February 19, 2018

Racism in University Admissions

According to Gallup polling, most White Americans think that Black and White students, when equally qualified, will have an equal change of being admitted into college. Most Blacks think that White students will have an advantage over equally qualified Blacks.


Most Whites, and most Blacks, are wrong. The truth, as demonstrated by multiple lines of evidence, is that Whites are discriminated against in College admissions.

A recent survey of 338 American universities showed that one in four colleges openly admit having such policies. Similarly, a recent survey of officials from 68 highly selective colleges found that “membership in an under-represented group” tied with “exceptional talent” as the top pick for what makes a student “fit” their university.

The best work on this subject was carried out in 2004 by the Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade. Espenshade’s study utilized data on 124,374 applicants to 10 of the most selective universities in the country. He found that if you control for differences in SAT scores, whether or not applicants had alumni in their family, and whether or not they were involved in college athletics, black applicants were 5.2 times more likely than white applicants to be admitted. Hispanics were 3.5 more likely than white students to be admitted and Asians were 0.7 times as likely.

Yet another recent report comes from the Association of American Medical Colleges. It found that if you look at students who apply to American medical schools with MCAT scores of 26-24 (a bad score) and GPAs between 3.2 an 3.39, Blacks are over 7 times more likely than Whites to be admitted while Hispanics are 3.7 times more likely to be admitted. Asians, once again, have an even harder time getting admitted than Whites.


Whites are also discriminated against in the process of grant giving.

Consider, for instance, the paper “The Distribution of Grants and Scholarships by Race“ by Mark Kantrowitz. In this paper, Kantrowitz looked at the proportion of different kinds of grants given to a nationally representative sample of 214,000 American college students between the years 2003 and 2008 and found that non whites are roughly 10% more likely than whites to be given a grant.

Hopefully, the fact that Whites, and Asians, are discriminated against by college admissions and (at least for Whites) grant giving is not clear. The motive behind this discrimination is simple. University officials imagine that racial groups are equally good at school and, therefore, should be equally represented in universities.

But their not. Asians and Whites are smarter than Blacks and Hipanics. This is literally the entire reason why there are racial differences in educational attainment. In fact, if you compare Blacks and Whites of equal IQ, Blacks are more likely than Whites to have a college degree:

College completion

(Of course, this is exactly what you would expect given the discriminatory policies of universities.)

In order to make campuses have more Black/Hispanic students and fewer Whites/Asian students you have therefore have to use a criteria for college admittance other than intelligence and intelligence proxies like grades.

This has been done to such an extent that, as shown by data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics,  Black high-school students are now more likely than White high-school students to make it into college.That this is due to discrimination, rather than Blacks being more qualified than Whites, can be seen by the fact that White high-school students make better grades than Black students and score better on standardized tests.

Of course, Whites still get more degrees than Blacks because many of the unqualified Blacks in colleges simply drop out with no degree after taking on a pile of student debt they can’t afford.

(When affirmative action unintentionally hurts Blacks like this, I like to think of it as the harsh bigotry of White expectations).

This practice, of letting relatively dumb people into colleges because they are Black or Hispanic, has several important societal consequences.

First, if people are getting let into college for reasons unrelated to intelligence, you might expect that the correlation between IQ and education would fall. And it has. Data from the General Social Survey, a large and representative survey that has been administered in the U.S. for decades, shows that the correlation between years of education and IQ has fallen from .56 in the 1970’s (and possibly .7 in the 1950’s), to .42 today.


(This is one of many factors which explains this trend, which has also occurred intra-racially)

This means that a college degree no longer guarantees the level of intelligence that it used to. This is probably especially true for Blacks, who receive the highest levels of affirmative action in higher education.

This explains why Blacks can get degrees without being as smart as the White people who get similar degrees. This was demonstrated in 1992 by the Department of Education’s National Survey of Adult Literacy. The NSAL interviewed a nationally representative sample of nearly 14,000 Americans and tested their ability to read, understand documents, and use math in practical everyday scenarios. The test of mathematical skills is the most revealing: the NSAL found that Blacks in graduate school scored, on average, in-between Whites who never went to college and Whites who went to college but never received a 2 year degree. Blacks with a 4 year degree scored the same as Whites who never went to college at all.

Thanks to affirmative action, a Black with a degree is probably about as smart, and practically efficient, as a White whose never stepped a foot into a university.

An unintended  consequence of this is that it means that if you compare blacks and whites with the same qualifications on paper the white individual will tend to be significantly more competent than the black individual. This may be why, as liberals so often like to point out, if you have whites and blacks apply for a job with identical resumes white applicants are usually preferred over black ones.

Of course, when liberals see these “call back” experiments they view them as evidence of anti-Black racism, rater than an indirect effect of anti-White/Asian racism.  And then they call for more pro black affirmative action, private and public, which is exactly what caused this mess in the first place.


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