Affirmative Action for Rich People

The Century Foundation was kind enough to send me a copy of their new anthology, Affirmative Action For The Rich, which looks at legacy admissions at America's universities. The book was edited by Richard Kahlenberg whose long argued for class, instead of race, based Affirmative Action.


I'm buried in reading, but I've been able to flip through it here and there. I know that's not the most thorough method of review, but I've been intrigued enough to put the book, the "things I wish I really had time for" category. 

From Daniel Golden's essay, "An Analytic Survey of Legacy Preferences"

As overall admission rates have declined, the power of legacy preferences at some elite institutions has increased substantially. For instance, Princeton admitted 41.7 percent of legacy applicants in 2009--more than 4.5 times the 9.2 percent rate of non-legacies. That is a far greater disparity than in 1992, when legacy applicants were accepted at 2.8 times the rate of other candidates.

Elsewhere among the Ivies, Brown University admitted 33.5 percent of alumni children in 2006, compared to a 13.8 percent overall rate. The year before, Brown accepted 36 percent of legacies, compared to 15.1 percent of all applicants. The University of Pennsylvania admitted 33.9 percent of legacy applicants in 2008,about double its overall admission rate of 16.4.

Some perspective on those numbers: Golden quotes from a 2004 study of elite universities which say that on 1600-point SAT scale being black was worth 230 points, whereas being a legacy was worth about 160.

There's also some interesting history in John Brittain and Eric L. Bloom's article "Admitting the Truth" which traces the history of legacy admissions at Harvard, Yale and Princeton to an effort to keep out "the wrong types" (read: Jews.) 

All in all, there's a lot of good stuff in there. I'm looking forward to devouring it on my next long train ride. You can read Kahlenberg's debunking of legacy myths here.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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