Monday, February 08, 2010

Asian-American admissions in the Boston Globe

This Op-Ed appeared in the Boston Globe today. The author, a Yale grad and Babson College professor, wrote an earlier piece entitled My Lazy American Students, so she is no stranger to controversy :-)

Thanks to interlibrary loan I now have a copy of Thomas Espenshade's new book on elite admissions, but so far haven't found much that wasn't already leaked to the press. Related posts on Asian-American college admissions here.

Do colleges redline Asian-Americans?

By Kara Miller | February 8, 2010

SAT SCORES aren’t everything. But they can tell some fascinating stories.

Take 1,623, for instance. That’s the average score of Asian-Americans, a group that Daniel Golden - editor at large of Bloomberg News and author of “The Price of Admission’’ - has labeled “The New Jews.’’ After all, much like Jews a century ago, Asian-Americans tend to earn good grades and high scores. And now they too face serious discrimination in the college admissions process.

Notably, 1,623 - out of a possible 2,400 - not only separates Asians from other minorities (Hispanics and blacks average 1,364 and 1,276 on the SAT, respectively). The score also puts them ahead of Caucasians, who average 1,581. And the consequences of this are stark.

Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade, who reviewed data from 10 elite colleges, writes in “No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal’’ that Asian applicants typically need an extra 140 points to compete with white students. In fact, according to Princeton lecturer Russell Nieli, there may be an “Asian ceiling’’ at Princeton, a number above which the admissions office refuses to venture.

Emily Aronson, a Princeton spokeswoman, insists “the university does not admit students in categories. In the admission process, no particular factor is assigned a fixed weight and there is no formula for weighing the various aspects of the application.’’

A few years ago, however, when I worked as a reader for Yale’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, it became immediately clear to me that Asians - who constitute 5 percent of the US population - faced an uphill slog. They tended to get excellent scores, take advantage of AP offerings, and shine in extracurricular activities. Frequently, they also had hard-knock stories: families that had immigrated to America under difficult circumstances, parents working as kitchen assistants and store clerks, and households in which no English was spoken.

But would Yale be willing to make 50 percent of its freshman class Asian? Probably not.

Indeed, as Princeton’s Nieli suggests, most elite universities appear determined to keep their Asian-American totals in a narrow range. Yale’s class of 2013 is 15.5 percent Asian-American, compared with 16.1 percent at Dartmouth, 19.1 percent at Harvard, and 17.6 percent at Princeton.

“There are a lot of poor Asians, immigrant kids,’’ says University of Oregon physics professor Stephen Hsu, who has written about the admissions process. “But generally that story doesn’t do as much as it would for a non-Asian student. Statistically, it’s true that Asians generally have to get higher scores than others to get in.’’

In a country built on individual liberty and promise, that feels deeply unfair. If a teenager spends much time studying, excels at an instrument or sport, and garners wonderful teacher recommendations, should he be punished for being part of a high-achieving group? Are his accomplishments diminished by the fact that people he has never met - but who look somewhat like him - also work hard?

“When you look at the private Ivy Leagues, some of them are looking at Asian-American applicants with a different eye than they are white applicants,’’ says Oiyan Poon, the 2007 president of the University of California Students Association. “I do strongly believe in diversity, but I don’t agree with increasing white numbers over historically oppressed populations like Asian-Americans, a group that has been denied civil rights and property rights.’’ But Poon, now a research associate at the University of Massachusetts Boston, warns that there are downsides to having huge numbers of Asian-Americans on a campus.

In California, where passage of a 1996 referendum banned government institutions from discriminating on the basis of race, Asians make up about 40 percent of public university students, though they account for only 13 percent of residents. “Some Asian-American students feel that they lost something by going to school at a place where almost half of their classmates look like themselves - a campus like UCLA. The students said they didn’t feel as well prepared in intercultural skills for the real world.’’

But what do you do if you’re an elite college facing tremendous numbers of qualified Asian applicants? At the 2006 meeting of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, a panel entitled “Too Asian?’’ looked at the growing tendency of teachers, college counselors, and admissions officers to see Asians as a unit, rather than as individuals.

Hsu argues it’s time to tackle this issue, rather than defer it, as Asians’ superior performance will likely persist. “This doesn’t seem to be changing. You can see the same thing with Jews. They’ve outperformed other ethnic groups for the past 100 years.’’

Which leaves us with two vexing questions: Are we willing to trade personal empowerment for a more palatable group dynamic? And when - if ever - should we give credit where credit is due?


Unknown said...

The stock response to these numbers is always to claim that they look at many factors, some intangible, that inform their decisions. So obviously the question to ask these PC admissions committees is OK, well that must imply that Asians are unusually deficient in these other factors.

Logically this must be true, but PC ideology would prevent them from acknowledging any group differences. The exploding heads that result would be most satisfying.

Unknown said...

Looking at "many factors some intangible" is the problem with admissions in the US.

No other country does it this way.

I wipe my ass with the American flag

Death to America!

gs said...

1. C'mon, Steve, help the economy and buy the book! ;-)

2. No admission system is impeccable because tradeoffs are inevitable. Iirc I've previously commented in favor of objective admissions criteria--objective, not necessarily exclusively academic--with some randomness thrown into the rankings.

If that means that 75% of Ivy students will be Asian or Jewish--although I suspect it wouldn't turn out that way--, so be it. It doesn't matter if cats are the same color as long as they all catch mice.

3. At the 2006 meeting of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, a panel entitled “Too Asian?’’ looked at the growing tendency of teachers, college counselors, and admissions officers to see Asians as a unit, rather than as individuals.

So, almost 50 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, our education system is within hailing distance of "they all look alike". J*s*s Chr*st, this country is effed up.

4. Are we willing to trade personal empowerment for a more palatable group dynamic? And when - if ever - should we give credit where credit is due?

I'm not sure what that's supposed to mean, but I don't like the sound of it.

Unknown said...

I don't get the article's examples. At the Ivy League universities, Asians are overrepresented by a factor of about 3.5 relative to population, which purportedly shows that they are discriminated against. Yet at the UCs, which aren't discriminating, they're overrepresented by... a factor of 3?

Steve Hsu said...

The Ivy threshold is higher than UC's so the overrepresentation should be higher. Think of two normal distributions with displaced means and similar standard deviation (which is more or less the actual situation). Or, look at the simulations Espenshade did assuming race blind admissions (bottom slide; +15 percent Asian population at elite schools like the Ivy's):

Steve Hsu said...

> 1. C'mon, Steve, help the economy and buy the book! ;-)

Yes, I'm a cheapskate!

AlchemX said...

On Admissions:

Well I've met some people from admissions at the UC (the people who score the applications).

There doesn't appear to be any racial discrimination actually. I was surprised by the assumptions made about "racism" by others even though the topic doesn't come up.

However, because the UC feels it should champion social mobility, diversity and so on, they tend to favor stories of struggle. Also, many students tend to write essays that are fairly lame, even though they have a high exam scores. The essays that are blunt (example "I want money") get thrown out pretty fast.

Another thing is just plain fatigue from hearing the same old thing over and over again. Lots of people wanna be doctors, if everyone that wanted to be a doctor was let in, we'd have to turn UC into UCPM (Pre-Med).

On Lots of Asian Students (personal experience):

Regardless though, lots of Asian students still make it to the UC. And the results have been funny at times. The University is highly stressful for them, they tend to practically worship the process in a religious way. They study non-stop, endure living conditions that are deplorable (live in tiny rooms with like seven people) and sometimes drop out over some B's in class.

Some go to grad school (it's actually not a lot from my experience, weird). I lived with an asian medical resident, but the arrangement just got unbearable. Non-stop working to the point I wasn't allowed to even talk much in the apartment. Absolute focus was needed during a residency and every last joule of electricity must be saved! His co-workers couldn't stand him. I think these students leave a lasting impression on future selection committees...

The pressure to succeed is incredibly high for them, both foreign and american asian students.

Should colleges admit as many asians as possible? I'd say let them, I don't wanna another chapter in my U.S. history book with more racist problems. America has enough of them already. However, I'd say before that gets done, at least allow school vouchers and free choice for those attending public school. I hate to think of the smart black students that get stuck at Crap High School because they lived in the wrong zip code.

AlchemX said...

Let me add a little bit more. My new roommate is asian also, but it's a lot better this time. The experience at the UC has been a mixed bag for me. Though he is a super student also, I can watch T.V. I'm not a super student myself. Never saw why I should take it so seriously.

n/a said...

What are admission standards like for American students at Chinese universities? And what would they be like if China had universities that millions of Americans wanted to go to?

By all means, keep pushing. And enjoy the backlash.

Steve Hsu said...

n/a: this issue has very little to do with foreign students at US universities. It has mostly to do with Asian-American kids raised here.

n/a said...

So what is China's immigration policy?

Do you suppose that, should your ethnic triumphalist visions go through the formality of actually taking place in the coming century, China will open its borders to white Americans and offer them citizenship, minority business loans, and slots in government-funded universities? We know that won't happen, but if it did: how do you think the Chinese would react if white immigrants or their children began complaining that they weren't overrepresented enough at Chinese universities?

Steve Hsu said...

> Do you suppose that, should your ethnic triumphalist visions go through the formality of actually taking place in the coming century,

Actually I don't think China's rise is guaranteed by any means -- they still have a lot of obstacles to overcome.

Re: university admissions, you seem to advocate for race based admissions (in your case, I guess, favoring white students). I'm advocating for race blind admissions, and would do so regardless of the location of the university.

George Shen said...

Coincidentally, I was at a seminar over the weekend at a Chinese Language School. The topic is how to raise your kids (from K3 to K8) to prepare for ivy league school admission, which I guess will make lots of American parents laugh. The main point of the presenter, who is a Chinese-American, is that well planning and execution from a kid's early age pays off. You can enhance your kids’ change by planning what their goals are for each grade from middle school to high school. And he uses his own kids' success as example (such as at what grade level, one needs to do such such and achieve this and that). Amazing that the parent and kids teamed up for a 10 year plan what was well planned and well executed.
I would say this - whoever has the kind of discipline deserves success. I know I don't have. :-)
I also bought the book "no longer separate but not yet equal" recommended by the presenter one day before I read this blog.
Thank god that I am not in the cutting throat competition any more. But I wonder how my kids are going to compete with other hardworking Asian kids in this country who are in the same over-achiever category. It is not fair and I feel their pain.

Admission should be colorblind. But I am old enough to know there is no true meritocracy society in this world.

n/a said...

I'm not advocating any particular admissions policy in this thread. I'm pointing out a more fundamental ongoing violation of fairness and reciprocity.

I'll take you at your word concerning what you advocate (though my impression has been that your interest lies purely in increasing acceptance rates for Asians), but your co-ethnic quoted in the article certainly seems to favor racial preferences as long as they're at the expense of whites: "I do strongly believe in diversity, but I don’t agree with increasing white numbers over historically oppressed populations like Asian-Americans".

Yan Shen said...

Affirmative action is a terrible policy. I don't think anyone should have to "bear the burden" for anything. If it were up to me, AA wouldn't exist in any form. But if affirmative action must be implemented, it's really hard for me to see why the burden of AA should mostly be shifted onto Asian Americans. Isn't the entire point of affirmative action to help out minority groups which have historically been discriminated against by the majority white population? Asian Americans are also been a group which has suffered vast amounts of historical discrimination in American society. Can anyone explain to me the logic of shifting the burden of AA policies mainly upon Asian Americans? It seems that if we somehow accept AA as a necessary evil and as a way to rectify a historical wrong, then in the zero-sum game of college admissions, we should also accept that whites as opposed to Asians should actually shoulder a disproportionate share of the burden.

To N/A, I think you miss the point entirely. You want to argue for fairness. What's fair about upending a system of meritocracy in favor of racial quotas? You make it seem as if Asian Americans are unfairly clamoring for American universities to admit them at higher rates at the expense of other groups. We are indeed demanding such a thing. But the simple fact of the matter is, we deserve to be admitted to elite universities at higher rates, simply by virtue of our academic merit alone. It's really as simple as that.

Let the most talented people reap the fruits of their labor, REGARDLESS of race.

Yan Shen said...

N/A, I'm also extremely disappointed by your comparison of how Asian Americans are impacted by AA to the hypothetical scenario of white immigrants wanting to attend Chinese universities. Clearly, the issue here has to do with Asian Americans, rather than with foreign students coming from Asia to study. These are two entirely different issues.
I think it's a legitimate concern whether or not American universities may be favoring foreigners at the expense of its own students, whether they be white American, Asian American, African American, or Hispanic American. And this is certainly a separate issue worth addressing. However, the issue we're talking about here is that of Asian Americans, who are no more or no less American than someone who is white, black, or Hispanic.

The fact that you seem to have failed to distinguish between the two different issues and the fact that you seem to have lumped Asian Americans into the same category as foreign Asian students suggests to me that at a subconscious level you view Asian Americans as fundamentally foreign and outside of the fabric of mainstream white American society. While you're perfectly entitled to such a parochial point of view, it does disappoint me that even today in 21st century America, people are still beset by such tribalistic mindsets. How is American society supposed to move past its dark history of racial turmoil, when even today our philosophical orientation is one which promotes narrow minded tribalism and far too often pits one racial group against another as the result of misguided public policy.

AlchemX said...

I'm not really worried about lots of Asian students attending college. But I am worried about Steve's incredible emphasis on college and exam scores. There are many people, even some of my friends who are highly successful with little or no college. Even some inventors have managed to comprehend lots of important engineering and scientific insight. With such a narrow view of success, especially to the point of trying to determine future success, I fear people who don't see college as necessary (which it mostly is not) will be kept down. In Steve's world, Harry Truman would have never went anywhere in life. American higher ed is a highly government subsidized institution now, which is the major reason why it has begun to create a two tiered entry into adulthood.

I'm sorry to anyone who views college as absolutely necessary, but I see college as mostly fluff after completing it. It just gets you in the club now and leaves most students saddled with major debt. I majored in chemistry FYI, and I would have been much better off with two years of courses instead of four.

anon said...

"though my impression has been that your interest lies purely in increasing acceptance rates for Asians"
"your co-ethnic quoted in the article certainly seems to favor racial preferences"

Because all 'co-ethnics' must at least implicitly hold the same opinions. And Steve's concern must be all about advancing his ethnic group's interests, and can't possibly be interpreted any other way.

You HBD fellows really do your own cause a great disservice.

anon said...

Steve, you should have faith that the market will correct itself eventually. If being a true meritocracy is really a good business strategy for colleges, if there are so many great candidates being undervalued out there, then someone is leaving money on the table.

That colleges are not rushing to do so should suggest that they have made their assessment and decided otherwise.

Maybe you know better, and they'll eventually wake up. As for the lost generation of kids who must suffer unfairly in the interim, it's a pity, but I'm not convinced that bright, talented, hardworking people of whatever race will not be able to make their own opportunities.

George Shen said...

I don't understand why some people would worry 50% of the student body would be Asian, such as the case of UCLA, if school admission relies only merits. The fact that UC sysem has a high % of Asian is exactly because the stupid policies that all ivy league schools are adopting. Since many qualified Asians can't get into schools like Hardvard or MIT. Naturally they will apply schools like UCLA and get accepted because UC system doesn't admit students based on racial info. If every school were adopting colorblind admission policies, there wouldn't have been a high concentration of Asians in a few schools such as UCLA.
Given only 5% in the population, I don't see how Asians could make 50% in every school. This kind of claim won't be supported by statistics. Now even if Harvard has more than 50% of Asians, as long as the school admits the best and brightest based on merits and achievements, what is wrong about that? Why does every school have to have the exactly population mix as a society? Do students not live in a society outside of campus life? If that is the rule, then we should enforce it down to every neighborhood where the "right mix" is based on census data. Well, you know that idea isn't going to fly. So why should campus?

Steve Hsu said...

> Steve, you should have faith that the market will correct itself eventually. If being a true meritocracy is really a good business strategy for colleges, if there are so many great candidates being undervalued out there, then someone is leaving money on the table. <

Keep in mind I'm not a big buyer of the efficient market hypothesis (see, housing bubbles, CDO pricing, etc.): mispricings can persist for a long time. It's not easy to judge which policies are best for, e.g., Harvard's long run interests.

However, you make a good point and it's something I emphasized in my earlier post defining merit, about Harvard admissions. They were wise not to follow the scientists' wish of moving to a pure intellectual meritocracy. At the institutional level it would be suicide -- U Chicago tried it and plummeted in relative prestige and endowment value.

Similarly, if HYP became 50 percent Asian their prestige would take a big hit -- America isn't ready for it yet. Some schools are trying to climb the selectivity and academic quality ladder by admitting more Asians -- Duke, for example, wants to break into the top ranks. So those guys see the market opportunity.

Because Asian-Americans are too passive to make a big deal out of this (unlike their predecessors the Jews), I suspect things will improve only gradually; I don't expect 30 percent Asian populations at HYP for another generation. Note this will happen not because it behooves a college to be a pure meritocracy (see defining merit post), but that other factors will shift in Asians' favor: more rich Asians, more legacies, less discomfort with Asian faces.

Yan Shen said...

Steve, isn't political ideology also a huge issue here? I don't believe that Asian Americans are being singled out merely because of race or success alone. Rather, I believe that it mainly has to do with the fact that we live in a society which happens to embrace a priori liberal notions of blank slate equality. Therefore any differences in performance between different groups must be the result of some terrible institutional inequity which requires drastic social remedying, by taking away from the more successful groups and giving to the less successful groups. In fact, I see this problem as possibly getting worse over time regardless of how loudly Asian Americans speak out, because of future demographic changes in American society.

I don't see how the insanity of AA can be resolved without first abandoning the insanity of far left politically correct egalitarianism.

Unknown said...

Steve, stop peddling the social pseudoscience. A large fraction of your blog posts here are about how today's social science is a mass of innumerate garbage --- a correct assessment. These Asian admissions studies never get the same critical treatment, they are just declared as "the truth" and "obvious". Those are direct quotations.

re: Espenshade's "140 SAT points" number, don't you find it the least bit unusual that using the same data he found only 50 SAT points as the Asian effect in his earlier study (the one promoted so many times in this blog)? If 140 is reflecting the new and improved "obvious truth", doesn't it raise any flag to a scientist when 90 of those points are a matter of how the modelling is performed?

Espenshade also found that lower-income Asians are being favored (that is, both regression-predicted and observed to be admitted at higher rates) over whites of all income levels.
Repeat that: Asians being favored over whites, all things being equal. If I remember correctly from the last time Steve posted the link to Espenshade's regression tables, at the lowest levels of income the Asians were even favored statistically over blacks and Hispanics. Repeat that one, too: in Espenshade's SAT point terms, changing some applicants from black or Hispanic to Asian would have improved (according to his model) their chances of admission, by awarding them free SAT points.

Another point that seems to have eluded commentators on this issue:
the Asian effect is, in part or in total, a product of meritocracy.
If you believe that Asians on average apply more effort and preparation, this means that Asian credentials are less correlated with talent at any given level of measured performance. Any selection process that aims at(underlying, latent, hard to directly observe) "ability" and "potential" will, on the whole, admit the hard workers at a lower rate than the lazy, at any given stratum of objective performance.
There is more than enough information in those Ivy League application files to (at least statistically) infer which candidates have been through the Ten Year Plan that GeorgeShen described above. A meritocratic selection would apply some discounting to such credentials compared to those of applicants on the Four- or the Six-Year Plan, and this leads to lower admission rates, all else being equal.

There are many, many other problems with Espenshade's results, but I believe the above is far and away the main race-specific effect (other effects are race-neutral but may impact Asians disproportionately). A lot of Asian parents think that their kids in the upper 15 percent of ability can be pushed into the upper 2-3 percent of measured achievement. They may often be right, but that does not mean university admissions committees will take the facial achievement level as proof of membership in the top 3 percent of the talent pool, and it's the latter that they are after (at least within the white-or-Asian population).

Steve Hsu said...

>Espenshade also found that lower-income Asians are being favored (that is, both regression-predicted and observed to be admitted at higher rates) over whites of all income levels.<

Not sure what you are referring to here. Can you be more specific?

I think the most salient claim here is that if one tries to control for overall "quality" of applicant: grades, test scores, family background, leadership and athletic credentials, that Asians are admitted at a lower rate than other groups. I've seen that claim made by Espenshade, but it was also a finding of Stanford's internal study done some time ago. It also agrees with the anecdotal evidence out there that is very familiar to Asian Americans.

Whether an admissions committee can go beyond the application data to ferret out the "true" quality of the applicant (perhaps discounting -- if that's the right thing to do -- for exceptional hard work or planning), I don't know. It certainly seems that they are applying an "Asian discount" to the raw data that is in the application files. Whether you want to call that racial discrimination or "wise, informed" discrimination is the question... It gets back to the question of defining merit, of course.

Yan Shen said...

Sine, is there any empirical proof that Asian American over-achievement is more so the result of hard work rather than say innate ability, compared to the achievements of other groups? Or should I just take it for granted that this is some self evident far left a prior truth. Without any real evidence, I fail to see how exploring this counter-factual has any real meaning.
But I'll play devils advocate for a moment here. Lets assume for the sake of argument that your position is right. That no group is any more or less smarter than any other group and that Asian over achievement is mostly the result of hard work. If this is the politically correct egalitarian position which you seem to be evincing, then I take it that you would describe under-achievement as the result of laziness or a lack of hard work. In that case, why would you favor a system which punishes those who work harder by favoring those who work less hard? It seems to me that regardless of whether or not a blank slate egalitarian viewpoint happens to be correct, your own position seems to be logically untenable.

I've yet to familiarize myself with the Espenshade study. But even if what you say is true, why is it acceptable that Asian Americans at income levels above the lowest strata should be held to a different standard than whites or blacks or hispanics of the same strata? I say let's treat everyone the same regardless of race.

George Shen said...
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George Shen said...

Sine, I want to say two things regarding your comment "If you believe that Asians on average apply more effort and preparation, this means that Asian credentials are less correlated with talent at any given level of measured performance."

1. Why shouldn't hard work be rewarded and why should hard work be viewed as inferior to "talent" or "innate ability"? In my view, this is one of the key attributes to success. And they are not mutually exclusive.

2. I want to point you to a book review for Chess Metaphors: Artificial Intelligence and the Human Mind by Gary Kasporov who said several very interesting things, one of which is following:

There is little doubt that different people are blessed with different amounts of cognitive gifts such as long-term memory and the visuospatial skills chess players are said to employ. One of the reasons chess is an "unparalleled laboratory" and a "unique nexus" is that it demands high performance from so many of the brain's functions. Where so many of these investigations fail on a practical level is by not recognizing the importance of the process of learning and playing chess. The ability to work hard for days on end without losing focus is a talent. The ability to keep absorbing new information after many hours of study is a talent. Programming yourself by analyzing your decision-making outcomes and processes can improve results much the way that a smarter chess algorithm will play better than another running on the same computer. We might not be able to change our hardware, but we can definitely upgrade our software.

Is it surprising to you that maybe the greatest chess GM emphasizes more on hard work rather than the conventional talent as most people know it, to which I totally agree. And I think it applies not just to chess but also to many other fields.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

>>Espenshade also found that
>>lower-income Asians are being favored
>>(that is, both regression-predicted and observed to be admitted at higher rates)
>>over whites of all income levels.

Steve asked:
>"Not sure what you are referring to here.
>Can you be more specific?"

I'm referring to Espenshade's slides, that were linked to and excerpted in this blog, and cited again in the fifth comment of this discussion thread:

Specifically, the regression table for Model 6, figure 3.4, page 4 of the slides.

"I think the most salient claim here is that if one tries to control for overall "quality" of applicant: grades, test scores, family background, leadership and athletic credentials, that Asians are admitted at a lower rate than other groups."

But that isn't what Espenshade found. The media reports of his work have been incompetent. If journalists are innumerate, that is what it is, but physicists don't have the same excuse. Espenshade's regression tables (or enough of them, anyway) have been published and anyone with some basic quantitative ability can read them.

Espenshade's model of his data indicated that whatever Asian effect exists is reversed at the economic strata below middle-class.
Five strata were considered: lower, working, middle, upper-middle, and upper class. For a lower- or working-class applicant, Espenshade's regression predicts that changing the applicant's race datum from White to Asian and holding all other variables equal -- SAT score, grades, high school type, etc -- improves the "odds"(i.e., the logistic odds-ratio predicted by the model) of acceptance by a factor of 91 for lower-class students, and by a factor of 3 for working-class students.

Repeat that, once again: Espenshade says that Asians are favored over whites by some factor between 3-to-1 and 90-to-1 in the economic range below the middle class.

In other words, Steve's comment to the Boston Globe, that colleges aren't buying the Asian poverty and immigration stories is hugely refuted by Espenshade's numbers. Espenshade is saying that colleges are giving a far higher value to the Asian poverty and immigration experience than any comparable disadvantage of poor, non-immigrant whites.

Steve Hsu said...


You are right -- in Espenshade's model 6 regressions Asians are advantaged over whites in the lower and working class categories, while disadvantaged in the middle, upper middle and upper categories. When all SES groups are aggregated, Asians are overall disadvantaged relative to whites. If his model is correct I would have to withdraw my Globe comment that admissions officers seem unmoved by the life histories of low-SES Asians. However, I would still guess that many of the Asian applicants in the other 3 SES categories are recent immigrants, so the immigrant story doesn't seem to work unless the family is also economically disadvantaged.

Espenshade acknowledges in the book that the SES-race interactions he finds are at odds with results of other researchers, such as Bowen et al., see pages 99-101. Note SES categories are obtained via self-report, so this is the weakest part of the whole data set.

There is an interesting footnote on p.99 which suggests that admissions officers intentionally save their financial aid resources to be used for non-white applicants. So it does sound like poor whites are disadvantaged in admission to elite universities.

Ian Smith said...

You got it!

The US is alone among the rich countries of the world in its ability to deny the reality of social class.

It alone among these countries can divert attention from class by talking about race.

keypusher said...

Isn't the entire point of affirmative action to help out minority groups which have historically been discriminated against by the majority white population?

No. It is to advance members of underachieving racial groups and to obtain racially mixed populations at elite schools and institutions.

The Asian of Reason said...

I find it despicable when leaders like Poon bring up the "historical oppression" of Asians. It's not like we are black. We don't need that excuse.

Very few Asian Americans are legacies, recruited athletes, or interesting enough. The difference cannot be explained away by these factors alone, but they do play an important role in understanding elite college admissions.

The majority of Asian Americans have little passion for what they do. They pursue career paths based on family urging, prestige, and other such factors. Individual choice is not valued. Admissions officers can see right through the facade of passion that many Asian Americans attempt to put up. It's hard to fake passion.

Yan Shen said...

Keep stereotyping Asians, Veritas, it just shows how ignorant you are. The bottom line is that Asian Americans throw a wrench into the typical liberal justification for granting affirmative action to certain under-represented groups. People who criticize Asian Americans are, in my opinion, mostly trying to avoid the realization that many of their justifications for upholding AA are in all likelihood flawed.

The Asian of Reason said...

I am Asian American, and no, I am not ignorant of the issues surrounding our communities.

A lot of my Asian friends and family members fit the stereotypes all too well, unfortunately. I see way too many of them trying for med school or prestigious Universities simply because their parents want them to. A lot of them have true passions, but they are coerced by their parents to enter fields they don't like, for the sake of letting mom and dad tell their friends that their child is a DR or has a degree from IVY LEAGUE.

If elite admissions were meritocratic, there would many more of us. But would that be a good thing? I mean, I meet enough grade grubbing neurotic Asian kids already. Do you like biology? No. Do you like business? No. Do you like chemistry. No. So why do you study? Must get As.

As with ALL issues, especially those involving HBD, there are exceptions. But I'm only referring to the averages.

I have acknowledged that there is residual discrimination against Asians after accounting for all the factors I have listed above. I only wish to point out that the "100 point difference" doesn't show the whole picture.

Yan Shen said...
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Yan Shen said...

While on average Asian Americans certainly face more pressure from their parents, I'm not entirely sure the problem is as extreme as you make it out to be. Most of my Asian American friends probably faced more pressure to work hard and do well compared to say a typical white American, but I rarely encountered anyone who was literally coerced by their parents to go into a certain field. But then again, as you say, we're talking about averages here, and certainly one's anecdotal impressions of the situation depend upon the life experiences one has had and the crowd of people one hangs around.

Most people of all races at elite schools tend to study hard to get good grades. (Well maybe not the athletes and the other dregs of the college hierarchy, but anyone who was legitimately accepted to an elite university on the basis of academic merit usually ends up fitting the bill.) For better or worse, grades are quite an important component of the bigger picture. So I have to admit that I'm not entirely sure what point you're trying to make. You make it seem as if wanting to get really grades is a bad thing. Quite frankly, I disagree. And honestly if the college admissions system became entirely meritocratic and there were more Asian Americans at elite universities, I'd be perfectly fine with the situation. It's certainly better than the status quo of letting in lesser qualified applicants on the basis of race, at the expense of more qualified applicants. I've yet to hear someone concretely explain why increasing racial diversity on college campuses at the expense of upholding meritocracy is unequivocally the best thing to do.

The Asian of Reason said...

I agree that the system we have now is unfair, especially to Asians.

East Asian college admissions (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China) are extremely meritocratic, with a national exam being the primary basis for admissions decisions. I think their system is flawed, because it puts a ton of pressure on students, but it is surely better than the one we have now. But East Asian countries are for the most part homogeneous, so they don't have to deal with the race issues that America faces. Everyone looks the same, so they are measured by the same standard, the national test.

Unfortunately for us, the SWPLs that control the college admissions scam have no interest in helping Asians. They love NAMs, and also love lacrosse playing legacy kids. Asians with good grades, not so much.

The Asian of Reason said...

I find that immersing myself in the course material and learning because I love what I'm learning leads me to earn great grades without stressing over it. Learning is fun, the knowledge acquired is fascinating, and that is what is important.

Too many students I've met (of all races) don't care much for learning or the course material. They care so much about grades they forget how wonderful it is to be learning advanced college material.

The Asians I know, on average, tend to be more "grades uber alles".

The parental pressure to pursue certain professional fields is real. It has its benefits (some SWPL parents don't pressure their kids at all, leaving them to make silly life choices), but it is often overdone.

One of my good friends refuses to see Asian doctors because she is convinced that they only went into the medical field because their parents wanted them to. She believes this leads them to be more incompetent/unhappy.

Grades are important, but if you make it the focus of life, life isn't fun or easy.

My two cents.

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