59 Ohio St. L.J. 971 (1998)
Racial and Ethnic Preferences in College Admissions

handle is hein.journals/ohslj59 and id is 987 raw text is: Racial and Ethnic Preferences in College
College admissions committees, not markets, ration access to many of the
most selective U.S. colleges. As the labor market payoff to a college education
has risen and competition for admission to elite universities has become more
keen, racial preference in college admissions has become increasingly
controversial, particularly at public institutions. In the spring of 1996 the Fifth
Circuit Court of Appeals dramatically narrowed the latitude to use race in
determining admissions to colleges within its jurisdiction, and the Supreme
Court subsequently refused to review this decision. The following fall, voters in
California approved a proposal to end the use of racial and ethnic preferences in
admissions to state institutions. A number of other states are also reconsidering
the role of race and ethnicity in admissions and financial aid. Some will wait for
the Supreme Court to clarify the legal issues at stake, but some may not.1
Because colleges shroud their admissions procedures in mystery, the public
knows little about the extent to which racial preference is practiced. Even less is
known about the impact of such preferences on the later careers of black and
white youth. This Article explores these questions using data collected from the
high school class of 1982.
Part I uses the High School and Beyond (HSB) survey to analyze the
importance of race to college admission decisions in the early 1980s. It shows
that racial preference is confined to elite colleges and universities, namely,
the most academically selective fifth of all four-year institutions, where scores
* Reprinted with permission of the Brookings Institution Press from TBE B. CK-Wmi
TEsr ScoRE GAP (Christopher Jencks & Meredith Phillips eds., 1998). Requests for further
permission to reprint or copy this Article should be directed to the Brookings Institution
** I began work on this paper while a visiting fellow at the Brown Center for Education
Policy at the Brookings Institution. I thank William Dickens, George Akerlof, Christopher
Jencks, Chris Avery, William Bowen, Helen Ladd, Meredith Phillips, Charles Schultze,
Doug Staiger, and David Wise for many helpful comments and discussions. Seminar
participants at the University of Chicago, Harvard University, and the National Bureau of
Economic Research offered a number of helpful suggestions; in particular, Charles Clotfelter,
Ron Ehrenberg, Robert Hauser, Robert Meyer, Derek Neal, and Michael Rothschild. Tony
Shen and Susan Dynarski provided excellent research assistance in the early stages of this
research. Any errors are my sole responsibility.
I The attorney general for the State of Georgia, for example, has recommended that
public educational institutions stop using race in deciding admissions; Chronicle of Higher
Education, April 19, 1996, p. A40.

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