Physicist, Startup Founder, Blogger, Dad

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Glenn Loury and Laurence Kotlikoff on the Harvard Trial (video)

Glenn Loury is Merton P. Stoltz Professor of the Social Sciences, Department of Economics, Brown University. Laurence J. Kotlikoff is a William Fairfield Warren Distinguished Professor and Professor of Economics at Boston University.

Video should start at @49:06 Glenn: Affirmative Action undermines black students’ dignity.

Kotlikoff: I think it's pretty obvious that at least based on the facts so far that Harvard probably did downgrade the personalities of the Asians in order to achieve ...

Glenn: [Interrupting] Well that's the ball game -- they discriminated. Civil Rights Act of 1960.
Yesterday David Card (Harvard's statistical expert in the Asian American discrimination trial) began his testimony. At least as reported in the Chronicle, he has yet to dispute Arcidiacono's (plaintiff expert) finding that among "unhooked" applicants (95% of applicants: not in the subset of legacies, recruited athletes, and major donor kids), Asian Americans are discriminated against relative to all others, including whites. I discuss this in detail here and here.

Card has questioned the legal relevance of Arcidiacono's finding (he does not want to consider unhooked applicants separately), but that is for the judge and lawyers to wrangle over (see excerpt below). As a statistical fact I have yet to see any claim from Harvard or Card that the result is incorrect.

Perhaps today's cross examination of Card will focus on this important question, which the media is largely ignoring.

From the SFFA brief:
"The task here is to determine whether “similarly situated” applicants have been treated differently on the basis of race; “apples should be compared to apples.” SBT Holdings, LLC v. Town of Westminster, 547 F.3d 28, 34 (1st Cir. 2008). Because certain applicants are in a special category, it is important to analyze the effect of race without them included. Excluding them allows for the effect of race to be tested on the bulk of the applicant pool (more than 95% of applicants and more than two-thirds of admitted students) that do not fall into one of these categories, i.e., the similarly situated applicants. For special-category applicants, race either does not play a meaningful role in their chances of admission or the discrimination is offset by the “significant advantage” they receive. Either way, they are not apples.

Professor Card’s inclusion of these applicants reflects his position that “there is no penalty against Asian-American applicants unless Harvard imposes a penalty on every Asian-American applicant.” But he is not a lawyer and he is wrong. It is illegal to discriminate against any Asian-American applicant or subset of applicants on the basis of race. Professor Card cannot escape that reality by trying to dilute the dataset. The claim here is not that Harvard, for example, “penalizes recruited athletes who are Asian-American because of their race.” The claim “is that the effects of Harvard’s use of race occur outside these special categories.” Professor Arcidiacono thus correctly excluded special-category applicants to isolate and highlight Harvard’s discrimination against Asian Americans. Professor Card, by contrast, includes “special recruiting categories in his models” to “obscure the extent to which race is affecting admissions decisions for those not fortunate enough to belong to one of these groups.” At bottom, SFFA’s claim is that Harvard penalizes Asian-American applicants who are not legacies or recruited athletes. Professor Card has shown that he is unwilling and unable to contest that claim.

[ Card and Arcidiacono have exchanged criticisms of the other's analysis already, so Card's lack of response on this specific point is worthy of attention. ]

UPDATE: The reporting below confirms what I wrote above. Card and Harvard maintain that looking specifically at unhooked applicants is irrelevant to the case, and do not dispute the statistical facts uncovered by SFFA regarding that group (95% of all applicants!). SFFA maintain (see case law cited above) that anti-Asian American discrimination in this category is itself a violation of law. Will any journalists report this part of the case, prominently discussed in the SFFA brief?
Chronicle: Card’s main objection to Arcidiacono’s model is that it omits recruited athletes, the children of alumni, the children of Harvard faculty and staff members, and students on a special list that includes children of donors. Excluding all those applicants, who are accepted at a relatively high rate, Card suggested, had skewed his counterpart’s results.


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