Can Socioeconomic Status Substitute for Race in Affirmative Action College Admissions Policies? Evidence from a Simulation Model
diversity, admissions, affirmative action, socioeconomic status, race
This paper simulates a system of socioeconomic status (SES)−based aﬃrmative action in college admissions and examines the extent to which it can produce racial diversity in selective colleges. Using simulation models, we investigate the potential relative eﬀects of race- and/or SES-based aﬃrmative action policies, alongside targeted, race-based recruitment, on the racial and socioeconomic distribution of students in colleges. These simulations suggest three important patterns: (1) neither SES-based aﬃrmative action nor race recruiting policies on their own can reproduce levels of racial diversity achieved by race-based aﬃrmative action; however, SES-based aﬃrmative action in combination with targeted recruitment, although likely expensive, shows the potential to yield racial diversity levels comparable to race-based aﬃrmative action; (b) the use of aﬃrmative action policies by some colleges reduces the diversity of similar-quality colleges that do not have such policies; (c) overall, the combination of SES-based aﬃrmative action and race recruiting results in slightly fewer Black and Hispanic students that are academically overmatched than under race-based aﬃrmative action, but the schools that use the combination policy also see an overall reduction in the academic achievement of the students they enroll.
Reardon, S.F., Baker, R., Kasman, M., Klasik, D., & Townsend, J.B.. (2017). Can Socioeconomic Status Substitute for Race in Aﬃrmative Action College Admissions Policies? Evidence from a Simulation Model (CEPA Working Paper No.15-04).