Affirmative Action Hurts Asians and Caucasians Whites JadeLuckClub Ivy League Discrimination of Asians

Affirmative Action Hurts Asians and Caucasians: What To Do About It

Don't ID as Asian for College

Affirmative Action Hurts Asians and Caucasians Whites JadeLuckClub Ivy League Discrimination of Asians


 “Espenshade discovered that when comparing applicants with similar grades, scores, athletic qualifications, and family history

for seven elite private colleges and universities:

whites were three times as likely to get accepted as Asians;

Hispanics were twice as likely to win admission as whites,

and African-Americans were at least five times as likely to be accepted as whites.”

The more that I read about Affirmative Action, the more I realize how complex the issue is. Yes, it does appear to be quite true that top Asian Americans students have tougher odds when applying to elite private colleges because there are simply too many of them applying to a set number of spots. This wasn’t always the case when Affirmative Action was put into place, but with Tiger Moms hard at work, Tiger Children of Chinese/Korean/Japanese descent particularly applied in great numbers to Ivy Leagues and other top schools. While the percentage of Asians at top schools continues to rise, the number of highly qualified Asian applicants goes up still higher causing this imbalance.

Yet, Affirmative Action is needed in the corporate world where Asian Americans still battle the bamboo ceiling. The conundrum is that no Asian American group is willing to take up the battle cry for getting still more Asian American kids into elite private colleges but there are serious repercussions for not addressing this. Asian American students face immense pressure on many fronts (think Tiger Mom!) to outperform their Asian peers in order to get into top colleges and the result is mental health issues including depression and suicide. If you want stats on that, I can pull them for you. Just leave me a comment.

What to do? Changing laws requires serious and ongoing pressure and I don’t see that happening within our own community. My solution is quite simple. Opt out of the race question. It’s optional anyway.

IF YOU ARE HAPA: DON’T CHECK ASIAN. Options for you include: mixed race OR Caucasian. Realize that checking Asian hurts your chances for admission so why do that?  Checking mixed race or Caucasian will help you get in AND it’s completely correct. And, by removing yourself from the Asian box, you decrease the number of Asians in that giant pile of applications.

IF YOU ARE ASIAN: DON’T CHECK ASIAN. Options for you include: undisclosed OR skip question entirely. “But what if my name outs me?” is a common question. My answer: no one in admissions is shaking your family tree for your true ethnicity. They are, by the way, giving your entire application about three minutes of their time. That includes reading your essays and letters of recommendation. Don’t sweat it. Also realize that hapas can have Asian names and qualify for Caucasian. There’s actually no way to tell your ethnicity short of researching your family history.

Objections to this pragmatic approach include being proud of one’s ethnicity and not hiding true stats of Asians. My pragmatic answer is: you can assert your ethnic identity AFTER you get in. This is, after all, your goal, right?

For all posts on Don’t Identify as Asian When Applying to College, click here. I welcome your reactions, comments and feedback!


8/17/10 International Business TimesAsian-Americans in the Ivy League: A Portrait of Privilege and Discrimination

By Palash R. Ghosh

Reflecting their growing social and economic prominence in the U.S., Asian-Americans are disproportionately represented at the most elite universities in the land, relative to their numbers in the total population.

While “Asians” — defined broadly as people who can trace their ancestry to East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Pacific Islands — account for only about 5 percent of the U.S. populace, they are believed to represent up to 20 percent of the enrollment at the top Ivy League schools.

However, the irony is that if the admission criteria and process in all U.S. universities were completely fair and equitable — that is, based purely on academic qualifications — the Asian weighting in the elite colleges would likely be significantly higher.

In an article in the Boston Globe, Kara Miller, a history professor at Babson College, wrote that Asian-Americans score an average of 1623 — out of a possible 2400 — on SAT tests. By comparison, Hispanics and blacks average 1,364 and 1,276 on the SAT, respectively, while whites average 1,581.

Quite a conundrum, indeed. Are Asians being celebrated and rewarded for their hard work, intelligence and success? Or are they being discriminated against?

It depends on who you ask.

Consider what happened in California — a state with a very high Asian population of about 13 percent — in late 1996. Voters passed Proposition 209, a referendum that essentially revoked Affirmative Action measures and deemed that entry into public colleges — including the huge University of California (UC) system — should be entirely race-blind.

“A direct consequence of this was that the percentage of Asian-Americans at universities like Berkeley, UC-Irvine, and UCLA immediately skyrocketed,” said Stephen D.H. Hsu, a professor of physics at the University of Oregon in Eugene.

“At those institutions, the Asian-American representation currently approaches 50 percent.”

Not surprisingly, the passage of “209” led to a political backlash and resentment against Asian-Americans — from whites, but particularly from African-Americans and Hispanics, who saw their numbers plunge at these institutions.”

The administration at UC is now under significant pressure to remove the current system, Hsu noted. “They’ve responded to the criticism by tweaking the admission process,” he said. “Test scores are not weighted as heavily as high school GPA, and the top few percent of graduates at each high school are admitted to UC, even if, in absolute terms, they are not as strong as higher scoring students from top high schools.” *

Of course, Hsu adds, Asian-Americans are generally happy with things as they are — since they both find it fair and beneficial to them. Moreover, California’s top two private schools, Stanford University and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) also boast disproportionately high Asian-American representation.

“At my alma mater, Caltech, which has a heavy focus on science and engineering and a completely meritocratic admission process, Asian-Americans account for 30 percent-40 percent of the student body,” Hsu added.

Hsu concludes that Affirmative Action probably hurts both whites and Asians since it arbitrarily takes class slots away from them.

This is quite ironic since Asian-Americans have long been discriminated in most other ways throughout their long history in this country. The word “quota” is controversial and politically-charged; one must be careful when using it.  However it’s difficult not to conclude that some elite universities do indeed impose a quota — officially or subconsciously — upon Asian enrollment in order to control their numbers at some specified levels.

Consider a recent study undertaken by Thomas Espenshade, a Princeton sociologist. He calculated that in 1997 African-Americans who achieved scores of 1150 scores on two original SAT tests had the same chances of getting accepted to top private colleges as whites who scored in the 1460s and Asians who scored perfect 1600s.

Or put it another way, Asian applicants typically need to score an extra 140 or so points on their SATs to compete “equally” with white students. Miller of Babson College also wrote that “most elite universities appear determined to keep their Asian American totals in a narrow range. Yale’s class of 2013 is 15.5 percent Asian American, compared with 16.1 percent at Dartmouth, 19.1 percent at Harvard and 17.6 percent at Princeton.”

However, white students are similarly victimized by admission policies at some elite schools.  Espenshade discovered that when comparing applicants with similar grades, scores, athletic qualifications, and family history for seven elite private colleges and universities: whites were three times as likely to get accepted as Asians; Hispanics were twice as likely to win admission as whites, and African-Americans were at least five times as likely to be accepted as whites.

Moreover, if all elite private universities enacted race-blind admissions, the percentage of Asian students would jump from 24 percent to 39 percent (similar to what they already are now at Caltech and Berkeley, two elite institutions with race-blind admissions; the former due to a belief in meritocracy, the latter due to Proposition 209).

What Asian-Americans are enduring now is reminiscent of the travails of American Jews in the 1930s and 1940s, when colleges like Harvard and Yale imposed quotas to limit their numbers at these elite institutions. And like many of those Jews from seven or eight decades ago, numerous Asian-American students today come from poor, humble immigrant households.

Perhaps the bottom line in all this discussion is that entry into and success in top-flight schools — regardless of the surrounding circumstances and controversies — are pushing more and more Asian-Americans into prominent positions in corporate America, Wall Street and even the corridors of power in Washington D.C.

*An article I read which I will post on if I find it again said that the UC System is taking the top 3 graduates in terms of grades and scores from every high school in California, even if these candidates score lower than candidates who scored higher but ranked lower at their [competitive] high school.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

12 thoughts on “Affirmative Action Hurts Asians and Caucasians: What To Do About It”

  1. This is the MOST LUDICROUS article ever. Affirmative action hurts Asians and Caucasians? No. It doesn’t. AA isn’t even allowed in most racially blind admissions processes now. Moot. Completely moot and definitely a view from one who has seemingly ‘white privelege’.

    This article reeks of subtle racism and scapegoating. I, for one, am disappointed in you.

    1. To Boyie,
      I appreciate your candor. This article points to research that shows that Affirmative Action in giving slots to minorities takes away slots from Caucasians. It’s because there are only so many slots per entering class. Asian Americans used to benefit from Affirmative Action, but now our numbers have dramatically increased and our test scores and grades plus probably extra curriculars are such that we have more highly qualified pool relative to our allotted slots. In fact, we have the worst ratio of applicants to acceptances out of everyone including Caucasians. If you want to refute the data, I’d welcome your analytical analysis.

      There are very few colleges with racially blind admission policies. CalTech is one. Ivy leagues are not race blind. The UC system in California used to be but with a recent court ruling, they now take race into account by simply accepting the top three candidates who apply from every high school in California by class rank not scores. Why do you think most colleges are race blind? I would love that link.

        1. To Min Po,
          No, the UC system admissions used to be a formula of a sliding scale based on GPA and SAT scores. Now it is based on taking the top three ranked students based on GPA from every high school.

    2. Affirmative action is well intended but it is racial prejudice. I’m a 50’s Caucasian father with 3 children. It is quite clear that some universities are doing everything they can to get around the laws that ban racial discrimination in admissions.

      Let’s be very clear. Asian American students are being penalize for the hard work. It is wrong. I don’t care if they were pushed to an extreme by a Tiger mom. If they have out worked others, then they deserve the spot.

      As an example, my oldest is a senior in high school and is applying to schools next year. Here in Washington state, the voters passed such a law banning such discrimination. However, looking at the admissions application, it is clear they are trying to get around the law. They don’t ask for transcripts initially, but just a summary of your classes that you fill in.

      They do ask for several essays. At least one could not really be answered by an upper middle class white kid. They were looking for how can you add diversity. An Asian American kid would just be flagging he is in an “over represented group” answering the question.

      This is America. Discrimination is wrong. Efforts to help one group will inevitably end up hurting some individual of another group who has done nothing wrong. So if the top schools end up being 100% Asian, then that is the way it should be.

      The only way to end racial discrimination is to prevent the government from doing so (because it is against the constitution to do so). I cheer for those that work the hardest, even if that means they get in to a top school and my son doesn’t.

      Love the board. Interesting insights.

      1. To Kelly,
        Thank you so much for your comment. I completely agree with you. But there is another complex layer. If Asian Americans are lumped together as one ethnic group, then the strong get stronger and the weak get weaker. If you take my family, my kids are 4th, 3rd and 2nd generation Asian Americans living in a suburb with high schools that routinely place 25 kids each at top colleges. We are not the Asian Americans that need help through Affirmative Action but, in fact, there are Asian Americans who SHOULD get help. They are from Laos, Vietnam, Tonga and Cambodia and their stats for level of income and % of going to college are markedly below those of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and some Southeast Asian Americans.

        As American becomes more inter-racial, it’s not the race that is the barrier, it’s simply poverty. I think there should be policies to help those in need but this is increasingly about poverty not race. Affirmative Action sought to help those in need but the policy is outdated as our world changes. It’s time to change this policy as well.

        Thank you again for your comment. I appreciate your point of view!

  2. While this article has some merits, I dont agree that “a completely fair and equitable admission criteria and process in universities should be based purely on academic qualifications”. There are many other facets of a students potential and capability that are not directly linked to academic qualifications.

    Put at the extreme end of the spectrum, a university that accepts students based entirely on academic performance (i.e. test results) may end up with a group that is extremely talented at studying, but socially, managerially and innovatively stupid.

    Until there are accurate ways to objectively measure all the required attributes of ‘the model university student’ then there will always need to be subjective measures that arent entirely fair in order to achieve balance. They do this in corporate recruiting so why shouldnt it be the same in a university? To me, this is not worth taking up arms and protesting, even if I am disadvantaged by process.

    1. To Max,
      I agree with you that admission criteria should include things beyond grades and scores but these others things are not the reason why Asian Americans are not getting more slots at top schools. The real reason is, I believe, a race ceiling for Asians in order to have a more ethnically diverse class. This is not to say that this policy is wrong, but to point out that it exists.

  3. I agree with your article and have seen it firsthand, but it is invisible to most people who think Asian-Americans are well represented in the top schools.

    I’m interested in seeing the mental health statistics you mention. Please share. Thank you.

  4. “Yet, Affirmative Action is needed in the corporate world where Asian Americans still battle the bamboo ceiling.”

    Please provide stats that Asians are being helped in getting corporate jobs. Because I know that as far as Silicon Valley goes, Asians are over represented without any AA helping them. The only thing I can see happening if AA goes to Silicon Valley is that they start to raise the bar for Asians, just like they did for selective colleges.

    1. To Long,
      I am not sure if Affirmative Action helps Asians to get jobs as our Asian American leaders believe. Perhaps in Fortune 500 though I don’t know for sure and am skeptical. It isn’t helping Asian Americans get CEO positions at Fortune 500 companies…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *