Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Prohibitions on affirmative action policies that explicitly consider race don't increase the number of low-income students
Several public K-12 and university systems have recently shifted from race-based affirmative action plans to race-neutral alternatives. This paper explores the degree to which race-neutral alternatives are effective substitutes for racial quotas using data from the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), where a race-neutral, place-based affirmative action system is used for admissions at highly competitive exam high schools.
Even though CPS's system is based on socioeconomic disadvantage, it is actually less effective than racial quotas at increasing the number of low-income students. What alternative race-neutral policy is feasible varies with the school's surrounding neighborhood characteristics and the targeted level of minority representation. However, no race-neutral policy restores minority representation to prior levels without substantial inefficiency, implying significant efficiency costs from prohibitions on affirmative action policies that explicitly consider race.