Monday, July 04, 2011

Are Race-Based Preferences in Mich. Coming Back?

RaceChance of UM Admit w/3.2 GPA, 1240 SATGPA @ UM, 2003-2004Academic Probation at UM 2003-2004 (%)Honors Program at UM, 2003-2005 (%)

With a 58% to 42% overall margin, Michigan voters in 2006 overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative called "Proposal 2" that ended the traditional practice of racial double standards in college admissions at selective public universities, and required that all state-funded universities start practicing race-neutral admissions (and race-neutral hiring and contracting).  By county, 80 out of 83 Michigan counties voted in favor of Proposal 2, which amended the state constitution with the following section:

"The University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University, and any other public college or university, community college, or school district shall not discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting."

One of the main motivations for Michigan's Proposal 2 was the ongoing, blatant racial double-standards in undergraduate admissions at the University of Michigan main campus, illustrated in the table above using data from the Center for Equal Opportunity.  With a high school GPA of 3.20 and an SAT score of 1240, blacks (92%) and Hispanics (88%) had roughly a 90% chance of being admitted in 2005, while Asians and whites with the same academic credentials had only about a one in ten chance (10 and 14 percent, respectively).

In addition to the obvious issue of racial favoritism for admission to Michigan, the other data in the table provide evidence of another issue: the possibility that racial favoritism results in an "academic mismatch" for minority students at highly selective universities like Michigan.  Black and Hispanic students at Michigan earn lower GPAs than whites or Asians, and are much more likely to be on academic probation, and much less likely to qualify for the Honors Program.  Without racial double-standards in admissions, black and Hispanic students might have studied at a less-selective school like Michigan State, Wayne State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan or Western Michigan, all very highly regarded public universities in Michigan.  But without racial preferences for admission at those less selective schools, it's very likely that minority students would have higher GPAs, be less likely to be on academic probation and more likely to qualify  for an Honors Program compared to Michigan.

Although not shown in the chart, the huge differences in graduation rates by race also provide strong evidence of academic mismatch at Michigan.  In 2006, 89% of white students at Michigan graduated within 6 years, compared to only 68% of black students, a huge 21% graduation rate race gap (source). 

But there's been a new development in the fight for racial equality and equal opportunity  under the law.  According to the Detroit Free Press, "Affirmative action is back on the menu in Michigan, but for how long is anyone's guess.  On Friday, a federal appeals court struck down Proposal 2, the 2006 Michigan constitutional amendment that banned affirmative action in college admissions, employment and contracting."  Michigan's attorney general will be appealing the ruling, and the ban on race-based preferences will stand for now.  It's possible this will end up being considered again by the Supreme Court, which previously ruled against the University of Michigan's undergraduate racial quota and point system that produced the outcomes in the table above.  

Hopefully, the vision of racial equality and equal opportunity expressed by President John F. Kennedy will prevail in the courts: "Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races and national origins contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes or results in racial discrimination."


At 7/04/2011 1:39 PM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

Interesting topic.

But what if we have a group that pays taxes, and then finds that--even though based on merits--it is excluded from publicly financed opportunities, such as entering pubic colleges, joining police departments, getting jobs as school teachers?

Can we tax groups that cannot participate in the benefits?

Can we tax gays, and then say they cannot serve in the military, and get those fat pensions?

At 7/04/2011 2:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Benjie raises a good point and the solution is obvious: we should close all public colleges and schools and privatize all police depts. :) Then we won't have to worry at all about how a pooled resource like tax money affects one group versus another.

At 7/04/2011 2:42 PM, Blogger Rufus II said...

What IS the Actual "breakdown" of the student body at The Univ. of Michigan? What percentage is Asian, White, Hispanic, and Black?

At 7/04/2011 3:11 PM, Blogger Stan said...

Thomas Sowell has made the argument for years that the black students who are admitted by affirmative action at schools such as Michigan would be much better off going to schools where they were better matches academically. Of course, the purpose of affirmative action in admissions isn't to help the minority kids. It is so that the people running the schools can feel good about themselves. The kids may get screwed, but the faculty and administrators feel good. And that's what's really important.

At 7/04/2011 3:23 PM, Blogger Joe said...

I just had an idea for a movie script for a screwball comedy where some marginally competent high school students look at statistics like this and decide to pretend to be African Americans to get admitted to college. In fact, it seems so obvious, that I can't imagine I'm the first to think of it.

At 7/04/2011 3:24 PM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...


Close all public colleges? But our own Dr. Perry teaches at a public university (though now on paid sabbatical), where he is accumulating a handsome pension.

But aside from that, Dr Perry is a fierce proponent of free markets. Free enterprise!

At 7/04/2011 3:29 PM, Blogger Che is dead said...

"But what if we have a group that pays taxes, and then finds that--even though based on merits--it is excluded from publicly financed opportunities ..."

If we seriously addressed this injustice it would destroy the Democrat party. After all, the effect of public unions - the largest contributors to the Democrats - is to exclude non-union taxpayers from public contracts.

"Can we tax gays, and then say they cannot serve in the military, and get those fat pensions?"

Someone has got to fund the massive farm subsidies that are paid mostly to those knock-kneed, molly-coddled, cousin -marryin' urban dwellers.

At 7/04/2011 3:38 PM, Blogger George said...


UM (when I was on the faculty there) was in the TIAA-CREF pension plan, meaning the equivalent of 15% or so of salary (1/3 from faculty, 2/3 from school) went off to the pension plan, where it was immediately vested. This was a guaranteed payment plan, at 15% of salary, meaning for people at the normal retirement age in academia heaven bless the pension plan: You retire, and your salary goes up. What you were making in your final few years has only the most marginal effect on how much you earn.

I do not know their current rules.

On the same line, I recall as a junior faculty member making the point that bringing in people where they were highly likely to fail -- the outcomes in Freshman Chemistry were abysmal -- was teaching people that they were failures which did not do these people a favor. My point was ill received.

At 7/04/2011 4:00 PM, Blogger juandos said...

"Are Race-Based Preferences in Mich. Coming Back?"

Gee! Could that be driving this?

Women help fuel demand for concealed gun permits

After all we've been hearing how females outnumber males on campus and have been for a little while...

At 7/04/2011 4:06 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...


I'm not on a paid sabbatical, I'm on an unpaid leave, and I am not eligible for a state pension. Like George said, faculty and staff can optionally contribute up to 5% of our salary to a defined contribution plan with either TIAA-CREF or Fidelity, and UM contributes double, up to 10% max.

At 7/04/2011 4:50 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Unintended consequences.

Why would a private business hire a black individual from UofM if it can hire an Asian or White? After all, the university just admitted that it believes that blacks to be inferior to white or Asian students so why take the chance that your employee is one given the opportunity that was not deserved?

At 7/04/2011 7:21 PM, Blogger PeakTrader said...

I wonder why Asians and Whites do so much better than Hispanics and Blacks?

Is is genetic, cultural, or economic?

If it's a combination of those three factors, what are the percentages?

At 7/04/2011 7:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suspect the left will never back off their affirmative action bent. If certain races are doing worse than others on average, the lefties can only understand two possible causes: genetic inferiority or racism, whether current or lingering effects from the past. They can never accept the former, so they will always fight for "remedies" for the latter. Personally, it doesn't matter much to me what the reason is, as so much of what is taught in universities is outdated and useless. They will all be destroyed in the coming years and good riddance.

At 7/04/2011 7:52 PM, Blogger Michael E. Marotta said...

The roots of the problem include the fallacy of "race." "Race" has no physical basis, no biologic reality. It would be equally possible to predict success by ZIPcode, parental educational attainment, or parental income. But none of those statistics captures the individual. The goal is not to have 1.3% of all brain surgeons, civil engineers, and paralegals to be Pacific Islanders, but to have then all be competent at their professions.

I do not know how well this works in practice, but, in theory, to avoid the prejudices and discriminations that grow from a long history of castes, language groups, and religions, India's schools anonymize applications. All they know about you is how qualified you are to enter based on test scores, and similar metrics.

We should do the same, certainly for tax-funded schools.

As an alumnus of Eastern Michigan, I must challenge Dr. Perry's easy assumption that Big House Football and a world class medical center do much for undergraduates. U of M piles on a lot of work, true enough, but whether and to what extent the ability to plow through busy work does you much good is not clear. A good student can do good work anywhere.

At EMU - where it's "Education First" - the professors actually teach the undergraduates. Our grad students are GAs - clericals for profs - not TAs, So, for me, I benefited directly from world class professors such as Ronald Westrum and Gregg Barack.

I often recommend to young people that they seek out small liberal arts (or other) colleges.

At 7/04/2011 8:36 PM, Blogger AIG said...

That 1240 SAT score quoted here, is according to the new system out of 2400, right? Cause back in the day, 1240 out of 1600 could get you into lower Ivy Leagues.

At 7/04/2011 8:48 PM, Blogger Benjamin Cole said...

Dr. Perry:

Thanks for the correction. My father paid into TIAA-CREF for most of his career.

However, getting double your contribution from your employer, a state agency, is not exactly the rugged individualism usually associated with hardcore right-wingers.

From what I read quickly on the internet, UofM profs are entitled to paid sabbaticals after five or seven years. Perhaps that was in error.

Anyway, I enjoy your blog.

At 7/04/2011 9:18 PM, Blogger Mark J. Perry said...

UM-Ann Arbor gets only about 4.5% of its funding from the state of Michigan, and therefore operates essentially as a private university. In fact, it should probably just give up the small funding it gets from the state and operate 100% as a private university.

At 7/04/2011 10:24 PM, Blogger NormanB said...

The University of California system a while back, at the instance of Ward Connerly's referendum, did about what U of M did. Sure enough the enrollment of Hispanics and Blacks at Berkeley and UCLA dropped but it went up at the other UC schools and as far as I know the graduation rate overall went up, somewhat. Putting kids where they can succeed is best for everyone.

At 7/05/2011 5:57 AM, Blogger geoih said...

The court's decision in completely illogical. It essentially says that you have to discriminate in order to be fair. Such is the illogic of affirmative action (and the ignorance of those who demand it).

At 7/05/2011 6:08 AM, Blogger geoih said...

Quote from Michael E. Marotta: "At EMU - where it's "Education First" - the professors actually teach the undergraduates."

Every undergrad science and math course I took at EMU was taught by a Ph.D. The only times I ever saw a grad student TA was in the laboratory. You definitely won't see that at U of M.

Unless you're going for a degree in something where you don't need a masters degree (e.g., engineering), then stay away from the big schools for your undergrad. You're just wasting your money. And unless you have a scholarship, go to community college for the first two years.

At 7/05/2011 6:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Proposition 2 likely wouldn't have made any more difference than the similar proposition did in California. California's universities are blatant in their contempt for the law banning race-blind admissions. They use "life experience" and "essay evaluation" as the hook where they can't use objective criteria to give preferential admissions to blacks and hispanics.

At 7/05/2011 6:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we tax groups that cannot participate in the benefits?

Of course you can. Our tax system already does this to a large extent: anybody with high income pays taxes for benefits they will never see. Progressive tax systems just make this worse.

At 7/05/2011 6:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Race" has no physical basis, no biologic reality.

Way to put politics above reality. It is only when we talk about intelligence and educational accomplishment that suddenly race has no biological reality. It has plenty of biological reality when talking about it makes blacks look better i.e. athletic achievement.

At 7/06/2011 4:21 PM, Blogger VangelV said...

Every undergrad science and math course I took at EMU was taught by a Ph.D. The only times I ever saw a grad student TA was in the laboratory. You definitely won't see that at U of M.

The fact is that some professors are terrible teachers and for certain basic courses like calculus or organic chemistry it makes no difference if you have a PhD or a graduate student as the lecturer. What matters is their ability to teach.

At 7/07/2011 5:51 AM, Blogger Ian Random said...

Marotta is close. I hear that rather than zip, hours of television watched and parental make-up correlates with lack of achievement even across household income. So much so a maid noticed her upper class clients did that and implemented at home with success.

Imagine how cruel it is to mismatch someone with a college. All that debt and to not even finish. Just for some feel good social goals. The media kind of points this out with private for profit institutions, but not for their beloved public ones.


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