Affirmative Action.

Today’s DTH has this to say:

UNC’s four-year graduation rate is just 49.2 percent for black males, compared to a 70.8 percent graduation rate for white males, according to a 2010 study.

I think a lot of this is due to socioeconomic class. The DTH (stupidly, if you ask me) didn’t get the grad rates for children who come from poorer families and explore that, even though the article mentions socioeconomics as a huge barrier to having the resources to learn and thrive in college. They pegged the article to the anniversary of our first black student body president, so there was little incentive to muddle the narrative.

But I mentioned on Twitter that another thing we should consider is affirmative action. Quotas are outlawed but a minority applicant is looked on favorably for contributing to the diversity of the class. Thus, someone can have poorer academic credentials but with minority status be weighed more than a similar white applicant. If you follow the logic, then on the margin, this pushes more less-qualified applicants into admissions who otherwise would not have been admitted.

Here’s a simple inequality. Assuming both academics and race are positive factors:

Academics + race > Academics

This seems pretty obvious but since a few people on Twitter suggested I was ignorant or a racist I am going to be clear.

If Academics(white) = Academics(black), then the following is ALWAYS true:

Academics(black) + race > Academics(white)

It’s even sometimes true if Academics(black) < Academics(white) if race compensates for more than the differential.

This doesn’t just have to be a logic game though. Here’s some data.

In the National Longitudinal Study of Youth, there is a divergence in the IQs of whites and blacks who received bachelors, masters, and PhDs or professional degrees by the year 2000 (when the participants were between 36 and 43 years old)

White IQs
Bachelors: 113.3
Masters: 116.9
PhD: 125.6

Black IQs
Bachelors: 99.1
Masters: 101.7
PhD: 112.2

Latino means were also lower than whites, but higher than blacks.

Now, you might say that IQ tests are racist (some do). That’s fine. Maybe you can even argue that lower IQs on the margin won’t cause more students not to graduate. Maybe you can even argue that it’s not affirmative action’s fault at all that these mean IQs are different. There are any number of objections you could raise. I’m not saying that affirmative action IS the reason that black grad rates are lower than whites full stop.

What I said is that, given the logic and the data, we must CONSIDER that affirmative action might be PART of the problem. There are tradeoffs to everything. If you thought affirmative action was all upside then you’ve just been deluded.

This doesn’t even mean affirmative action is a bad policy per se. Even if it is true, one could argue that it’s worth the cost if at least some of the affirmative action beneficiaries are graduating. Maybe we lose a few, but we gave them a chance, and we got a lot to get a degree they might not have gotten otherwise. There are plenty of objections to this too but it’s an argument you can make.

Here’s what I’m really trying to say that I think a lot of people forget because of political sensibilities:

the truth is there for us to find and interpret, not to spurn.


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