what it means.

IIRC, the number of black Americans scoring over 1400 (2 part) was roughly equal to the 200+ Harvard was trying to admit every year. The study Bill keeps talking about is comparing similarly qualified candidates. That's not what we're dealing with in AA admissions.

Careless, Please see the subsequent study by others using Hurwitz's data. That's not a correct statement. Legacy counts more than race:

The study you keep going on about was comparing similarly qualified students and seeing what differences affect their chances of being admitted. As you must have noticed, the basic point is that being a legacy makes a person substantially more likely to be selected over other people with similar qualifications.

The number of black students scoring at the Asian Ivy league average is so small ( under 100) that comparison can't possibly be made here.

This blog is a hoot. No where do I see..."yeah, government" for telling state schools they can't discriminate based on race. And it's a little hidden but there's no open "boo, private sector" for exercising their liberty to determine their own admission criteria. Liberty is not about fairness. Oh and I thought these private top tier universities were highly regarded the world over...maybe they are on to something. Diversity matters.

Sorry I was too snarky. The post is clear that both private and public universities are struggling with this one. It's not a black-and-white issue...and clearly it riles up a lot of people. It's important.

Never apologize for snark.

You weren't snarky, just ironic.

Not too snarky - but it doesn't make much sense. California eliminated preferences due to a popular referendum - not any sense of fairness from the powers in Sacramento. And private colleges institute preferences under great pressure from the government.

It is certainly not the poorly qualified AA admits who make those universities highly regarded.

JL, Your evidence please that these highly selective schools admit poorly qualified AA applicants.

Bill, check out the SAT numbers in Alex's post. Note that SAT scores actually overpredict black performance in college, i.e. they exaggerate black ability compared to whites, so it's even worse than it seems.

JL, Check the material I posted above taking the Hurwitz data and running it against earlier data and concluding legacy has a greater effect.

Cliff, You didn't read the articles, apparently, both of Hurwitz's study and the subsequent one using his data: Legacy trumps race.

The relevance is that Bill is very excited about this legacy study, even though the prevalence is too small to matter and it doesn't actually study the impact relative to other factors (and even goes so far as to say further is research is needed before making any such claims), so he's going to post it all over the thread, even where that makes little to no sense.

These universities were highly regarded well before there was any diversity.

Yes. And they will continue to be highly regarded after the diversity fad has passed.

If anything, Claudia has reversed cause and effect here - diversity "matters" because leading institutions like the Ivies deem it desirable.

@maguro I never went to an Ivy and I have always benefited from being around people different from me. It is not always fun (like reading some of the comments here.) People who think differently have challenged me to reexamine my deeply held assumptions....and that's when I really start learning IMHO.

In this context, I was using "diversity" as shorthand for "racial bean-counting", which is really what we're talking about here. I have nothing against diversity in and of itself, but please remember that you would still have people from different backgrounds even without affiirmative action, the proportions would just be slightly different.

And anyway, the point stands - affirmative is not what made Harvard prestigious. If there is any causal relationship, it runs the other way - that is, Harvard endorsing affirmative action gives it a halo of respectability and rightness that lesser institutions rush to emulate.

Yes, maguro I agree "without affirmative action, the proportions would just be slightly different" ... guess I just worry the "slightly different" might mean "too small to matter." And you're right, I have no clue why Harvard is "prestigious."

Sure, let's allow the markets determine if there will be affirmative action or not, and let colleges decide for themselves if they want to have race-based preferences.

Then let's allow restaurants and stores to decide on a racial basis what patrons they want to serve also. Keep government out of it.

Perhaps top universities are highly regarded in spite of their discrimination-enforced "diversity."

I feel much better after watching the Muppets movie with my of the last songs..."Rainbow Connection" nuff said.

The other irony is to believe that non-profits are not revenue maximizing institutions that would not consider lifetime contributions of an alum in admitting the kids or grandkids of an alum.

This is like the guy who wants to commended for no longer beating his dog.

What's the big concern Alex? With these legions of bright young people not being able to get into top schools because of race quotas wouldn't your glorious free market system imply that new schools would rise up and take in all this great students and become the new elite institutions? All this waste and worry just for a little piece of paper that provides an ever weakening signal.

And how much emphasis do these schools put on extra-curricular activities in admissions? Shouldn't this be another issue clearly kids from certain kinds of backgrounds are going to have a much better chance of fill their application with all kinds of interesting activities then others. Seems like Legacies get a double bonus there.


So maybe Alex and Tyler should aim their sights at attacking the Credentialism that forces people to go through such hoops to get into these schools rather then complaining about admissions standards at schools that are privately run.

Sure, but then people might start asking questions about why Alex and Tyler deserve tenure over some brilliant Asian American who was denied it because unlike Alex he is just a little 'too uncreative' and a little too much into 'rote memorization'

Couldnt have that could we, Alex needs to eat too!

Of course, I know the game Cowen and Tabarrok play here.

What? Isn't the whole point of this post that discrimination against Asian people is wrong?

My son had better scores than the Asian girl quoted in the piece. Maybe if he had been Asian, he would have gotten into Harvard.

The competition for spots in the elite schools has become incredibly tough. Every kid has good SAT scores (you can take them over and over until you get a good score, bad ones dont count) and many kids go to college boot camp, or its equivalent, paying thousands of dollars to make sure they have the right extracurriculars listed and the right letters written. I dont really know how schools decide anymore.


The number of students is always growing but the number of good schools in the US has hardly changed in 100 years. It's all just signalling and credentialism - Tyler and Alex should be complaining about that and not about admission standards, they are the symptom not the problem.

I doubt it. I scored 1,600 and Harvard rejected me. You can infer my race and gender.

I can only infer your age, actually. 1600 is a pretty pathetic number these days.

How old am I?

Chances that you scored 1600 before 1995 recentering are very low. Chances that you brag about 1600 out of 2400 are very low too. Thus, you took SAT between 1995 and 2005. Are you a 28 years old male?

Any kid who is reasonably smart, does well on the SATs, and has solid extracurricular activities, and who can not convince her parents to spend the $70 (or whatever it is) for a Princeton application fee is not smart enough to go there.

Admission to "selective" schools is a crap shoot, and if a smart kid's family can afford the application fee and makes less than $150k annually, it really makes no sense to NOT apply to Princeton.

Some kids win the Princeton admission lottery every year, and you can only apply once as there are no transfers.

Yeah, they eliminated transfers the year I was planning to transfer. Of course, I got discriminated against for attending the best high school in the country, which is another laugher. No complaints in the end, though. Undergrad hardly matters.

One of my best friends was a legacy at Princeton, would have been a two sport athlete there (better in one of them than anyone they had by a substantial margin), had 1400something SATs, a great GPA, applied ED and was rejected, probably because he just wasn't high enough on the list of students they were accepting from New Trier.

It's gotten so screwy that parents are sending their borderline Ivy kids to $45k a year boarding schools to get them in class sizes small enough that that's not a problem.

Undergrad hardly matters.


That whites benefit greatly from race based admissions is not surprising. I suspect the biggest beneficiaries of policies designed to increase diversity have been White females. Although standards are much lower for Blacks and Hispanics there are not enough of them to fill the various resentment studies departments. By admitting the White female with lower academic performance than the Asian male or Asian female, schools will be able to fill the ranks of the most anemic subjects and also meet their diversity (gender) quota. White females will study education, sociology, women's studies, cultural studies, and other politically correct majors to a much greater extent than will White males or Asians. Asian students simply do not come here to study political correctness. Limiting the number of Asians justifies the paychecks of many, and usually leftist, professors.

There is little genuine racism against Asians but a lot of resentment. Other minorities resent Asians because they are successful and law-abiding. Their success results from their hardwork, diligence, and respect for education and the law, not fist-pumping, special pleading to government, or "keeping the money in the community" (whatever that means). There are white leftists who resent them (or at the very least ignore them) because they can't be used as some down-trodden mascot to support their agenda. Race, class, and gender dogmas, so assiduously peddled in university classrooms, collapse like a house of cards when both Asian males and females from middle to lower income backgrounds succeed in their intellectual, economic, and personal lives.

Someday academic institutions will choose applicants on the basis of academics

What this practice illustrates is that America does not follow a one-drop rule for Asian ancestry. If one of these Ivy League applicants were 7/8th white and 1/8th black, even if there were no affirmative action considerations, he or she would almost certainly identify as completely black, and no one would think that to be unusual.

Whites should just check "hispanic" on the application. The Diversity-nazis won't have the balls to call you out.

Buddy of mine is blue-eye and blonde-haired. But he's from a Germanic family out of Uruguay. Super-rich family, too. He got a free ride at a very elite university cause he checked the hispanic box.

Good for him. If we're going to have a racial spoils system, everyone should try and grab a slice of the pie.

What happens if I am white but tick black on the admission form? Is there a racial identification-parade once the school kids reach college? And to claim the benefits of affirmative action what's the racial purity clause? i.e. if my mother is black and father white am I black or white?

There are many "blacks" who can "pass".

Check whatever box you want.

After taking several DNA tests and doing a couple of years of family history research, my conclusion is if you had ancestors in the south (and not just the "deep South") pre-Civil War, there is a very good chance you have a drop (or two or three or...) of "black" in you.

Yes, but then why argue about affirmative action. Why not everyone check black and get done with it?

I'm an Asian person at a Top 5 college in this country, and I have absolutely no problems with the discriminatory practices against people who look the same way as I do in admissions. Lest we forget - at the very top schools, Asian students are ALREADY overrepresented compared to their share of the general population. I don't want to deal too much in anecdotes, but it's an awful problem if you get Asian students who fraternize/hang out mostly with other Asian people, and I'm afraid the stereotype of a science or math nerd with poor social skills has some basis in truth. When does 'hard work' come into the picture? The reason why Asian people do so poorly at the upper echelons of companies is not because of institutional racism, it's because they (well, we.) just aren't good enough. The community as a whole has some hard questions to answer, and smug self-satisfaction coupled with indignant outrage at why Harvard isn't letting their precious daughter in doesn't help at all. What might help is to make sure that daughter's appropriately qualified and is a student that Harvard might want to take in at all. Excuses don't solve any deep-rooted problem.

Asians are overrepresented at colleges because they're overrepresented in academic competence. Should colleges admit on basis of academic competence or race?

If it isn't institutional racism that holds minorities back, then lets drop affirmative action, instead of giving blacks and latinos the "institutional racism" excuse while telling Asians to sink or swim against the glass ceiling.

From what I've heard, any maybe I'm wrong but Colleges in the US don't admit purely on the basis of academics - athletics, extra-curricular activities, family background, etc.all come into play heavily.

College admissions have never been strictly about "academic competence". In fact, college admissions have actually become more meritocratic over time, not less. If you're really concerned about rewarding academic competence, then there is all sorts of other preferences you should be equally concerned about eliminating (legacy, athletic, regional, etc.).

Legacies and athletics have a much, much smaller impact than race-based preferences, according to Espenshade and Chung's simulations.

No matter how good your SAT score or grades were if you didn't have a slew of impressive extra curricular activities on your resume you wouldn't get into Harvard or Yale. I think this fact is evidence enough that admissions, outside of racial considerations, are not all about academics any way.


"admissions... are not all about academics any way"

What? While not end all be all, grades and test scores are still important criteria. Plus ECs are positively associated with grades and test scores - smart, high-achieving kids are going to be smart and-high achieving.

But why would they need something that CORRELATES with good grades? They HAVE the grades to look at they don't need some kind of approximation metric. It's because they want to craft a certain kind of social environment and favoring certain ethnic groups over others is part of this.

There's more to success at a school than the grades you get, thank god. I believe top schools generally hold the same opinion as well.

Here's the answer everyone's looking for. It should be no surprise that that Caltech/MIT/Berkeley accept the asian kids who have perfect marks, show strong ability to work hard and achieve results, and already have an interest in quantitative/rigorous disciplines.

It should also come as no surprise that Harvard/Yale don't choose a large demographic of these kids for undergraduate study. Consider the admittances into a Harvard/Yale MBA program: You wouldn't expect very many introverted 4.0 800 GMAT asian kids to get in. If you look at their phD admissions I'm sure you'll find they admit a fair amount of asians.

What you might say is that GPA/SAT scores for asian kids have lost their ability to signal certain qualities.

PhD admissions are strongly biased against Asians and foreigners in general. Whites get a big bump from this (not enough other races to matter, I think).

Really, Cliff? First I've heard of that one (no snark, I really am curious)

> PhD admissions are strongly biased against Asians and foreigners in general.

The way I heard it from a professor trying to recruit me into his PhD program was that they had a surplus of candidates who could perform matrix calculations in their head and not enough who could write a compelling paper or conduct a talk at a conference.

They wanted to produce graduates who would publish or otherwise be influential.

Well, in STEM anyway. That's what my friends were told when applying to PhD programs. Apparently there is a serious issue with language barriers, which may contribute to the anti-foreign bias. The supply of foreign-born applicants is way higher, as I understand it.

@PC : I call bullshit on that one. If asians at Harvard etc. don't do well in real life due to reasons you mention, may be the university needs to rethink its admission criteria - that doesn't mean it should just do so by appealing to stereotype as you shamelessly indulge in, or through unsavory and unfair diversity considerations.

And your comment comes across as extremely self-centered and self-serving. It really boils down to this : you are an Asian, discrimination in admissions hasn't affected you so you were too good, so you really don't give a flying shit if some slightly less talented Asians are given a raw deal because of their DNA?

Why do people in top schools tend to be so self-centered?

Nope, because I like to think I'm in here because of my accomplishments and because I was deemed qualified in some way. Hey, I don't actually believe I'm particularly well qualified vis a vis my grades and I'm still wowed by the intelligence of these people here, but here I am. Why should the fact that I'm Asian mean anything? Same goes for any other ethnicity - I don't believe in looking at the world through the prism of race fullstop, and I don't believe I'm particularly indebted to my brethren, that I need to root them on. I care about other Asians as much as I do white/black/Hispanic people, which is to say not a whole lot in the abstract. I keep coming back to the question of why does race matter at all under these circumstances?

It doesn't make sense. You say that race doesn't matter. So how does that agree with your earlier comment that:

"I have absolutely no problems with the discriminatory practices"

How can you condone tweaking admissions based on race then?

I usually don't say this but anyone who wants to talk about whether the Asians are over- or under-represented should come and meet some of the marginal Asians at top colleges.

People are usually looking at the data under the assumption that students with higher SAT scores are smarter, so these Asians with high SAT scores are very smarter students who are being discriminated against. The alternative hypothesis, which I think only comes to mind when you can observe for yourself, is that these Asians aren't that naturally gifted but because of their Tiger Mom they got high SAT scores.

The implication of this for affirmative action isn't clear. Is elite college X supposed to try the find the people with the most potential (natural talent) and teach them or is it supposed to find those who have worked the hardest and thus have the best skill set coming in as a freshmen? I'm an MIT alum and I think MIT's culture leans toward the former, but it'd piss off the large and growing set of Asian alums so isn't implemented that strongly.

And how do the marginal Asian admits compare to the average black/hispanic admits?

I'll bet money that at any college the marginal admit would have done better both in terms of grades, ability to deal with tough majors, or earn higher income after school despite continued affirmative action in the labor force in their favor.

And this ignores the reality that the worst Tiger Mom'd asians tend to do as well as their SATs would predict. In contrast, blacks do WORSE than their sub average stats predict.

Yeah, again, the assumption you are operating on is that high GPAs or GREs or whatever reflect real natural talent. A lot of people at MIT aren't interested in training people to be good at the GRE, or MCAT, or getting a high GPA so it's not going to be validation to anyone you're arguing against. This is not an issue statistics can help with much because there isn't a statistic available to falsify either theory. In some cases just have different values (even if they agree on the descriptive theory they wouldn't agree on policy).

Asians and blacks and Hispanics should check 'Legacy'

You typically need to tell them who the relevant alumni are on your application to get "legacy" status.

The most interesting part of the New York Times article for me was the name of the student organization:
HAPA -- Half Asian Peoples Association.
Interesting both that there is a growing demographic that identifies that way and that they chose those particular words for their association.

It's a backronym. "Hapa" is the Hawaiian term for a person of mixed Asian or Pacific Islander heritage.

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.

Uhh... Seems like a fallacy to assume that Asians don't know this and don't apply in disproportionately large numbers.

I mean, we can't go "Look at the numbers of Asians at schools were Asians know they aren't going to be discriminated against and apply for! This is an indicator of how many there would be at every school sans discrimination."

The issue here seems more like Asians being funnelled into particular schools - not that they are really losing out on education so much.

The very fact that Berkeley was so disproportionately Asian was the biggest - probably sole reason that I didn't apply there. Why would you want to spend all your time with people who look and think like you do?

I guess you're name isn't Bryan Caplan then.

Btw, this was the thread winner.

Bizarre- 40% means you wouldn't be able to get away from them? Every Asian person thinks the same?

Also doesn't control for the proportion of Asian students pursuing STEM v. general population of students persuing STEM. If there are a high proportion of Asian pursuing STEM relative to other groups, you would expect a higher percentage of Asians at primarily a STEM school.

@Matt : That is a beautiful point. However you are overstating your case. Too many people tend to prefer to go to universities in near by states, so it does affect Asians to some extent. Though, as you say, not to the extent the numbers might at first glance seem to indicate.

Yeah, that's true. I think that would tendency would decrease as an effect for more elite colleges and the more your cultural and family background emphasises being willing to move to achieve your goals (of course not all Asian Americans have recent immigrant backgrounds). But still true.

I'm very sensitive to racial bias against Asian-Americans and have witnessed it often in my life, but I'm very surprised no one thought about Simpson's Paradox here. Is it possible that could explain this? I have no data, but would want to check whether the Asian applicant pool were either smaller than its population percentage or significantly more homogenous (i.e. being perceived as applying for the same "spot") than other ethnic groups. Is there any truth to the stereotypical preference for math and hard sciences, music, etc.?

At my second rate university, we have a number of open houses that I participate in. The first is a open-open house for students of all types. Yesterday, we had an open house for honors students, to whom the university gives a free ride to attract them here. The difference in racial composition from the first open house was stark. I did not see a single African American family at the honors open house. The proportion of Asians and Middle Eastern (if you want to count them as a separate ethnic group) jumped from about 10 percent to about 35-40 percent. The vast majority want to do premed and a smaller percentage engineering. Where I live has a large proportion of Indians/Pakistanis and this group dominated the Asian contingent.

All sad in many different ways.

Why is achievement sad?

BTW - "Asian" is a pretty broad term, encompassing Chinese, Japanese, Malays, Indians, Indonesians, etc., etc.

And I agree with @PC: Why would you want to spend all your time with people who look and think like you do?

Again, check whatever box you want.

The census considers Middle Easterners (and North Africans) to be "caucasian".

Why don't we just burn all these universities to the ground and really solve the problem?

Well known in the California system. I advise all all my students to put down the race they prefer. We don't have to cooperate with the return of Yellow Peril" racism..

As usual Steve Hsu's blog comments on this are better, but then again you are allowed to talk about HBD and non-PC stuff over there so its no surprise.


Had never read Steve Hsu’s blog - thanks for the tip.

Also like this one he talked about:

Bonus pointer: NAM
NAM is an acronym for "non-Asian minority," and it's a significant distinction from just "minority" because Asians (including Indians) don't cause any social problems (except to make upper-middle-class white parents fret that their children's math classes are too hard because the Asian students are ruining the curve).
That made me laugh because it is so true (my kids are HAPA). has some pretty bigoted commentary.
It's nice to see how articles on this blog bring out all the klansmen.

Go Google NAM, idiot

I'm not saying that discrimination in college admissions isn't prevalent but surely the fact that Asians are more likely to want to attend schools where there are lots of Asians accounts for some of the disparity?

Come on, Alex, you should know that "Don't Check Asian" will not work. They're smarter than that. I'm Scandinavian, my wife is Chinese, we're both immigrants, and our American-born daughter went to Harvard. She checked "caucasian" on the forms, but then she had to give her parents' full names -- inluding my wife's very Chinese maiden name -- as well as birth places. They knew my daughter was half-Chinese -- and she tests like a top Asian, but she's completely American. Maybe Harvard took her because they thought she'd add cultural diversity from her just-off-the-boat family. Well, they were wrong on that too.

I suppose it's actually lucky that my wife was born in Indonesia in the Suharto era when it was illegal to give your kids Chinese names.

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.

Amusingly we can win all the little national competitions that we are currently losing, life expectancy, infant mortality, PISA test scores, economic and social mobility etc. by allowing 50 million Chinese people to immigrate to the USA. HAHAHA funny that.

Note: This doesn't work if we import 50 million Mexicans at the same time.

They should have kept AA to being strictly for USA born African Americans. It has descended into absurdity.

Institutions are not required to implement race-neutral approaches if, in their judgment, the approaches would be unworkable

I just want to know how it could possibly be "unworkable" to ignore race.

Facially, I can't imagine how it ever could be, from an institutional point of view, if we take "unworkable" seriously, rather than as a synonym for "uncomfortable".

Given that, I must assume that it's meant to be such a synonym, because otherwise the way to achieve the literal reading would be to simply mandate race-neutrality.

Ladies and Gentlemen: To Racism! The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems!

Maybe I should pretend to be a blanco, or a white hispanic (think Cameron Diaz). That way I can avoid taking any responsibility for myself and blame all my failures, shortcomings and inadequacies on others while simultaneously being given preferential treatment by the leftist establishment.

If Ward Churchill can pretend to be an Indian and crazed Vietnam war vet and become a fully tenured professor and chair of a native American studies department with only an MA in Communications, then just imagine what someone with real talents and skills could do through such subterfuge.

The question is--Should college education be considered an entitlement program? I tend to say no. People have different talent/skill sets and college is not for everyone.

As a first generation Asian American (East Asian) with an Ivy League education and as a current medical student, I know how tough it is for Asians in this country to gain access into the most elite education systems. Although I strongly support giving socioeconomically disadvantaged people access to the highest levels of education, I am strongly opposed to the current system of affirmative action. My parents were raised poor, did not go to college and immigrated to the US on desperate terms. I grew up in a more or less "poor" family. Yet, I was placed on the same level as upper middle class white people whose families have been in the US for generations and have had a wealthy upbringing. But my problem isn't that. I was placed a significant disadvantage against people of "under represented minority" groups solely based on their race. Most black and Latino students that I've met in college and medical school had both parents graduate from college (sometimes at very prestigious institutions) and were brought up in the comforts of upper middle class life. They were ingrained in the value of education all their life. I was hard pressed to find a truly socioeconomically disadvantaged black or Latino student among my classmates. What good has affirmative action actually achieved? Although race is a significant basis for inequality in education, the current system further drives the separation between of the haves and have nots irregardless of their race. Broad stroke affirmative action programs do little to bring about changes in equality. There needs to be more direct intervention in the communities that truly have under representation in higher education whether that community is black, Latino, white or Asian.

"The "elephant in the room" in the Espenshade et al statistical studies is that their clearest and most important finding as to how admissions works (though they may not have fully understood it, or didn't want to talk about it) was that gender, not race, is the key factor driving the manipulated admissions standards, especially as they concern whites and Asians, and that the discrimination is performed in favor of women. "

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