People respond to incentives

Fascinating story about the re-identification of people of Eurasian ancestry as white to get into elite universities. Some Asians’ college strategy: Don’t check ‘Asian’:

Lanya Olmstead was born in Florida to a mother who immigrated from Taiwan and an American father of Norwegian ancestry. Ethnically, she considers herself half Taiwanese and half Norwegian. But when applying to Harvard, Olmstead checked only one box for her race: white.

Asian students have higher average SAT scores than any other group, including whites. A study by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade examined applicants to top colleges from 1997, when the maximum SAT score was 1600 (today it’s 2400). Espenshade found that Asian-Americans needed a 1550 SAT to have an equal chance of getting into an elite college as white students with a 1410 or black students with an 1100.

In the article Steve Hsu observes that the Ivy League universities have a suspiciously similar proportion of Asians, about 2/3 of the fraction of a “race blind” admissions college like Cal Tech. Here’s Alex Tabarrok with the numbers: “At Yale the class of 2013 is 15.5 percent Asian-American, at Dartmouth 16.1 percent, at Harvard 19.1 percent, and at Princeton 17.6 percent.” I assume that the “Asian Quota” will start to change as the current generation of Asian American students become established as alumni donors.

I’m not a big fan of the “Asian Quota” personally. But, I do think one can make a case for it based on the fact that children from families with an Asian background have a strong bias toward optimizing measured outcomes. But, this entails making a profile, or “stereotype,” of a population. I’m not someone who actually objects to this on principle, but I find the hypocrisy on this issue rather annoying, because the same administrators who would decry stereotypes feel they have to employ them implicitly for practical (so the alumni don’t see their university overwhelmed by “yellow hordes,” and so reduce giving) and idealistic reasons (to maintain some ethnic balance).

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