NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

In Perverse Twist, Ending Affirmative Action Would Benefit Asian Students

February 4, 2003

If the Supreme Court acts to eliminate or limit race-conscious admissions at the University of Michigan, Asian-American college applicants stand to gain far more than any other group -- at least in proportion to their numbers in the general population.

As things stand now, a relatively low percentage of Asian-American students are admitted to top public and private institutions -- nearly all of which practice affirmative action -- compared to the high numbers of the arguably qualified among them.

Experience at the University of Texas, Austin, and at California's elite universities demonstrates how this would happen.

  • After a federal court in 1996 barred the University of Texas from practicing affirmative action, the percentage of entering freshmen who were Asian-American rose to 18 percent last fall -- compared to 14 percent in the fall of 1995.
  • Yet only about three out of every 100 Texans has an Asian background.
  • Similarly, in California, where Asians make up 11 percent of the general population, the percentage of the freshman class at the University of California at Berkeley that was Asian-American rose 6 percentage points, to 45 percent in 2001.
  • Meanwhile, the percentage of the class that was black, Hispanic and even white, declined.

The reason is that Texas and California adopted systems under which a certain proportion of the top students in each high school graduating class were guaranteed spots in the universities' freshman class. And Asian-Americans were the top students in their schools.

Source: Jacques Steinberg, "The New Calculus of Diversity on Campus," New York Times, February 2, 2003.


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