How Affirmative Action Backfires at Universities

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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.