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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Myth of American Meritocracy

Ron Unz has performed an exhaustive analysis of elite university admissions in The Myth of American Meritocracy (December issue of the American Conservative). He finds strong evidence for de facto quotas on Asian-Americans at Ivy League universities. See below for a brief summary. I suggest reading his entire article, which is filled with additional insights, including one rather shocking surprise. Don't miss the statistical supplement.

Asian-American Quotas at Ivy League Universities?

November 28, 2012 - America’s elite Ivy League universities appear to follow a de facto Asian-American admissions quota policy according to “The Myth of American Meritocracy,”a 30,000-word cover story in the December issue of The American Conservative by publisher Ron Unz.

Unz provides detailed statistical evidence that the pattern of Asian-American enrollment over the last two decades is remarkably similar to what followed the establishment of Ivy League Jewish quotas in the mid-1920s. Soon after the U.S. Department of Justice closed its early 1990s investigation into allegations of anti-Asian admissions bias at the Ivy League:
  • Asian-American numbers at Harvard, Yale, and Columbia began large declines. 
  • Asian-American enrollments throughout the Ivy League strangely converged to very similar levels. 
  • The college-age population of Asian-Americans doubled during 1993-2011 as did their top academic awards, but none of this was reflected in their Ivy League enrollments. 
  • As one example, the percentage of college-age Asian-Americans at Harvard dropped by more than 50% during 1993-2011, a larger decline than that suffered by Jews following the 1925 establishment of ethnic quotas. 
  • Meanwhile, race-neutral Caltech saw its Asian-American enrollment increase closely in line with the growth of the college-age Asian-American population. 
  • Comparing the Ivy League enrollments of Asian-Americans with those of high-performing white subpopulations rules out general “diversity” factors as an explanation for these patterns.

See also Defining Merit. Guess which university produces the most Nobel prizes per student?

Some additional figures from the article (click for larger versions). Note that not only did the number of college age Asian-Americans increase in recent decades, so did (overwhelmingly) their performance at the high end of academic achievement. If admissions were race neutral (meritocratic) at Harvard, why did the percentage of Asians decrease?

The Caltech student population is demographically similar to the most intellectually talented portion of the US population (see below); the Ivy League student population is not -- there are curious distortions.

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