About The Chosen: ... But the admissions policies of elite universities have long been both tightly controlled and shrouded in secrecy. In The Chosen, the Berkeley sociologist Jerome Karabel lifts the veil on a century of admission and exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. How did the policies of our elite schools evolve? Whom have they let in and why? And what do those policies say about America?
p. 76: ... Harvard, Yale, and Princeton thus faced a painful choice: either maintain the almost exclusively objective academic standards for admission and face the arrival of increasing numbers of Jews or replace them with more subjective criteria that could be deployed to produce the desired outcome. Their decision to do the latter was a great departure from their historic practices and bequeathed to us the peculiar admissions process that we now take for granted.
From an earlier post Affirmative Action: the numbers:
US News ... Translating the advantages into SAT scores, study author Thomas Espenshade, a Princeton sociologist, calculated that African-Americans who achieved 1150 scores on the two original SAT tests had the same chances of getting accepted to top private colleges in 1997 as whites who scored 1460s and Asians who scored perfect 1600s.
Espenshade found that when comparing applicants with similar grades, scores, athletic qualifications, and family history for seven elite private colleges and universities:
Whites were three times as likely to get fat envelopes as Asians. Hispanics were twice as likely to win admission as whites. African-Americans were at least five times as likely to be accepted as whites.
More from The Chosen below. OCR = Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, which conducted an investigation of anti-Asian bias in Harvard admissions around 1990.
The Chosen, p.510: ... Asian Americans had the highest SATs of all [among groups admitted to Harvard]: 1450 out of a possible 1600. In 1991 the Asian-American/white admission ratio [ratio of percentages of applicants from each group admitted] stood at 84 percent -- a sharp downturn from 98 percent in 1990, when the scrutiny from OCR was at its peak. Though [this ratio] never dropped again to the 64 percent level of 1986, it never returned to its 1990 zenith. Despite Asian Americans' growing proportion of the national population, their enrollment also peaked in 1990 at 20 percent, where it more or less remained until 1994. ... by 2001 it had dropped below 15 percent.
So the "subjective but fair" measures used in admissions resulted in a record high admit rate for Asians during the year Harvard was under investigation by the federal government. But mysteriously the admit rate (relative to that of white applicants) went down significantly after the investigation ended, and the overall Asian enrollment has not increased despite the increasing US population fraction of Asians.