Yglesias is open to class-based affirmative action. But he finds the debate mostly a distraction:
If you were to start writing a list of the problems faced by poor people in the United States of America you’d run out of paper long before you got to elite university admissions policies. Poor kids start school already behind their higher-SES peers. They are then disproportionately concentrated in low-performing schools featuring ineffective teachers. And when they’re in school is the lucky time! Every summer, the schools shut down and poor kids fall further behind their middle class peers. If they depend on the school lunch program to feed them, well then they’re out of luck come summertime on the eating front as well as the schooling front. A very substantial proportion of kids from poor families drop of out of highschool and those who do manage to get into any kind of college at all have much odds of actually graduating.
Reihan agrees but goes in another direction by bringing up the mismatch hypothesis. A reader writes:
Your reader asked, "Are conservatives in favor of equalizing that to even out class-based advantages in primary education, where it can have the most impact?" Check out this new study on the effects of good kindergarten, written up by Leonhardt:
Students who had learned much more in kindergarten were more likely to go to college than students with otherwise similar backgrounds. Students who learned more were also less likely to become single parents. As adults, they were more likely to be saving for retirement.
Perhaps most striking, they were earning more. All else equal, they were making about an extra $100 a year at age 27 for every percentile they had moved up the test-score distribution over the course of kindergarten. A student who went from average to the 60th percentile a typical jump for a 5-year-old with a good teacher could expect to make about $1,000 more a year at age 27 than a student who remained at the average. Over time, the effect seems to grow, too.