Thursday, November 29, 2012

College admissions bias

A new article on The Myth of American Meritocracy is generating a lot of attention.

The article presents evidence that elite American colleges do not have meritocratic admissions, and they unfairly discriminate against Orientals and non-Jewish whites. Apparently there has been a huge decline in Jewish academic achievement. Unz writes:
My casual mental image of today’s top American students is based upon my memories of a generation or so ago, when Jewish students, sometimes including myself, regularly took home a quarter or more of the highest national honors on standardized tests or in prestigious academic competitions; thus, it seemed perfectly reasonable that Harvard and most of the other Ivy League schools might be 25 percent Jewish, based on meritocracy. But the objective evidence indicates that in present day America, only about 6 percent of our top students are Jewish, which now renders such very high Jewish enrollments at elite universities totally absurd and ridiculous. I strongly suspect that a similar time lag effect is responsible for the apparent confusion in many others who have considered the topic.
My favorite theory is that elite colleges admit students to maximize future alumni donations. Legacy admissions are very useful in two ways. First, those are the only students who know the school songs and traditions, and so they spread the school spirit to the class. Second, they give alumni hope that someday their kids may get favorable treatment.

The colleges are sitting on the data that could potentially refute the Ron Unz article. It will be interesting to see if anyone tries.

Update: Statistician A. Gelman is skeptical about the Jewish data. Unz may have backed off. See also Kevin MacDonald.

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