Affirmative Action and Upward Mobility

The following paper uploaded to the Social Science Research Network a few days ago caught the eye of Charles Murray. You’ll see why toward the end of the abstract:

The Effects of Affirmative Action Bans on Low-Income College Access and Upward Mobility

Sungoh Kwan, University of Connecticut


In recent years, many states in the U.S. have banned race-based affirmative action in college admissions. Public universities in these states have put more weight on socioeconomic factors such as family income to ensure diverse student body without the explicit consideration of race. This paper investigates whether statewide affirmative action bans improve college access for low-income students and subsequently help them climb the economic ladder. Using institution-level data, I find that affirmative action bans increase the enrollment share of low-income and first-generation students at selective public universities. The positive impact on college access is driven by low-income Asian students. Banning the use of race in admissions also raises the upward mobility rate, which measures the extent to which an institution contributes to intergenerational income mobility.

Charles wonders how long it will take until low-income Asians are defined as “white,” and therefore “privileged,” since they are messing up the narrative.

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