College Diversity: Poor Whites Need Not Apply
We hear a lot about ‘diversity’ these days—especially with regard to colleges. The Center for American Progress, so influential in the Obama presidency that Time wrote after the 2008 election that “President-elect Obama has effectively contracted out the management of his own government’s formation” to its founder, has a post titled “10 Reasons We Need Diversity On College Campuses”, and the influential US News and World Report ranks colleges on diversity, implying, as always, that more is better. The Harvard Gazette trumpets the “gains from diversity”, Yale holds annual conferences on diversity, and just about every college has at least one diversity office—and sometimes more.
But what sort of diversity is this? What do they mean by it?
Thomas Espenshade, a Princeton sociologist, and Alexandria Radford decided to investigate this: they gathered data from the National Study of College Experience, a survey of over 245,000 applicants to eight highly competitive colleges. Their findings began by confirming what was already known:
To have the same chances of gaining admission as a black student with an SAT score of 1100, an Hispanic student otherwise equally matched in background characteristics would have to have a 1230, a white student a 1410, and an Asian student a 1550.
But it gets worse. Other studies found that class doesn’t matter at all:
Other studies, including a 2005 analysis of nineteen highly selective public and private universities by William Bowen, Martin Kurzweil, and Eugene Tobin, in their 2003 book, Equity and Excellence in American Higher Education, found very little if any advantage in the admissions process accorded to whites from economically or educationally disadvantaged families compared to whites from wealthier or better educated homes. Espenshade and Radford cite this study and summarize it as follows: “These researchers find that, for non-minority [i.e., white] applicants with the same SAT scores, there is no perceptible difference in admission chances between applicants from families in the bottom income quartile, applicants who would be the first in their families to attend college, and all other (non-minority) applicants from families at higher levels of socioeconomic status. When controls are added for other student and institutional characteristics, these authors find that “on an other-things-equal basis, [white] applicants from low-SES backgrounds, whether defined by family income or parental education, get essentially no break in the admissions process; they fare neither better nor worse than other [white] applicants.”
But the Espenshade-Radford study finds that lower-class Whites are actually worse off:
At the private institutions in their study whites from lower-class backgrounds incurred a huge admissions disadvantage not only in comparison to lower-class minority students, but compared to whites from middle-class and upper-middle-class backgrounds as well. The lower-class whites proved to be all-around losers. When equally matched for background factors (including SAT scores and high school GPAs), the better-off whites were more than three times as likely to be accepted as the poorest whites (.28 vs. .08 admissions probability). Having money in the family greatly improved a white applicant’s admissions chances, lack of money greatly reduced it. The opposite class trend was seen among non-whites, where the poorer the applicant the greater the probability of acceptance when all other factors are taken into account. Class-based affirmative action does exist within the three non-white ethno-racial groupings, but among the whites the groups advanced are those with money.
The key finding, though, is something that no reader of Theden should be surprised by: Whites from certain cultures are flat-out unwanted at these elite colleges.
Participation in such Red State activities as high school ROTC, 4-H clubs, or the Future Farmers of America was found to reduce very substantially a student’s chances of gaining admission to the competitive private colleges in the NSCE database on an all-other-things-considered basis. The admissions disadvantage was greatest for those in leadership positions in these activities or those winning honors and awards. “Being an officer or winning awards” for such career-oriented activities as junior ROTC, 4-H, or Future Farmers of America, say Espenshade and Radford, “has a significantly negative association with admission outcomes at highly selective institutions.” Excelling in these activities “is associated with 60 or 65 percent lower odds of admission.”
It is already clear that there are several distinct cultures in America: Boston diversicrats just don’t talk, act, or think the same way as plumbers from Georgia or farmers from Idaho. The many White cultures in the States generally line up along the partisan divide: there are Brahmins, who vote Democrat, think it’s perfectly respectable to go to graduate school in sociology or do porn to pay for college, and generally don’t know many veterans, farmers, small-businessmen, or non-Brahmins at all, despite thinking their business—and the business of the rest of the world—is best managed by Brahmins; and then there are Vaisyas, who vote Republican, respect stable family men who go to church on Sundays a whole lot more than they do unmarried, latte-sipping activists, and tend not to like it when Brahmins barge in and start telling them how things are going to be done.
Once we have the terms to talk about these things clearly, the message of these colleges becomes clear: no Red Stater—no Vaisya—need apply. Elite colleges are sources of power and status, and the Brahmins want to keep all that to themselves.