How meritocratic are white Californians?

Specifically, he [Frank L. Samson] found, in a survey of white California adults, they generally favor admissions policies that place a high priority on high school grade-point averages and standardized test scores. But when these white people are focused on the success of Asian-American students, their views change.

The white adults in the survey were also divided into two groups. Half were simply asked to assign the importance they thought various criteria should have in the admissions system of the University of California. The other half received a different prompt, one that noted that Asian Americans make up more than twice as many undergraduates proportionally in the UC system as they do in the population of the state.

When informed of that fact, the white adults favor a reduced role for grade and test scores in admissions — apparently based on high achievement levels by Asian-American applicants. (Nationally, Asian average total scores on the three parts of the SAT best white average scores by 1,641 to 1,578 this year.)

When asked about leadership as an admissions criterion, white ranking of the measure went up in importance when respondents were informed of the Asian success in University of California admissions.

There is more here.  The jstor link to the research is here.


Can we just go over the list of who it's okay for insecure white people to be racist towards, and who it's not? I swear, it's harder to keep track of "racism theology" every year.

Blacks, Hispanics, and Muslims: No

East Asians: Yes

What about South Asians, Eastern Europeans, and Central Asians?

Is the race in question a potential competitor? NAMs are not, so you can't discriminate. Other whites and NE Asians are, so you can.

That rule seems to fail in the case of Jews, though.

what are NAMs and what are NE Asians?

NAM = Non-Asian Minority, usually meant to encompass blacks and Hispanics.

NE Asian = North-East Asian, namely Japanese, Korean and Chinese.

What about curry-munchers?

It all boils down to fear. If we're afraid of them, it's not okay to be prejudiced toward them. White people are afraid of blacks and of Muslims, albeit for different reasons, so they're off limits. White people aren't afraid of East Asians very much, there are some Asian gangs but they very seldom bother outsiders, so they're a fair target. South Asians would be in the much the same category. Eastern Europeans too, and in addition they're white themselves and thus get no protection. I would suppose most Central Asians are off limits because they're Muslim.

Hispanics are a hard case to evaluate. White people have some fear of them, though less so than with blacks, which may be why it's okay to advocate for restricting Latin American immigration without being automatically branded a racist.

"which may be why it’s okay to advocate for restricting Latin American immigration without being automatically branded a racist."


My point is that because Hispanics don't get quite as much p.c. protection as blacks, it is not completely taboo for a white person to advocate a position that could be viewed as at least indirectly anti-Hispanic.

White people might not really be afraid of Asians robbing them,etc but they are afraid of Asians taking their jobs and being competitors. Sort of the same thing, you are just fearing a different thing from different groups.

I'm not. But I am "afraid" that I'll pay taxes to create a system that will then exclude my kid because they are marginally worse at math but dramatically better at things not on standardized tests.

Exactly my point

Note to all commenters: Everything you say about "insecure white people" in this thread, you are also saying about the 70% of Blacks and Hispanics who support affirmative action (or quasi-AA like "holistic" admission) for their co-ethnics. And most white women, who support sex preferences to make up for their inability to compete, as well. Just a warning, so you don't get tricked into saying something implicitly that you would deem grotesquely racist if it were stated explicitly.

So, this would be an opportunity to state your preferences. We are all professionals here. Share with the group.

I guess this means we will have to eliminate all those affirmative action programs that are designed to give whites a leg up in college admissions. Seriously, can someone explain to me the motive for this "study"? The only one I can think of is to support existing affirmative action for non-whites. Does the study's author talk about what prompted his work?

Asians don't get affirmative action. In fact, it's considered a negative if you apply to, for example, Stanford.

If they performed significantly worse than whites, they would. I guess Stubbs should have limited it to "dysfunctional non-white groups".

If you have a such a knee-jerk instinct to manufacture motives on the part of scientists, who have already presented their work, then maybe you should stay away from science in general.

Right. Social scientists are superior creatures who live in a monastery somewhere beyond the veil of ignorance.

I take your point, but do you feel the same way about climate scientists employed by Exxon, or cancer researchers employed by Phillip Morris?

Did they try pointing out anything about other particular races to see if they got the same result? Like if they provided evidence that blacks or hispanics tended to get fewer slots when the focus was solely on GPA and test scores, did the white people similarly start to favor soft factors?

Or better yet, survey members of other races to see what they say. If whites turn out to be the least biased in favor of their group, that would rather undermine how everyone is interpreting these results...

One wonders why "meritocratic" was chosen for the post title when "racist" is both smaller and more to the point.

Steve Sailer's a white Californian, eh? How long before he comments on this thread.......

Is "racist" the term we use to describe admissions policies that take into account racial proportionality?

... not surprising, considering how hypocritical most people are ... (also, one group of Asians were able to defeat the US Armed Forces, but that is another story)

It is counter-factual to say "one group of Asians were able to defeat the US Armed Forces." The history of the Vietnam War has its retrospective controversies, but a defeat of US Armed Forces, which never occurred, is not one of them. Even the Vietnamese know better than that. The communist government of then-North Vietnam and its political allies defeated US civilian morale. Then the US civilians withdrew support to continue the war. The military itself was doing its job undefeated. Had it not been for the uninformed acceptance of the view that cutting Eastern Laos in two (roughly 30 miles of territory in a much larger war) was somehow a major escalation of the war, rather than the obvious solution to cutting NVA supply lines, the tragedies that followed would have been largely avoided. The Vietnamese military acknowledges this. They, themselves, stated that if the Laos incursion had continued for three more days, fighting in the south would necessarily have stopped for lack of fuel, food, and ammunition. Cutting supply lines to the south would have been a much more effective policy than bombing. These lines were in fact cut in February and March of 1971. Then the political decision to quickly withdraw was made by the same politicians who ordered the cutting months before, and made for votes.

Didn't Clausewitz say that war is always about breaking the enemy's morale?

The North Vietnamese run the place. They won. All you did is describe how. And yes, they think they won. Most of the world thinks the North Vietnamese won. Sure, cling to your rationalizations if they soothe your ego. Every war loser has them. It doesn't change the reality for the people affected. Some confederates think they never lost either. They have a stronger point considering how influential they have been in government policies since the end of the Civil War. But of course, semantics about the Vietnam War have nothing to do with the topic

They were fooled into thinking they'd beaten us by the fact that after years and years of trying to decide who would run things in their country, we gave up and left.

That definition of defeat seems to only allow for total slaughter of the enemy forces. If you think of the defeated group as the one that did not acheive their primary military objectives, then the USA qualifies. American leaders simply did not provide a compelling narrative for long-term support of the war. They changed their mind for votes because that is the American system. Domino theory was exposed as a notion of the hysterical and fearful when America held its arms during Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia, and then the world kept moving. It's no surprise that the military was defeated, under a logical use of the word, given the emotionally formed theory justifying its use, and the weak support of its masters of capital.

Claude and Al: There is a large and sensible distinction between "the US Military lost the war" and "the US civilian population withdrew support for the war." It is exactly the difference between a military and a political defeat. It is the distinction which should inform decision makers, cluing them in that counting one's war planes isn't the right metric when entering a military conflict. The right metric is citizen/voter or political power holders' commitment to the goal, commitment they are willing to enact with their own and their children's blood. For that matter, leaders urging entry into war must find the goal supported by willingness to fight brutally. There is no such thing as a non-brutal war. Every time a soldier sees his closest friend in the unit blown to bits, the war becomes a stage more brutal. It is a self-evident truth, BTW, that leaders lie to their public about the purposes, goals, of a large-scale war. The leaders think "they'd never understand." The reality is that the mass of potential recruits would never agree, and therefore must be propagandized.

No, there's no distinction. It's a distinction you create in order to save your point. The United States of America engaged in a war through its military with specific objectives in mind. 18 years later and millions of deaths later, the U.S. withdrew its troops not having met said objectives. Describing the mechanism behind the defeat doesn't make it less of a defeat. The North Vietnamese and everyone else affected don't care about semantics. We failed in stopping them from taking over the country, ergo we lost, they won.

By your logic, no country ever lost a war. They just lost support for the war either from the people, the king, the emperor, etc...

Claude, to say the Communists won is not to say the US Military lost. The US Military simply got called off the conflict. The 'north' knows what it won and how, and spokesmen for the regime have written about it. As for your '18 years,' not for us, really. I wouldn't consider more than five of those years a military war effort toward a 'specific objective' in mind, 1963-1968. Prior to '63 the effort was low-grade and low-commitment. During the Johnson years the effort spiraled unbelievably. Nixon was elected in '68, and was expected to wind down the war, which he did. Yes, the communist government won by capturing US domestic opinion. Certainly wars can be won or lost militarily. Japan's defeat in WWII is a clear example.

Alan, the U.S. army is not an independent entity waging wars on its own, whose successes and failures are measured by the number of battles won or lost on battlefields in the world. It is the armed hand of the U.S. government, one of whose tasks is to achieve whatever political goal the U.S. government sets. The goal of war isn't to kill every enemy for the sake of killing the enemy. It's to achieve a political goal. A war is won or lost on whether said goal was achieved. Many wars are lost because the leadership decides the war isn't winnable and calls their troops off. You can win a war by killing all the enemies, or you can win a war by making them give up. Indeed, that's the purpose of guerilla warfare, demoralize your enemy enough that they give up. They did it, we gave up. They won.

What's the point of having the mightiest army if you can't use it to achieve your objectives? So you can go home and say "Well, technically, my army didn't lose"?

I, for one, welcome our new Asian overlords.

Yeah, at least Asians are openly racist in general. No more political correctness when they are in charge.

This. The political correctness on race is a disease of the mind limited to Western Europeans and their descendents. All others (Chinese, Russians, Turks, Arabs, Indians, Jews, Koreans, even Japanese) have managed to concoct historical narratives that represent their groups as victims, and don't give in an inch.

I wonder how they managed that narrative?

AFAICT, you never stopped.

Sorry, but whenever someone is bitching about "political correctness," that's what they are talking about. They are upset because they can't use slurs in polite company. I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for them.

Project less.

And Asians hate blacks.

It's just an amusing little side note in school policy here in California. Californians were years ahead on suing under the theory that all those black and Hispanic students were stealing the best spots, turned out everyone was stealing spots from Asian kids. Now white people don't seem to even want to go to half the schools anymore.

its very funny if you meet Chinese or Vietnamese kids who went to the top schools in the bay area. Typically the schools creep up to about 30 - 35% Asian and then all the white people run for it and disappear. They also love mocking the foreign students in the UC system who are there grinding and don't care about the football teams and all that nonsense.

This sounds like a true Californian. I remember prior to Prop 209 the UC system was very focused on whether the applicant was Chinese, or Vietnamese, or Cambodian, etc. None of this "Asian" crap for them--UC was very fine-grained in their racial balancing.

File under politics isn't about policy.

Please, more studies on how white people are imperfect. And continue to NEVER study other groups' flaws.

That's what you got from this study? Not, "look how stupid/arbitrary affirmative action is"?

Seems to be a common reaction in this thread.

great. a floridian lecturing california about race.

In the spirit of taking the most charitable view ...

Maybe people have a theory that all groups are equal in merit. When they see a rating system where one group scores much higher than another, they assume that system is not measuring merit correctly, and needs to be changed.

Didn't the supreme court outlaw IQ tests by employers on the grounds that black candidates score lower? That would be the same thing. Since all the judges were white and smart, that's the opposite of self-interest. That is, the "all groups are equal" hypothesis explains both reactions, but a "self-interest" hypothesis does not.

I too think people want to believe in meritocracy. If test scores were perfectly predictive of success in general, I still think they would support their usage. It is just that everyone knows while they have some predictive ability so are better than nothing, there is too much error to accept it alone. The C student entrepreneur that outperforms the rest is too common a story.

Big deal. The research doesn't tell you anything you don't know about group identity.

To prove the point, ask this question:

What would have been the answer if the respondents were Asian?

"What would have been the answer if the respondents were Asian?"

I assume they would have supported meritocratic admission criteria in the abstract, and after finding out that such criteria favor their group.

How many people remember that in the early 1960's the California state government began to pass laws (soon overturned by Federal courts) delaying eligibility for welfare benefits to US citizens moving to CA? My, how things have changed. California evolved to become a major congressional supporter of immigration law non-enforcement, reveling in its cheap labor pool. Illegals apparently cost CA less in benefits than US citizens moving in from the east coast and mid-west. Until they didn't. Would it not be fitting and fair, and display racial neutrality, to allow 12 million Chinese, too, to move to the US illegally, then legalize them? Twice. It could only lead to even stronger student qualifications within the UC system.

How many standard deviations is 63 points?

Wow, you hit the issue.

It would be interesting to see this kind of a study repeated with latinos and blacks, who clearly benefit much more from affirmative action (if whites benefit at all on net).

Even if the White proportion of the student body isn't affected by affirmative action (in CA, my recollection is that it remained basically unchanged at elite institutions after race-based admissions were banned), those Whites who are admitted do benefit, in terms of class rank, and (to the extent grades are on a curve) GPA. It's not a hard and fast rule, of course, but on average Blacks and Hispanics who are admitted with inferior academic credentials are going to perform worse than the Asians with superior academic credentials who would otherwise have been admitted under race-blind admissions policies. If you're a Californian White, which would you pick to be the academic competition for your child?

That's just a hypothesis, though. I would be interested to see how the average class rank of White students (or GPA as a percentage of average student GPA) changed after race-based admissions were banned in California. My guess would be that White performance relative to the mean declined, and that at least some upper-middle class Californian Whites are perfectly aware of this. That said, admissions officers in the UC may have found other ways to evade legal attempts to restrain their racism.

How meritocratic are Whites anywhere else? For that matter, how meritocratic are humans? We favor rules and norms that puts us at an advantage. It doesn't matter if it's within societies or between societies. Protectionism, for example, was great when it developed our economy, it's evil when China does it.

Our ability to rationalize our biases and prejudices has no limit.

If meritocracy was the natural order of things among humans, there wouldn't be any need for government, there wouldn't be any wars, revolutions, fights for basic rights, etc...

There are three things going on here, I think:

a. Any attempt at meritocracy will be imperfect, and some people will get more than they deserve while others get less. Or at least, there will be a very plausible reason to think it's not quite meritocratic.

b. Meritocracy benefits some people and groups more than others, but also any given attempt at meritocracy probably has biases in favor of some and against others.

c. Those who come out badly from a given take on meritocracy are very likely to come up with reasons why this isn't really all that meritocratic, why there are built-in biases, why it needs to be fixed, etc. It's human nature to think that stuff you're good at is more important than stuff you're not good at, and also to find systems that favor you and your kids more fair and well-designed than systems that disfavor you and your kids.

So, if you ask someone "Hey, should we let people into good schools based on test scores?" it's natural to say "yeah, sure." And if you then say "Oh, by the way, people from your ethnic group don't do very well with test scores, but you do better with grades or class rankings," it's also natural to say "Yeah, and that would be a fairer system."


I'm also less of a fan of "meritocracy" then many. There seems to be this notion that using some metrics, like a standardized test, will select some leadership caste that will guide society best. However, having been a part of that caste and passed those metrics, I'm not sure that assertion follows. I'm a big fan of such metrics in a lot of ways, especially for selecting the people operating on me or making sure the bridge I drive over doesn't collapse. Yet, its clearly not this catch all for building the best society possible. Like every other competing value it ends up corrupting when fetishized.

But then it isn't meritocracy.

Why do we have music, sports, drama, chess, etc. in high schools? Because we want to trick white kids into not studying math? Or because we believe that merit is more well-rounded?

Now, people implicitly know that blacks and hispanics are probably not overwhelming the leadership positions, but they also probably believe from personal experience that a lot of Asians probably are not. That could explain this entire result and it isn't "racist" in the proper meaning of the word.

I'm not sure I get your point. One group says test scores are good enough and the other group says merit is more well rounded after they're told that test scores favor Asians. Yes, the second group included items they thought would work against Asians and favor Whites. The point is the idea of what constitutes merit changed based on what group stood to benefit. It's classic "what favors my tribe is best".

As for what meritocracy really is, it's fair to say it's an ideal to aspire to that doesn't really exist (like justice). Changing criteria as we go along based on outcomes is probably the best way to get as close a possible, like science tweaking itself as more evidence is found.

Here's an interesting take:

Once again, the question is raised why we have to have the same system for all. Turns out, again, that being confined to a single system brings out the worst of some of us.

Privatize and voucherize; privatize and voucherize!

Why am I not surprised by these findings? And yes in UC schools for a long time there is a majority Asian so I am surprised affirmative action still is around.

For a sophisticated discussion of the more obscure but illuminating controversies in the struggle of all against all for University of California admissions, see:

Europeans and dispersion Europeans owe Asians nothing. Asians want everything biased in their favor in their own countries and then flip the script to "fairness" when they enter a country created by Europeans. If you live by fairness then start with fairness at home. Because the simply fact is Asians have had more success in any Western nation than non-Asians have had in Asia and that's because Asians tirelessly work to undermine the success of non-Asians foremost by making sure that few even get in those countries.

The study is illegitimate. It's illegitimate because white people are looking to further the system they created which Asians will never do. School officials can't even touch the massive cheating among Asians. Schools in Asia are corrupt which is why Asians want to jump ship and go to Western schools even in tiny far-flung New Zealand.

Unfortunately, one of the top of my high school class was Asian and they cheated. I found it odd that someone almost at the top would still 'need' to cheat. That and many other experiences unfortunately gives me nothing anecdotally to argue with against this view.

What if it just that 'we' paid for the schools and everything that supports the schools and then other people come and take advantage of those things and take spots away from our kids? That doesn't require any racism, nor does it even require a lack of meritocracy, in fact quite the opposite in my interpretation.

Oh, and can we at some point understand that grades and test scores are not the fullness of merit? Ever?

The notion that whitey emphasizes test scores and GPA because blacks and hispanics are awash in leadership and extracurriculars is pretty laughable, no? You can scoff, but if it were true we would have stamped out all the non-Olympic sports long ago, right?

With apologies to the comments, why are people conflating affirmative action and meritocracy? Affirmative action is EXPRESSLY because of a lack of merit temporarily or even permanently. Some even believe that education can remediate lack of education! Meritocracy is about merit. What on earth made anyone think that SAT and grade point average were all that there was to merit? When you find out that certain people only have those merits and lack leadership it IS meritocratic to include leadership if leadership adds to merit. What is going on here? I lost nearly all expectations that anything can be discussed logically after some of the recent news blockbusters, but I still wonder why.

With all due respect to your personally cooked up version of affirmative action, affirmative action is what the second group came up with. Who said standardized test scores and GPA are the sole measures of merit? That's exactly what proponents of affirmative action are saying. So implicitly you support affirmative action even though you seem to think you don't.

This is presumably why President Clinton warned crowds that UC schools could fill their classes with Asians if the affirmative action ban in Prop 209 passed.

At yet, when it came time to vote, a majority of whites supported it anyway, and most Asian Americans voted against. In the years since, despite it being clear that Asian Americans have been the beneficiaries, I have not seen a white led movement to bring back affirmative action.

As a white southerner who lived in California for almost a decade and spent some of my childhood there, white Californians are astonishingly racist against Asians. This transcends social class, political alignments, and even being married to Asians. I would even go so far as to say that if you meet a white person in California who is not racist against Asians you will find out that they are not originally from California or they are part asian themselves with say a filipina mother or grandmother.

I would like to see this study done anywhere else, especially off the West Coast or in a state without a substantial Californian diaspora.

Sounds like a California thing. At least in the Northeast, there isn't much if any prejudice against Asians. People might joke about them, for example how Asian women are horrible drivers or how Chinese restaurants serve cat, but it's not meant maliciously.

You don't have to go far to find a dislike of outsiders. People complain about Californication as Californians flee their state, yet bring their voting patterns that wrecked the state with them. Same with Massholes in the Northeast, particularly in New Hampshire. In China, the people in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities hate all the migrants coming in. There is push back from cities on changing the hukou system because no one wants to be flooded by rural migrants. The Hong Kong people hate Mainland Chinese and call them locusts. Notice a pattern here? People don't like it when outsiders come in and mess up their way of life. They really don't like it if the outsiders come in and either create a lot of crime and disorder, or takeover by running everything. Except, white Californians or white Massholes will eventually blend into their new states. In the case of racial distinctions, there may be no way to fully assimilate. During the Asian crisis, Chinese were attacked in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines because they control most business despite being a minority. And Chinese have been in those countries for hundreds of years. (In fairness, the Chinese are separate in those nations, whereas in the U.S., if immigration were halted, Asians would eventually intermarry out of existence.)

There's all this evidence, and yet in America and parts of Europe, the government thinks forcing diverse groups together is a good idea. They only focus on white complaints or anger, and ignore completely the exact same feelings by other groups, be it "racist" Asians, Hispanic gangs ethnically cleansing black neighborhoods, or Muslim gangs raping British or Norwegian women. White complaints or anger are considered racism, despite evidence from all over the world that within ethnically and racially homogeneous populations, people do not like a huge influx of outsiders. White complains are evidence that more diversity is needed, exacerbating the problem further, leading to more complaints and more evidence of "racism," all the while creating a perfect storm for actual violence and racism between, ironically, non-whites.

Re: Chinese in Indonesia, Malaysia and Phillipines being separate, a big reason for that is religion. Most of Indonesia/Malaysia is Muslim, most of Phillippines is Catholic (with the Muslim south). Chinese have a different religion.

When the linked story refers to "white Californians", it's talking about students, probably students at Stanford. They're not from California, they're just there now.

Its a predictable test result, but sounds they should retest with group differences in rep between Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, to sift the motivation to enhance the group (or benefit from group enhancement) from the motivation to promote group equality.

(and the overrepresentation isn't surprising when you look at how many foreign born Asians, who currently make up by far the most Asian American parents in the USA are massively overqualified compared to their home nations, and then you factor in national IQ differences, neither of which is sufficient to explain the overrep independently).

Its probably a rather pan-human result either way (and a trait that White Americans I would expect are rather low on the ladder on, if not Swede-low, for sure).

For instance, for all that some (Chinese ethno-nationalists) online may talk to Chinese commitment to placidly or effortfully respond to the outcomes of "meritocratic" contents, no matter the outcome, and their various deep cultural and psychological commitments to meritocracy (rather than a mere instrument to promote their own status), Chinese in Hong Kong don't even seem to like academic competition from nearby Mainlanders (you can see a number of amusing articles online about Hong Kong Chinese outraged that their less able kinder face competition from more able nearby Mainlanders).

Funny how the topic of how meritocratic are white californians gets shifted to how un-meritocratic Chinese people are. Disappointingly, many of the other responses also seem to divert attention from the topic discussed.

If you're discussing how meritocratic White Californians are, it really is worthwhile to discuss it in the context of the rest of the human race, and human culture in general. Unless your aim is to either boost White Californians or bash them (or their co-ethnics and co-state residents). It's not exactly a "uh.... yeah.... but.... in Japan they have schoolgirl panties in vending machines and in China they spit in the street!" response.

Incentives matter.

This whole issue is caught up with how schools should chose students. Here are some theories:

1) a top school should select top students because non-top students will find a top school too hard and will not be able to succeed there.
2) a top school should have top students to apply positive peer pressure for the students there to a achieve (non-top students will encourage top students to slack off)
3) a top school needs to select top students so that its diploma is actually a credential that a student is a top student
4) there is some kind of artificial scarcity in college places, and the world is better off if top students get those places (perhaps to receive a top education)

The only one I believe is #3.

And the post is about the fact that the definition of "top student" changes based on whether the group defining the expression stands to benefit from it.

People are not even as nice as they think they are. BTW we still need AA for government run institutions.

Was the 3 point shot in basketball meant to be AA for whites in basketball?

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