New sociology research indicates that while white people generally say they favor pure test-based admissions for colleges, this really only seems to be true when they think standardized test-based measures will favor white people. Or, more specifically, their views change a little when confronted with evidence about Asian-Americans, who tend to do well on standardized tests.

According to an article at Inside Higher Ed:

Frank L. Samson, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Miami, thinks his new research findings suggest that the definition of meritocracy used by white people is far more fluid than many would admit, and that this fluidity results in white people favoring certain policies (and groups) over others.

Specifically, he found, in a survey of white California adults, they generally favor admissions policies that place a high priority on high school grade-point averages and standardized test scores. But when these white people are focused on the success of Asian-American students, their views change.

In his research Samson found that when he asked white people to choose various criteria to determine college admissions they favored grades and standardized test scores.

When he told them that Asian Americans made up a greater portion of the University of California student body one might expect given the Asian-American population of the state and then choose various criteria to determine college admissions, something interesting happened. White people started to favor admissions less forced on grades and standardized tests.

Pure merit! Standardized tests! Well, except when it seems to favor someone else.

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