Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It
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Sander and Taylor have long admired affirmative action’s original goals, but after many years of studying racial preferences, they have reached a controversial but undeniable conclusion: that preferences hurt underrepresented minorities far more than they help them. At the heart of affirmative action’s failure is a simple phenomenon called mismatch. Using dramatic new data and numerous interviews with affected former students and university officials of color, the authors show how racial preferences often put students in competition with far better-prepared classmates, dooming many to fall so far behind that they can never catch up. Mismatch largely explains why, even though black applicants are more likely to enter college than whites with similar backgrounds, they are far less likely to finish; why there are so few black and Hispanic professionals with science and engineering degrees and doctorates; why black law graduates fail bar exams at four times the rate of whites; and why universities accept relatively affluent minorities over working class and poor people of all races.
Sander and Taylor believe it is possible to achieve the goal of racial equality in higher education, but they argue that alternative policies—such as full public disclosure of all preferential admission policies, a focused commitment to improving socioeconomic diversity on campuses, outreach to minority communities, and a renewed focus on K-12 schooling —will go farther in achieving that goal than preferences, while also allowing applicants to make informed decisions. Bold, controversial, and deeply researched, Mismatch calls for a renewed examination of this most divisive of social programs—and for reforms that will help realize the ultimate goal of racial equality.
Race and Rage. New York, NY: Ecco, 2011. Council on Foreign Relations. “U.S. Education Reform and National Security.” http://www.cfr.org/united-states/us-education-reform-national-security/p27618/. Crosby, Faye. Affirmative Action Is Dead, Long Live Affirmative Action. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004. Dale, Stacy, and Alan B. Krueger. “Estimating the Payoff to Attending a More Selective College.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 117 (2002): 1491. Davis, James. “The Campus as a Frog
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preference, Marshall turned grave. “I think we need it,” he said, fixing me with a steady gaze. “Can you tell me you never got any advantage from being white?” I said no. “Well,” Marshall continued, “you owe something.” I wonder what Justice Marshall would think now of large racial preferences were he alive and aware of the evidence in this book, which is quite consistent with Justice Thomas’s forceful depictions of mismatch and other grievous harms to his fellow blacks. I loved Marshall. I like
scholars familiar with the data. This avoidance of candid discussion—which is indispensable to wise policymaking—is particularly pervasive on university campuses and in the news media. We will explore several examples of this phenomenon in detail, and Chapters Eleven and Twelve will grapple with why it occurs. Defenders of affirmative action often suggest that they fear that openness and dialogue on the nature and operation of racial preferences will lead to demagoguery on the right. Certainly