NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Affirmative Action Disadvantages Some Groups Over Others

November 16, 1998

Current affirmative action policies are more the cause than the cure for gross imbalances in some groups' rates of admission to elite universities, says the leader of the successful campaign to enact California's initiative to limit bilingual education, Proposition 227.

Ron K. Unz points out that the flip-side of demographic underrepresentation of some groups is the overrepresentation of others. This is most evident at elite institutions, such as Harvard University:

  • At Harvard over the past few years, black enrollment has averaged 8 percent and Hispanic enrollment 7 percent.
  • Despite Harvard's longstanding commitment to affirmative action, these figures are substantially below their 12 percent and 10 percent, respectively, of the general population.
  • Asians comprise between 2 percent and 3 percent of the U.S. population, but nearly 20 percent of Harvard undergraduates.
  • Between a quarter and a third of Harvard students identify themselves as Jewish, while Jews represent just 2 percent to 3 percent of the population.

Thus these two groups alone appear to constitute about half Harvard's student body, leaving the other half for the remaining 95 percent. Thus chronic underrepresentation of other ethnic groups, with or without affirmative action, is mathematically inevitable. In fact, non-Jewish white Americans represent no more than a quarter of Harvard undergraduates, although they constitute nearly 75 percent of the general population -- and thus they are far more underrepresented than blacks, Hispanics or any other minority group.

Hostility to affirmative action, he concludes, may represent less the anger of the privileged than the resentment of the discriminated-against.

Source: Ron K. Unz, "Some Minorities Are More Minor than Others," Wall Street Journal, November 16, 1998.


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