Preparation is key #2

From How Colleges Make Racial Disparities Worse by Richard Sander in the Wall Street Journal (I added the bold):

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia ignited a firestorm last week at oral arguments forFisher v. University of Texas, a case concerning that school’s affirmative-action policies. The media pounced after Justice Scalia suggested that it might be not be a bad thing if fewer African-Americans were admitted to the University of Texas. Many rushed to call the comments racist.

Subsequent reports clarified that Mr. Scalia had been invoking the “mismatch” hypothesis, which posits that students who receive large admissions preferences—and who therefore attend a school that they wouldn’t have gotten into otherwise—often end up hurt by the academic gap between them and their college peers. But on the whole even this coverage has spread confusion.

The mismatch theory is not about race. It is about admissions preferences, full stop. Mismatch can affect students who receive preferential admission based on athletic prowess, low socioeconomic status, or alumni parents. An important finding of mismatch research is that when one controls for the effect of admissions preferences, racial differences in college performance largely disappear. Far from stigmatizing minorities, mismatch places the responsibility for otherwise hard-to-explain racial gaps not on the students, but on the administrators who put them in classrooms above their qualifications.

Re: first passage in bold: As I mentioned in this post, preferential treatment can hurt anyone, it doesn’t depend on race.

Re: second passage in bold: If true, why isn’t that persuasive for folks who advocate watering down admissions, rather than bolstering preparation?

This also supports my hypothesis for #2 from this post. An author at fivethirtyeight.com thought that, “Top private colleges, though they enroll fewer black students, do a somewhat better job of helping them graduate.” I thought, perhaps, top private colleges just do a better job of admitting those who are properly prepared.

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