Proposition 209 banned using racial preferences in admissions at California’s public colleges. We analyze unique data for all applicants and enrollees within the University of California (UC) system before and after Prop 209. After Prop 209, graduation rates of minorities increased by 4.4%. We characterize conditions required for better matching of students to campuses to account for this increase. We find that Prop 209 did improve matching and this improvement was important for the graduation gains experienced by less-prepared students. At the same time, better matching only explains about 20% of the overall graduation rate increase. Changes after Prop 209 in the selectivity of enrolled students explains 34-50% of the increase. Finally, it appears UC campuses responded to Prop 209 by doing more to help retain and graduate its students, which explains between 30-46% of the post-Prop 209 improvement in the graduation rate of minorities.
One caveat: the study doesn’t address outcomes for students who didn’t attend University of California schools as a result of the change.
In a new article for Vox, Karla Hoff, a senior research economist at the World Bank, presents an argument for affirmative action. Hoff argues that stereotypes can be self-fulfilling, and affirmative action represents an important tool for changing stereotypes and correcting inequality in the long-term:
For economists to ignore the factors that affect how we process information as part of the interpretation of economic change would be as wrong as to ignore the evolution of technology itself. Ideology shapes what we see and how well we perform. Ideology can give rise to “equilibrium fictions.” In our framework, changes in power, technology, and contacts with the outside world matter not just directly but because they can lead to changes in ideology.
Hoff highlights a natural experiment in India that changed perceptions of female leadership over the course of ten years: Read More »