Harvard and Asians

by Robert VerBruggen

Matt Yglesias reports:

For starters, Harvard recruits athletes who are disproportionately white (it’s not just football and basketball — there are fencing and golf teams). Harvard also gives a bonus to the children of alumni, another disproportionately non-Asian group. But then on top of that Harvard seeks to ensure the presence of a diverse class by giving bonus to members of underrepresented racial minorities and underrepresented geographical areas. The much-discussed racial diversity criteria hurt Asian applicants at the expense of black [and] Latino ones, while the never-discussed geographical diversity critera hurt Asian applicants at the expense of white ones. Conservatives have entrenched into law the idea that policies with a “disproportionate impact” on racial minorities don’t constitute an illegal form of discrimination, which may be the wise approach, in which case it may be that Ivy League schools aren’t doing anything illegal to Asian applicants. But it’s clear enough that the structure of their admissions policies has the effect of disadvantaging Asian applicants.

Unfortunately, Yglesias throws “disparate impact” into the mix where is doesn’t quite belong — what the term refers to is when someone uses non-racial criteria that happen to affect different racial groups to different degrees. This applies to geographical criteria, but it certainly doesn’t apply to “diversity,” which is a directly racial criterion that weeds out Asians.

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