California Diversity; Michigan Obfuscation

The Detroit Free Press has an interesting, long article, with charts and numbers, on the effects of California’s Proposition 209 (which banned the consideration of race and ethnicity by the state in admissions and employment) on the admission of minorities into the university system.

The new race-neutral policy went into effect in 1998, and the article presents a chart showing the racial composition of the freshman classes in 1995, 1998, and 2002 in the university system as a whole (all eight campuses), at Berkeley, and at UCLA.

I’m not going to reproduce all the numbers, or summarize the rest; go look at the whole thing. I will mention only two items that struck me as especially interesting. First, and not surprisingly, the introduction of colorblind admissions (at least in theory) had the most dramatic effect on blacks and Hispanics. Now, see if you can guess what I found most interesting about these numbers:

Of the groups in which admissions declined, admission of black students declined the most. At the eight campuses, black students made up 4.4 percent of students admitted in 1995, 3.2 percent in 1998 and 3.5 percent in 2002. At Berkeley, they made up 7.2 percent of the admissions in 1995, 3.2 percent in 1998 and 4.1 percent in 2002. At UCLA, those numbers were 6.6 percent in 1995, 3 percent in 1998 and 3.5 percent in 2002.

Hispanics made up 15.8 percent of the admissions at the eight campuses in 1995, 12.8 percent in 1998 and 15 percent in 2002. At Berkeley,they made up 18.4 percent in 1995, 8.4 percent in 1998 and 13.1 percent in 2002. At UCLA, those numbers were 20 percent in 1995, 9.9 percent in 1998 and 13.9 percent in 2002.

I’m sure most of you guessed what I found odd: Berkeley and UCLA are the most selective campuses in the system, but the percentages of blacks and Hispanics they admitted were higher than for the system as a whole before Prop. 209 put an end to preferences. Interesting. It appears that minority admissions at Berkeley and UCLA were hit hardest by the end of preferences because the preferences there had been greater than at the other six, less selective campuses.

Moreover, according to the 2000 census blacks made up 6.7% of California’s population, and yet in 1995 they were 7.2% of the entering class at Berkeley. Whites make up 59.7% of the population, but in 1995 they were 28.6% of the entering class at UCLA, and 32.9% at Berkeley. Asians were, and are, substantially “overrepresented.” In 2002 blacks were 4.1% of the entering class at Berkeley, making them less “underrepresented” than the whites at 32.8%. Of course, I find racial and ethnic “representation” not only obnoxious as a standard, but exceedingly out of place as an admissions standard at a highly selective university.

Moving beyond the California numbers to the text of the Free Press article, written primarily one assumes for an audience of Michiganders who are now facing the prospect of their own ballot initiative to eliminate preferences, I found the following discussion revealing:

Polls have shown that a majority of Americans and Michiganders oppose the use of racial preferences. But many of America’s top universities and corporations have long held that affirmative-action programs are crucial in developing student bodies and workforces that represent the nation’s diversity.

They also have concluded that societal barriers to entry and achievement in school and at work make it reasonable to consider race, gender and ethnicity as factors in admissions and hiring decisions.

Isn’t that “but” wonderful? Most Americans, and most Michiganders, oppose racial preferences, but “top universities and corporations” want them anyway! Also note how even these authors shy away from acknowledging that “top universities and corporations” want “racial preferences,” which the uncouth masses oppose. No, they want “affirmative action,” which sounds much better (because it’s less descriptive). Also, all they want to do, the article says, is “to consider” race, gender, and ethnicity. Who but a lowlife could be against something so open, so obviously fair, as consideration? It sounds downright inconsiderate to oppose such a thing.

If MCRI succeeds in showing the people of Michigan that the initiative will eliminate racial preferences, it will win. If the “top universities and corporations” succeed in obfuscating that truth, they may succeed in preserving their ability to continue discriminating on the basis of race.

Say What? (14)

  1. Zach March 21, 2004 at 11:40 pm | | Reply

    I thought corporations are inherently evil… Why do the opinions of evildoers matter..?

  2. Gabriel Rossman March 22, 2004 at 6:45 am | | Reply

    Regarding the pattern that under AA there were higher proportions of blacks and hispanics admitted to UCLA and Berkeley than to the UC system as a whole, it could be, at least in part, that blacks and hispanics were not especially interested in studying in rural, white areas like Santa Cruz or Santa Barbara and this brought down the systemwide average. A similar explanation would be that in-state residents had a mild preference for the school closest to home. Note that under AA there were more hispanics at UCLA than at Berkeley and more blacks at Berkeley than at UCLA, which matches the demographics of the two areas. If my hypothesis is right, then there should also have been a fair number of hispanic students at UCI and both black and hispanic students at UCSD (both schools are, like UCLA, in white neighborhoods but diverse counties).

  3. Claire March 22, 2004 at 2:11 pm | | Reply

    Actually, when it comes to corporations, they are foced by law to consider race. They must track numbers of minorities and women and then report these numbers to the government. And woe to anyone who doesn’t represent the statistical average, or ‘representative’ numbers, for minorities. You can be charged with a crime and fined very large sums of money.

    The bigger shame, though, is that by emphasizing diversity of skin color and ethinic heritage, it makes it possible for corporations to hire large numbers of people who are visually diverse and who all think alike…

  4. Michelle Dulak March 22, 2004 at 2:51 pm | | Reply

    Gabriel, I just looked up the numbers, and it doesn’t quite work out like that. For 1995, the percentages for Irvine, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz were

    UCI: 3.2% black, 15.1% Hispanic

    UCSD: 2.4% black, 11.3% Hispanic

    UCSB: 3.0% black, 14.4% Hispanic

    UCSC: 3.7% black, 18.3% Hispanic

    So all four campuses had a smaller fraction of black students than the system as a whole, and three of the four had fewer Hispanics than the mean as well. And not only did UCSD, contra hypothesis, have the lowest fractions of both, but “rural” UCSC (I can’t really think of Santa Cruz as “rural” myself) had almost as large a fraction of Hispanic students as Berkeley did.

    (Note: the “Hispanic” figure combines the figures for “Chicano” and “Latino” in the chart. And these are admissions figures, not enrollment — the enrollment figures are in the chart too, and maybe I’ll crunch those later.)

    The other question, of course, is who applied vs. who got in. Just scanning the chart briefly, UCSD rejected almost half the applicants, the others far fewer. I’ll have to mess with the numbers when I have more time to spend. But just doing a quick racial breakdown on Berkeley: 55% of Hispanic applicants in 1995 were admitted; 50% of black applicants; 39% of white applicants; 35% of Asian applicants. For what it’s worth.

  5. Nels Nelson March 22, 2004 at 3:00 pm | | Reply

    Claire, I was not aware that there were such federal laws – perhaps particular states or municipalities have them?

    I’ve worked at four companies (all in California, with two in San Diego and two in the Bay Area), one of which had over 500 employees. Women and racial minorities have in total made up probably less than 5% of the employees at these companies, with my current company consisting in whole of 20 white men.

    Is there a link you can provide to these laws so I can see if my current employer is in violation of them?

  6. T S Allen March 22, 2004 at 5:14 pm | | Reply

    One question that begs asking/answering is: What has happened to the graduation rates of minorities since 209 kicked in? They might find that they have decreased the minority dropout rate.

  7. Dom March 22, 2004 at 5:20 pm | | Reply

    Laws similar to the ones that Claire mentions do in fact exist. Sorry, I have no link, and I do not know the exact nature of the laws. But there is an exemption for small companies. Your current company of 20 people is far too small. Interestingly, the exemption exists because it is known that they place a hige burdon on a small company. Congress gives itself an exemption too, for the same reason.

    The laws often have a negative effect on employment. We purposely avoid hiring too many more people, just to avoid these laws. There are many other considerations, of course. For example, tax and health insurance policies become a nightmare as soon as you hit about 50 employees.

  8. Gabriel Rossman March 22, 2004 at 5:21 pm | | Reply


    Thanks for checking the numbers, I stand corrected.

  9. Richard Nieporent March 22, 2004 at 6:30 pm | | Reply

    I was not aware that there were such federal laws – perhaps particular states or municipalities have them?

    No, it is subtler than that, Nels. The law that they would be accused of violating is the equal opportunity law by discriminating against minorities. How does the government know that the company is practicing discrimination? It is quite simple. They use statistics. If the company employs less minorities than there are in the general population for that area, then that is prima facie evidence of discrimination. It is up to the company to prove that they are not discriminating. In other words, you are guilty until proven innocent. You would think that would violate the laws of the land. However, if you did you would be wrong.

  10. SC March 24, 2004 at 12:30 am | | Reply

    Yikes! 5% women and minorities can’t be an accident (esp. out of 500 people). What kind of business is this? A contruction company? A porn magazine? Maybe a white interests group?

  11. Nels Nelson March 24, 2004 at 2:10 am | | Reply

    Heh, SC. I work in the videogames industry, helping to corrupt our youth.

    On the development side of the business, meaning outside of marketing, sales, human resources, etc., there are very few female employees, probably due to the requirements that one possess highly technical knowledge (usually in the form of a C.S. or computer art degree), have a strong interest and background in playing games, and be willing to spend long, long hours surrounded by cubicles filled with unwashed programmers and their anime action figures.

  12. Michelle Dulak March 24, 2004 at 5:20 am | | Reply


    I gather you aren’t considering Asians “minorities,” then. I know they don’t “count” as such in undergraduate admissions, but I think they do in hiring stats, usually.

  13. Nels Nelson March 24, 2004 at 12:30 pm | | Reply

    Michelle, I was including Asian-Americans as minorities. Though Japanese and Korean companies dominate the worldwide videogame industry, for some reason Asians are poorly represented in U.S. companies.

  14. Michelle Dulak March 24, 2004 at 8:25 pm | | Reply


    My apologies. I was just having difficulty imagining a company full of anime fans with no Asians in it. I stand — er, sit — corrected.

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