Affirmative Action and the Quality-Fit Tradeoff

86 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2015

See all articles by Peter Arcidiacono

Peter Arcidiacono

Duke University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Michael Lovenheim

Cornell University - Department of Policy Analysis and Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: February 2015

Abstract

This paper reviews the literature on affirmative action in undergraduate education and law schools, focusing in particular on the tradeoff between the quality of an institution and the fit between a school and a student. We first discuss the conditions under which affirmative action for under-represented minorities (URM) could help or harm their educational outcomes. We then provide descriptive evidence on the extent of affirmative action in law schools, as well as a review of the contentious literature on how affirmative action affects URM student performance in law school. We present a simple selection model that we argue provides a useful framework for interpreting the disparate findings in this literature. The paper then turns to a similar discussion of affirmative action in undergraduate admissions, focusing on evidence of the extent of race-based admissions practices and the effect such preferences have on the quality of schools in which minority students enroll, graduation rates, college major and earnings. We pay much attention to the evidence from state-level bans on affirmative action and argue these bans are very informative about how affirmative action affects URM students. Finally, we discuss the evidence on "percent plans," which several states have enacted in an attempt to replace affirmative action.

Suggested Citation

Arcidiacono, Peter and Lovenheim, Michael, Affirmative Action and the Quality-Fit Tradeoff (February 2015). NBER Working Paper No. w20962, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2568498

Peter Arcidiacono (Contact Author)

Duke University - Department of Economics ( email )

213 Social Sciences Building
Box 90097
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
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Michael Lovenheim

Cornell University - Department of Policy Analysis and Management ( email )

Ithaca, NY
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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