It has been documented for some time that Asian applicants to the Ivies face a stiff test-score penalty in the admissions process—Asians have to get higher SAT scores than members of other races to have an equal chance of admission. But it’s one thing to have a higher bar for Asians. It’s still worse to have an Asian quota.
Ron Unz took the evidence of discrimination against Asians to a new level in a long article in the current issue of American Conservative, “The Myth of American Meritocracy.” As Steve Sailer has noted, Unz’s findings have received astonishingly little coverage. “Astonishingly,” because Unz has documented what looks very much like a tacitly common policy on the part of the Ivies to cap Asian admissions at about 16% of undergraduates, give or take a few percentage points, no matter what the quality of Asian applicants might be.That’s a strong statement, but consider the data that Unz has assembled.
From 1980 through the early 1990s, Asian enrollment increased at all the Ivy League colleges. It subsequently continued to rise at the schools with the lowest Asian enrollment, Dartmouth and Princeton. Elsewhere, Asian enrollment hit its peak in 1993 for Columbia and Harvard, 1995 for Cornell, 1996 for Brown and Yale, and 2001 for Penn. What’s more, Asian representation at all eight of the Ivies has converged on a narrow range. In the most recent five years, the average percentage of Asians in the eight Ivies has been 15.7%, and the difference between the highest and lowest percentage of Asians in the eight Ivies has averaged just 3.7 percentage points. Call it the 16±2% solution. The convergence of the Ivies is vividly shown in this figure, using Unz’s data.
Doesn’t it just seem like we are going out of our way to do everything backwards? I mean, wouldn’t it be better for America to encourage success, to admit them according to their achievements, to maintain a level playing field?
We can be sure that the reason for the convergence on the 16±2% solution does not reflect a plateau in Asian applications. As Unz notes, America’s Asian population has more than doubled since 1993. In The Power of Privilege, Joseph Soares documented that Asians are about twice as likely to apply to elite schools as students from other races. It is certain that the Ivies have seen skyrocketing Asian applications over the last twenty years. Not only that, they have been swamped with more and more superbly qualified Asian applicants. A sampling of the data Unz presents:
National Merit Scholarship (NMS) semifinalists represent about the top half of one percent of a given state’s scores on the PSAT, the short version of the SAT. In 2010 in Texas, Asians were 3.8% of the population but more than a quarter of all NMS semifinalists; in New York, Asians were 7.3% of the population and more than a third of NMS semifinalists; in California, Asians were 11% of the high school students and more than 60% of NMS semifinalists. Nationwide, Unz estimates that 25–30% of NMS semifinalists in 2010 were Asians, far higher than their enrollment in the Ivies.
In the US Math Olympiad, Asians have grown from 10% of the winners during the 1980s to 58% in the 2000s. In the computing Olympiad, Asians have grown from 20% of the winners in the 1990?s to 50% in 2009–2010 and 75% in 2011–2012. Among the Science Talent Search finalists, Asians were 22% of the total in the 1980?s, 29% in the 1990?s, 36% in the 2000?s, and 64% in the last two years.
There’s much more in Unz’s article (and the eight online appendixes that go with it), but consider just these two final comparisons. Caltech is acknowledged to have the most strictly meritocratic admissions criteria in the country. During the same period from the mid 1990?s when the Ivies converged on the 16±2% solution, Asians at Caltech rose from 28% to 39% of the student body. If Caltech is too narrowly science-oriented for you, consider the comparison between Stanford, which uses the same “holistic” admissions procedures as the Ivies (“holistic” means considering the whole applicant, not merely academic achievement) and Berkeley, the most elite of California’s public universities, which is required by law to have a transparent set of criteria for admission. Stanford’s Asian enrollment averaged 23% from 1995–2011. Berkeley’s Asian enrollment averaged 41% during the same period—almost double Stanford’s.
This is racism, pure and simple. I wonder if there is a way to fight it? I suppose that fighting it would mean some level of decency in the court system, and I’m not sure that that exists anymore.