The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

6 December 2004

Beyond the best and the brightest

The National Bureau of Economic Research has conducted a study to answer the question: if racial preferences were abolished, would highly-qualified minority students be less willing to apply to top-rung schools?

And why would they be? Is it possible that not having a substantial minority population at these schools might discourage minority applicants?

The NBER study suggests otherwise:

Comparing data from all SAT-takers in California and Texas in the 1994 to 2001 admission cohorts with administrative data from the eight University of California campuses covering 1995 to 2001, [the researchers] determine that the probability that a student asks the College Board to send his SAT score to a particular campus is a good proxy for the probability that a student will apply to the same institution. They conclude that students' decisions to send SAT scores to a particular campus can substitute for actual applications data.

[T}he end of affirmative action [in those two states] produced few changes in before-and-after score-sending behavior. There was a small, short-lived dip of less than 5 percent in the relative probability of sending scores to selective schools in both states from 1997-9, but the probabilities recovered after 1999. There was no change in behavior for highly qualified students, with the exception of high-GPA Hispanic students in California. They were significantly more likely to send their scores to the most selective University of California schools after affirmative action was abolished.

I infer from this that the best students, minority or otherwise, pay little attention to racial preferences. But look farther down the scale:

After preferences were banned in California in 1998, admission rates among black freshmen applicants to Berkeley, UCLA, and UC San Diego fell from 45-55 percent in 1995-7 to 20-25 percent in 1998-2001. Between 1997 and 1998, the fraction of blacks and Hispanics in Berkeley's freshman class fell from 22 percent to 12 percent. System-wide, changes in minority admission were far more muted. In California, acceptance rates fell by about 7 percent for blacks and 4 percent for Hispanics.

Banning affirmative action admissions had similar effects at Texas schools. At Texas A&M the decline began in 1996. Black admission rates fell by an estimated 30 percent and Hispanic admission rates fell by an estimated 15 percent.

Or, as John Rosenberg explains:

Ending preferences, in short, tends to prevent the admission of students whose admission depends on receiving the preference.

How, then, to increase minority enrollment? La Shawn Barber, who's been there, has a four-point plan:

  1. Get rid of black "leaders" like Kweisi Mfume ranting about too few black images on TV and throw the idiot boxes out the window!

  2. Demand school choice for kids in failing schools. Rescue these kids from rotten teachers who can't even pass high school-level tests and rotting classrooms and give them the rigorous education they need to make it in college.

  3. Raise the expectations of black students by encouraging them to work hard in school. Provide a non-PC, academic environment where every child is expected to compete. Accept nothing less.

  4. After you demand and get school choice nationwide, close down the teachers unions. Liberals may act like socialists, but when it comes to the cash, they're pure capitalists. What would happen if parents had choices in education? They would flee like they're making a jail break, which would mean less money for schools, fewer teachers and fewer excuses to whine about the "lack of funds" for education.

Well, at least she won't have Kweisi Mfume to kick around anymore.

Posted at 10:06 PM to Almost Yogurt


Ending preferences, in short, tends to prevent the admission of students whose admission depends on receiving the preference.

<smacks self on forehead> Who'da thunk it!?

Posted by: McGehee at 11:15 AM on 7 December 2004

The first title I slapped on this piece, while it was in its formative stages, was the Farkish "In other news, the ocean is wet".

Posted by: CGHill at 11:45 AM on 7 December 2004

LaShawn Barber writes:

>>>Get rid of black "leaders" like Kweisi Mfume ranting about too few black images on TV and throw the idiot boxes out the window!

Getting rid of black leaders is not a new strategy, and it's destined to backfire. The only time conservatives show any respect to a black leader is if he or she is dead or a Republican, which in some circles, means the same thing.

--Cobra

Posted by: Cobra at 2:41 PM on 7 December 2004

My own thinking lumps "black leaders" into the same category as "white leaders", and poses the same question to both: "So who decided that you get to speak for the whole?"

Posted by: CGHill at 7:38 AM on 8 December 2004