02 May 2011

Disparate Impact III

[Disparate Impact Part II can be found here.]
[Disparate Impact Part I can be found here.]

      Boxing has kindly shown us why weight classes are a Good Thing:

Featherweight / Lightweight / Middleweight / Heavyweight. =  Everyone gets to play.
All thrown in the ring together. =  Only one gets to play. 

      (And we already know who that is.) 

Low / Average / Bright / Very bright.  =  Everyone gets a job (or into college).
All thrown in the ring together.  =  Only one gets a job (or into college).

     Do we already know who that is?

In our parallel-universe Akron, Ohio, apparently, it's Asian-Americans.

But what about back here in the real universe?

Not in Ohio, but in sunny California?

The University of California (UC) is proposing tinkering with admissions requirements because a large proportion of their students are Asian.
The various school campuses around the Golden State show representation of Asians ranging between 40 and 54 % of the total number of students while only representing 13 to 14 % of California's population.

Talk about disparate.

So the question is whether standards for admissions ought to be lowered in favor of non-Asians to create more of a balance in the schools' student makeup.

Perhaps they ought.

And over on the East Coast?  Anything 'disparate' happening there?

A freshman at Yale filed a complaint in the fall with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, contending he was denied admission to Princeton because he is Asian. The student, Jian Li, the son of Chinese immigrants in Livingston, N.J., had a perfect SAT score and near-perfect grades, including numerous Advanced Placement courses.
“This is just a very, very egregious system,” Mr. Li told me. “Asians are held to different standards simply because of their race.”

Whoooooops.  That is exactly what you were not supposed to say, Mr. Li.   

But you are absolutely right.  Asians are held to different standards simply because of their race. 

And they're not the only ones.

To back his claim, he cites a 2005 study by Thomas J. Espenshade and Chang Y. Chung, both of Princeton, which concludes that if elite universities were to disregard race, Asians would fill nearly four of five spots that now go to blacks or Hispanics. 

Espenshade…Why does that ring a bell.

Ah yes.  This Espenshade (all emphasis mine):

The Espenshade/Radford study draws from a new data set, the National Study of College Experience (NSCE), which was gathered from eight highly competitive public and private colleges and universities (entering freshmen SAT scores: 1360).
[…]  Because of confidentiality agreements Espenshade and Radford could not name the institutions.

1360 SAT on average?  You know who these schools are. 

Consistent with other studies, though in much greater detail, Espenshade and Radford show the substantial admissions boost, particularly at the private colleges in their study, which Hispanic students get over whites, and the enormous advantage over whites given to blacks.


They also show how Asians must do substantially better than whites in order to reap the same probabilities of acceptance to these same highly competitive private colleges.

How, er, disparate.  Tell us more...

On an "other things equal basis," where adjustments are made for a variety of background factors, […] 

Yes yes, go on...

To have the same chances of gaining admission as a black student with an SAT score of 1100, an Hispanic student otherwise equally matched in background characteristics would have to have a 1230, a white student a 1410, and an Asian student a 1550.

Don't know what those numbers look like to you.  To me they look like these:

The currently-recognized weight divisions/classes for professional male boxers, listed in (minimum) allowable pounds, are (condensed):
  • Featherweight   122
  • Lightweight        130
  • Middleweight     154
  • Heavyweight      200

'Weight classes' in boxing?  Sure.  Got to keep the sport diverse, after all.  Give the little guys a fighting chance.

'IQ classes' in companies or colleges?  You chuckled.

Maybe you chuckled too soon.  They're no thought experiment, dear reader. 

They already exist.

Back in sunny California:
“I’ve heard from Latinos and blacks that Asians should not be considered a minority at all,” says Elaine Kim, a professor of Asian-American studies at Berkeley. “What happened after they got rid of affirmative action has been a disaster — for blacks and Latinos.”

Ms. Kim is referring to the law passed fifteen years ago in her state which bans explicit racial quotas in public institutions.

But 'explicit' just means it isn't written down anywhere.  As Espenshade has so kindly shown us, it doesn't need to be.

Jian Li up there can have an identical family income level, city of origin, and extracurricular activities as his classmate Riley O'Rourke, but if Riley got 1410 on his entrance exam, Jian is still not getting into Top-Flight College unless his score is 1550.    


Their classmate Jamal Jones, it turns out, who goes to the same high school, whose parents make the same money, who's got the right extracurricular activities too, only needs a score of 1100.


College entrance boards don't give IQ tests, but the SAT is about as close to one as you can get.

And if you believe that all the IQ Willie Peps can take on all the IQ Nikolai Valuevs, well, the results would appear to say otherwise.

So American colleges have set up a weight class.  For brains.  It goes like this:

OK, so we'll draw about 15% of our competitors from the featherweight class, and 15% or so from the lightweights, then around 60% middleweights, and maybe 10% heavyweights.

But when men like Ward Connerly start passing laws like Proposition 209 in sunny California, that weight class goes right out the window.  

And things start to look like this:
At Berkeley, 3.6 percent of freshmen are black, barely half the statewide proportion. (In 1997, just before the full force of Proposition 209 went into effect, the proportion of black freshmen matched the state population, 7 percent.) The percentage of Hispanic freshmen at Berkeley (11 percent) is not even a third of the state proportion (35 percent). White freshmen (29 percent) are also below the state average (44 percent).

And Asians?  California is 13% Asian, you know.

This fall and last, the number of Asian freshmen at Berkeley has been at a record high, about 46 percent. The overall undergraduate population is 41 percent Asian.



The California dream:  7--35--44--13

The California reality:  4--11--29--41

How is it that, when everyone gets thrown in the ring together, the heavyweights and middleweights seem to toss out almost everyone else?

California, dear reader, has let all the Willie Peps and all the Nikolai Valuevs in the same ring, and, fifteen years later, it looks like there aren't a whole lot of Willies left standing.

Timothy Egan, who wrote this article, is puzzled:

IF Berkeley is now a pure meritocracy, what does that say about the future of great American universities in the post-affirmative action age?
Are we headed toward a day when all elite colleges will look something like Berkeley: relatively wealthy whites (about 60 percent of white freshmen’s families make $100,000 or more) and a large Asian plurality and everyone else underrepresented? Is that the inevitable result of color-blind admissions?

If he really hasn't grasped the answer to this question, it would almost appear--though one hesitates to make the charge, as presumably our esteemed journalist is in the Nikolai Valuev weight class, as it were--that Mr. Egan did not read his own article.


Will Jian Li, civil rights complainant, win his lawsuit?

Will California's minorities (well...the non-Asian ones) ever attend top schools in the state in large numbers?

And most important, what will happen when, degree in hand, they all wander hopefully into some private company's HR department looking for the big prize--the championship belt, the one thing they've been duking it out for all these years--a job?

Stay tuned for more...


Kiwiguy said...

Hey, I'm glad you liked the Disparate Impact Realism article.

Linda Gottfredson has also written a number of papers that touch on this subject.

M.G. Miles said...

Wow, that's a wealth of studies, and apparently she's been researching these issues for decades. Thanks so much for the reference, Kiwiguy, I've added it to the 'Reading List' section of my blog.

Funny how these studies never seem to make it to the top of Justice Department policy-makers' reading lists...