Can Socioeconomic Status Substitute for Race in Affirmative Action College Admissions Policies? Evidence from a Simulation Model

Year of Publication: 
2016

This paper simulates a system of socioeconomic status (SES)−based affirmative action in college admissions and examines the extent to which it can produce racial diversity in selective colleges. Using simulation models, we investigate the potential relative effects of race- and/or SES-based affirmative action policies on the racial and socioeconomic distribution of students in colleges. These simulations suggest four important patterns: (a) even relatively aggressive SES-based affirmative action policies do not mimic the effects of race-based policies on racial diversity; likewise race-based affirmative action policies do not mimic the effects of SES-based policies on SES diversity; (b) SES-based affirmative action in combination with targeted recruitment shows the potential to be comparable to race-based affirmative action on its own; (c) there is little evidence that, for minority students, race-based policies lead to differences in the average achievement of their college peers that are notably greater than the differences we observe under SES-based affirmative action or scenarios with no affirmative action of any type; and (d) the use of affirmative action policies by some colleges reduces the diversity of similar-quality colleges that do not have such policies.

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APA Citation

Reardon, S.F., Baker, R., Kasman, M., Klasik, D., & Townsend, J.B. (2016). Can Socioeconomic Status Substitute for Race in Affirmative Action College Admissions Policies? Evidence from a Simulation Model.