Wednesday, February 24, 2021

The Problems with Diversity Quotas

Two decades ago Shelby Steele exposed the flaw in diversity programs. He explained that affirmative action college admissions programs inevitably created the assumption that all minority group entrants had not earned their place, because they had not been judged according to the same standards as others. Thus, thanks to affirmative action the achievements of those who could have gained entry on merit are diminished.

One imagines that the same rule applies to people who might have been hired by companies in order to fill diversity quotas. The more we talk about diversity the more everyone will assume that those who might have been hired or promoted to fill a quota did not earn their way. If they might not have earned their way, they will not receive the respect that someone else would have received for gaining a position. When it comes to managerial ability, if you are not respected, because you might have been hired to fill a quota, you will find it far more difficult to do the job. Those who feel that they were passed over for being of the wrong skin color or gender will resent you and will be disinclined to cooperate with you.

In some part, these programs have failed the people they were designed to help. Appearing to rig the system in favor of one or another group does not advance anyone’s career prospects. 

Given the problems posed by these programs, the American corporate world is now going to up its diversity hires. As the old song went: When will they ever learn?

Steele’s argument was the best critique of diversity programs. Naturally, it has been largely ignored.

Now, since America’s universities have largely failed to promote racial equity through affirmative action programs, they have chosen to double down on diversity. They are now going to ignore standardized test scores-- one of the best predictors of academic and career success-- and are going to admit students to fill diversity quotas. As we have remarked in the past, this will undoubtedly divide the student body, into the Asian and white students who gravitate toward STEM subjects, and the rest.

Now, Steve Hanke and Stephen Walters have offered a compelling analysis on the downside of diversity quotas in college admissions. They perform something like a market based analysis of what happens to universities when they try systematically to dumb down their student bodies.

They begin by pointing out that the current use of diversity discriminates against Asian students. It downgrades their achievements and excludes them from universities where they could have excelled. In the end this diminishes the value of everyone's diploma.

The authors write:

America’s top colleges trumpet their commitment to racial equity, but if you’re a hard-working, high-achieving Asian-American student, you’re probably vexed about the discrimination you face when applying to many colleges. One 2009 study of ten elite schools found that, after controlling for key observable attributes of applicants, Asian-American SAT scores (on a scale of 1600) had to be 140 points higher than those of white applicants and 450 points higher than those of African-American applicants to have the same chances of acceptance. More recently, a careful study of Harvard’s admissions record (employing richer data on applicants’ characteristics) found that Asian-Americans were 19 percent less likely to be accepted than similarly qualified whites.

The result will be that better students will attend other universities, and will enhance the reputations of those schools. This is what happened when Ivy League universities decided to discriminate against Jews in the twenties and thirties:

Between the World Wars, many Ivy League schools employed rigid admissions quotas. A Yale medical school dean once decreed “never admit more than five Jews . . . two Italian Catholics . . . no blacks at all.” Harvard devised an admissions process (stressing “geographic diversity” and “character”) that reduced its Jewish enrollment from 25 percent to about 10 percent by the ’30s.

But as excluded Jewish students and faculty gravitated to rival schools and enhanced their prestige, some of the gentlemen in academe took note. Brandeis University, founded in 1948 to become the “Harvard of the Jews,” attracted stars such as Leonard Bernstein and Herbert Marcuse to its faculty. As it and other competitors rose, Harvard and other Ivies were forced to reverse course. Today, Jews represent less than 3 percent of the nation’s population but staff 9 percent of university faculties and 17 percent of those at top-ranked institutions.

They cite the example of Caltech, a school that does not use affirmative action quotas, and that has therefore advanced in college rankings. Not only that, hiring officers are now showing preference for Caltech over many Ivy League schools.

Several years ago I read a Wall Street Journal survey of corporate recruiters. Asked to name their preferred universities, they listed first-- Penn State, Texas Tech and the University of Illinois at Urbana. The top Ivy League school, Cornell, was not in the top ten.

Anyway, Hanke and Walters explain their thesis:

A prime example is the California Institute of Technology, which is highly meritocratic in its admissions policies. As Asian-Americans have encountered admissions barriers at other elite schools, they now are 43 percent of Caltech’s student body. But Caltech’s failure to pursue demographic “balance” hasn’t harmed its international reputation: The Times Higher Education’s 2020 rankings rated it second in the world — ahead of Harvard (seventh) and every other Ivy. A decade ago, Harvard and Caltech were ranked first and second respectively. Employers have caught on: According to PayScale, early career earnings for alumni of Caltech exceed those for Harvard by 16 percent.

Some Ivy League schools have seen the writing on the wall. Despite not being forced to do so by law, they are increasing their quota of Asian students:

Though Princeton was victorious in its 2015 discrimination case, its Class of ’24 is 25 percent Asian-American, up from 14 percent a little over a decade ago — and it has moved ahead of Harvard to sixth in the world rankings. Whether because of competitive or legal pressure, Harvard’s admission rate of Asians has trended upward recently, and at a sharp pace. Some 25 percent of the class of 2023 is Asian-American; Yale’s Asian-American enrollment is up from 10 percent to 17 percent, and it is up from tenth a decade ago. Outside the Ivy League, at schools such as Duke, Rice, Carnegie-Mellon, and Georgia Tech, proportions of Asian-American students exceed 20 percent and have increased by at least five percentage points in the last decade. It is easy to think that other rivals will join right in.

And yet, today's thrust toward idiot theories of racial equity might very well hamper these efforts. Unless, that is, the schools decide to grant more minority applicants admission at the expense of white students.

Since white parents seem committed to racial equity they will apparently take this form of racial discrimination lying down. As you know, the only group of parents in America that are fighting back against critical race theory are-- Asian. They are not going to sacrifice their children's education on the altar of some stupid idea.

The authors conclude on an optimistic note:

That’s the way markets work to penalize bias and reward virtue: Schools that become excessively devoted to identity politics and underweight merit will find their competition gaining on them. Rankings will shift and applicant enthusiasm and alumni support will wax or wane accordingly. In response, all are likely to do a better job shedding their biases — or those that do not will struggle until they see the error of their ways.


whitney said...

Most Asians and Middle Eastern people view black people as little more than animals while white people are in a cult of worshipping black people. Any acquiescence to that cult by asian or middle eastern people is only so that they can step over the carcass of white people on their way to top. In the end none of this is good for black people. I believe Latin people are one step above black people in that hierarchy

Christopher B said...

Since white parents seem committed to racial equity they will apparently take this form of racial discrimination lying down.

I think more likely that the whites who routinely support racial equity and anti-racism know that the more merit-free the admissions process, the more likely that whites who are actually denied admission are those who would have relied on meritocrat measures like the SAT to break into upper-tier schools, rather than those who can afford to provide their kids with the kind of enrichment experiences that look good on application essays.

Sam L. said...

The first problem is they're never sufficiently diverse. The second problem is that there's just TOO MUCH diversement.

Sam L. said...

Also, I am amused by colleges that shoot themselves in the feet this way.

Stuart said...

A minor correction:

"Several years ago I read a Wall Street Journal survey of corporate recruiters. [Fortune 500 to be exact] Asked to name their preferred universities, they listed first-- 1.Penn State, 2.Texas A&M, 3.University of Texas and the 4.University of Illinois at Urbana.* The top Ivy League school, Cornell, was the ONLY one in the top 75.

*The article went on to explain that the recruiters favored the large state colleges as they produced competent employees. The Ivy League schools produced students "only fit for government". That's a quote.

HMS Defiant said...

Brandeis created for the Jews....Where is the University created for Asian Americans? I remember some vague history about Leland Stanford creating a little school out West for kids like his who weren't 'ivy league' material according to the eastern seaboard elite.

HMS Defiant said...

I should mention, I graduated Penn State long ago and my academic advisor and a number of other profs were Asian American...

ErisGuy said...

attracted stars such as Leonard Bernstein and Herbert Marcuse to its faculty.

Marcuse. There’s an argument for burning a university to the ground. Marcuse’s theories make “angels on the head of pin stuff” seem rational and sober. Imagine Marcuse as a doctor or engineer. The trail of bodies would be legendary.