Eliminating affirmative action would devastate most minority college enrollment

06/07/05

Ignoring race in elite college admissions would result in dramatic declines in the numbers of African Americans and Hispanics accepted with little gain for white students, according to Princeton University researchers.

Researchers in a study published in the latest issue of Social Science Quarterly examined the controversial notion that eliminating affirmative action would lead to the admission of more white students to college and found it to be false.

"We're trying to put these admission preferences in context so people understand that lots of students, including those with SAT scores above 1500, are getting a boost," said Thomas J. Espenshade, who co-authored "The Opportunity Cost of Admission Preferences at Elite Universities" with Chang Y. Chung. "The most important conclusion is the negative impact on African American and Hispanic students if affirmative action practices were eliminated."

According to the study, acceptance rates for African-American candidates would fall from 33.7 percent to 12.2 percent, a decline of almost two-thirds, while the acceptance rate for Hispanic applicants would be cut in half, from 26.8 percent to 12.9 percent. "If admitting such small numbers of qualified African-American and Hispanic students reduced applications and the yield from minority candidates in subsequent years, the effect of eliminating affirmative action at elite universities on the racial and ethnic composition of enrolled students would be magnified beyond the results presented here," the authors wrote.

Removing consideration of race would have little effect on white students; their acceptance rate would rise by only 0.5 percentage points. Espenshade noted that when one group loses ground, another has to gain in this case Asian applicants. Asian students would fill nearly four out of every five places in the admitted class not taken by African-American and Hispanic students. The study also found that although athletes and legacy applicants are predominantly white, their numbers are so small that their admissions do little to displace minority applicants.

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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