Income-Based Affirmative Action Is Not a Good Substitute for Race-Sensitive Admissions

A new study from The Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization, concludes that only race-conscious admissions programs at colleges and universities will be successful in creating a student population that mirrors the demographics of the nation’s overall population. The authors argue that using socieoeconomic status as a substitute for race will not achieve the same results because Black and White students and families with the same income often have vastly different experiences and circumstances that can affect educational and financial outcomes.

The report notes that “in many states, especially those that have bans on using race as a factor in college admissions and beyond, policymakers often turn to using income as a substitution for race in policies that target resources and opportunity to students who have been disadvantaged. But states with affirmative action bans saw a decline in Black student enrollment at selective public colleges after the ban.”

The report shows that Black students from the highest-income groups are still far less likely than Whites from the same income groups to attend and graduate from selective colleges and universities. The authors conclude that “income-based affirmative action policies do not yield nearly as much racial diversity as race-based policies.”

The full report, Hard Truths: Why Only Race-Conscious Policies Can Fix Racism in Higher Education, may be downloaded by clicking here.

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