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Tuesday, February 28,2012

How Affirmative Action Backfires at Universities

The Supreme Court announced last week that it would hear a challenge to the University of Texas’ use of racial preferences in undergraduate admissions. Since the court last reviewed college affirmative action in 2003, a body of empirical research has emerged showing that racial preferences can hurt their purported beneficiaries by catapulting them into schools for which they are inadequately prepared.

Placed in classrooms pitched above their current level of knowledge, they learn less than they would if they were among peers whose academic skills more closely mirror their own. This “mismatch” effect is particularly relevant to the University of Texas case, Fisher v. University of Texas, because the university claims that it needs to admit students according to race in order to achieve “classroom diversity.” Mismatch theory predicts — correctly — that using racial preferences will have the opposite effect.

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