A New Affirmative Action?


At what point might it make sense to make real changes to Affirmative Action? Century Foundation Senior Fellow Richard Kahlenberg has an interesting piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the future of college admissions, specifically with regard to race and income. As he explains:

I outlined some forthcoming research which suggests that affirmative action programs should be primarily about addressing socioeconomic disadvantage rather than race. …There is a 399 point predicted difference in the combined math and verbal SAT scores between the most socioeconomically advantaged students and the least advantaged but only a 56 point difference based on race (being black rather than white.) These data raise questions about current university practices, which provide large preferences to under-represented minorities, but virtually no consideration of economic disadvantage. I noted that the U.S. Supreme Court may soon significantly cut back on affirmative action by race, effectively driving universities to a greater consideration of economic status.

He’s got a point. There is, after all, something about Affirmative Action in college admissions that doesn’t quite seem to work. Even if one basically agrees that historically disadvantaged people should be given special preferences in college admissions, the trouble has to do with which people that means.

Someone, after all, will always be a disadvantaged minority. But it won’t always be same group. Indeed, it’s already changed several times in American history.

Richard Kahlenberg argues that it’s time for class-based (he really means income-based) Affirmative Action. This is a view that even President Obama seems to support (well okay, only vaguely support).

So what does this indicate? When is it time to change the formula? [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer