A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
Ron Unz Archive
The Myth of American Meritocracy
Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?
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Just before the Labor Day weekend, a front page New York Times story broke the news of the largest cheating scandal in Harvard University history, in which nearly half the students taking a Government course on the role of Congress had plagiarized or otherwise illegally collaborated on their final exam.1 Each year, Harvard admits just 1600 freshmen while almost 125 Harvard students now face possible suspension over this single incident. A Harvard dean described the situation as “unprecedented.”

Meritocracy But should we really be so surprised at this behavior among the students at America’s most prestigious academic institution? In the last generation or two, the funnel of opportunity in American society has drastically narrowed, with a greater and greater proportion of our financial, media, business, and political elites being drawn from a relatively small number of our leading universities, together with their professional schools. The rise of a Henry Ford, from farm boy mechanic to world business tycoon, seems virtually impossible today, as even America’s most successful college dropouts such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg often turn out to be extremely well-connected former Harvard students. Indeed, the early success of Facebook was largely due to the powerful imprimatur it enjoyed from its exclusive availability first only at Harvard and later restricted to just the Ivy League.

NetWealth During this period, we have witnessed a huge national decline in well-paid middle class jobs in the manufacturing sector and other sources of employment for those lacking college degrees, with median American wages having been stagnant or declining for the last forty years. Meanwhile, there has been an astonishing concentration of wealth at the top, with America’s richest 1 percent now possessing nearly as much net wealth as the bottom 95 percent.2 This situation, sometimes described as a “winner take all society,” leaves families desperate to maximize the chances that their children will reach the winners’ circle, rather than risk failure and poverty or even merely a spot in the rapidly deteriorating middle class. And the best single means of becoming such an economic winner is to gain admission to a top university, which provides an easy ticket to the wealth of Wall Street or similar venues, whose leading firms increasingly restrict their hiring to graduates of the Ivy League or a tiny handful of other top colleges.3 On the other side, finance remains the favored employment choice for Harvard, Yale or Princeton students after the diplomas are handed out.4

 


The Battle for Elite College Admissions

As a direct consequence, the war over college admissions has become astonishingly fierce, with many middle- or upper-middle class families investing quantities of time and money that would have seemed unimaginable a generation or more ago, leading to an all-against-all arms race that immiserates the student and exhausts the parents. The absurd parental efforts of an Amy Chua, as recounted in her 2010 bestseller Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, were simply a much more extreme version of widespread behavior among her peer-group, which is why her story resonated so deeply among our educated elites. Over the last thirty years, America’s test-prep companies have grown from almost nothing into a $5 billion annual industry, allowing the affluent to provide an admissions edge to their less able children. Similarly, the enormous annual tuition of $35,000 charged by elite private schools such as Dalton or Exeter is less for a superior high school education than for the hope of a greatly increased chance to enter the Ivy League.5 Many New York City parents even go to enormous efforts to enroll their children in the best possible pre-Kindergarten program, seeking early placement on the educational conveyer belt which eventually leads to Harvard.6 Others cut corners in a more direct fashion, as revealed in the huge SAT cheating rings recently uncovered in affluent New York suburbs, in which students were paid thousands of dollars to take SAT exams for their wealthier but dimmer classmates.7

But given such massive social and economic value now concentrated in a Harvard or Yale degree, the tiny handful of elite admissions gatekeepers enjoy enormous, almost unprecedented power to shape the leadership of our society by allocating their supply of thick envelopes. Even billionaires, media barons, and U.S. Senators may weigh their words and actions more carefully as their children approach college age. And if such power is used to select our future elites in a corrupt manner, perhaps the inevitable result is the selection of corrupt elites, with terrible consequences for America. Thus, the huge Harvard cheating scandal, and perhaps also the endless series of financial, business, and political scandals which have rocked our country over the last decade or more, even while our national economy has stagnated.

Just a few years ago Pulitzer Prize-winning former Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Golden published The Price of Admission, a devastating account of the corrupt admissions practices at so many of our leading universities, in which every sort of non-academic or financial factor plays a role in privileging the privileged and thereby squeezing out those high-ability, hard-working students who lack any special hook. In one particularly egregious case, a wealthy New Jersey real estate developer, later sent to Federal prison on political corruption charges, paid Harvard $2.5 million to help ensure admission of his completely under-qualified son.8 When we consider that Harvard’s existing endowment was then at $15 billion and earning almost $7 million each day in investment earnings, we see that a culture of financial corruption has developed an absurd illogic of its own, in which senior Harvard administrators sell their university’s honor for just a few hours worth of its regular annual income, the equivalent of a Harvard instructor raising a grade for a hundred dollars in cash.

An admissions system based on non-academic factors often amounting to institutionalized venality would seem strange or even unthinkable among the top universities of most other advanced nations in Europe or Asia, though such practices are widespread in much of the corrupt Third World. The notion of a wealthy family buying their son his entrance into the Grandes Ecoles of France or the top Japanese universities would be an absurdity, and the academic rectitude of Europe’s Nordic or Germanic nations is even more severe, with those far more egalitarian societies anyway tending to deemphasize university rankings.

Or consider the case of China. There, legions of angry microbloggers endlessly denounce the official corruption and abuse which permeate so much of the economic system. But we almost never hear accusations of favoritism in university admissions, and this impression of strict meritocracy determined by the results of the national Gaokao college entrance examination has been confirmed to me by individuals familiar with that country. Since all the world’s written exams may ultimately derive from China’s old imperial examination system, which was kept remarkably clean for 1300 years, such practices are hardly surprising.9 Attending a prestigious college is regarded by ordinary Chinese as their children’s greatest hope of rapid upward mobility and is therefore often a focus of enormous family effort; China’s ruling elites may rightly fear that a policy of admitting their own dim and lazy heirs to leading schools ahead of the higher-scoring children of the masses might ignite a widespread popular uprising. This perhaps explains why so many sons and daughters of top Chinese leaders attend college in the West: enrolling them at a third-rate Chinese university would be a tremendous humiliation, while our own corrupt admissions practices get them an easy spot at Harvard or Stanford, sitting side by side with the children of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and George W. Bush.

Although the evidence of college admissions corruption presented in Golden’s book is quite telling, the focus is almost entirely on current practices, and largely anecdotal rather than statistical. For a broader historical perspective, we should consider The Chosen by Berkeley sociologist Jerome Karabel, an exhaustive and award-winning 2005 narrative history of the last century of admissions policy at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton (I will henceforth sometimes abbreviate these “top three” most elite schools as “HYP”).

Karabel’s massive documentation—over 700 pages and 3000 endnotes—establishes the remarkable fact that America’s uniquely complex and subjective system of academic admissions actually arose as a means of covert ethnic tribal warfare. During the 1920s, the established Northeastern Anglo-Saxon elites who then dominated the Ivy League wished to sharply curtail the rapidly growing numbers of Jewish students, but their initial attempts to impose simple numerical quotas provoked enormous controversy and faculty opposition.10 Therefore, the approach subsequently taken by Harvard President A. Lawrence Lowell and his peers was to transform the admissions process from a simple objective test of academic merit into a complex and holistic consideration of all aspects of each individual applicant; the resulting opacity permitted the admission or rejection of any given applicant, allowing the ethnicity of the student body to be shaped as desired. As a consequence, university leaders could honestly deny the existence of any racial or religious quotas, while still managing to reduce Jewish enrollment to a much lower level, and thereafter hold it almost constant during the decades which followed.11 For example, the Jewish portion of Harvard’s entering class dropped from nearly 30 percent in 1925 to 15 percent the following year and remained roughly static until the period of the Second World War.12

As Karabel repeatedly demonstrates, the major changes in admissions policy which later followed were usually determined by factors of raw political power and the balance of contending forces rather than any idealistic considerations. For example, in the aftermath of World War II, Jewish organizations and their allies mobilized their political and media resources to pressure the universities into increasing their ethnic enrollment by modifying the weight assigned to various academic and non-academic factors, raising the importance of the former over the latter. Then a decade or two later, this exact process was repeated in the opposite direction, as the early 1960s saw black activists and their liberal political allies pressure universities to bring their racial minority enrollments into closer alignment with America’s national population by partially shifting away from their recently enshrined focus on purely academic considerations. Indeed, Karabel notes that the most sudden and extreme increase in minority enrollment took place at Yale in the years 1968–69, and was largely due to fears of race riots in heavily black New Haven, which surrounded the campus.13

Philosophical consistency appears notably absent in many of the prominent figures involved in these admissions battles, with both liberals and conservatives sometimes favoring academic merit and sometimes non-academic factors, whichever would produce the particular ethnic student mix they desired for personal or ideological reasons. Different political blocs waged long battles for control of particular universities, and sudden large shifts in admissions rates occurred as these groups gained or lost influence within the university apparatus: Yale replaced its admissions staff in 1965 and the following year Jewish numbers nearly doubled.14

At times, external judicial or political forces would be summoned to override university admissions policy, often succeeding in this aim. Karabel’s own ideological leanings are hardly invisible, as he hails efforts by state legislatures to force Ivy League schools to lift their de facto Jewish quotas, but seems to regard later legislative attacks on “affirmative action” as unreasonable assaults on academic freedom.15 The massively footnoted text of The Chosen might lead one to paraphrase Clausewitz and conclude that our elite college admissions policy often consists of ethnic warfare waged by other means, or even that it could be summarized as a simple Leninesque question of “Who, Whom?”

Although nearly all of Karabel’s study is focused on the earlier history of admissions policy at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, with the developments of the last three decades being covered in just a few dozen pages, he finds complete continuity down to the present day, with the notorious opacity of the admissions process still allowing most private universities to admit whomever they want for whatever reasons they want, even if the reasons and the admissions decisions may eventually change over the years. Despite these plain facts, Harvard and the other top Ivy League schools today publicly deny any hint of discrimination along racial or ethnic lines, except insofar as they acknowledge providing an admissions boost to under-represented racial minorities, such as blacks or Hispanics. But given the enormous control these institutions exert on our larger society, we should test these claims against the evidence of the actual enrollment statistics.

 

Asian-Americans as the “New Jews

The overwhelming focus of Karabel’s book is on changes in Jewish undergraduate percentages at each university, and this is probably less due to his own ethnic heritage than because the data provides an extremely simple means of charting the ebb and flow of admissions policy: Jews were a high-performing group, whose numbers could only be restricted by major deviations from an objective meritocratic standard.

Obviously, anti-Jewish discrimination in admissions no longer exists at any of these institutions, but a roughly analogous situation may be found with a group whom Golden and others have sometimes labeled “The New Jews,” namely Asian-Americans. Since their strong academic performance is coupled with relatively little political power, they would be obvious candidates for discrimination in the harsh realpolitik of university admissions as documented by Karabel, and indeed he briefly raises the possibility of an anti-Asian admissions bias, before concluding that the elite universities are apparently correct in denying that it exists.16

There certainly does seem considerable anecdotal evidence that many Asians perceive their chances of elite admission as being drastically reduced by their racial origins.17 For example, our national newspapers have revealed that students of part-Asian background have regularly attempted to conceal the non-white side of their ancestry when applying to Harvard and other elite universities out of concern it would greatly reduce their chances of admission.18 Indeed, widespread perceptions of racial discrimination are almost certainly the primary factor behind the huge growth in the number of students refusing to reveal their racial background at top universities, with the percentage of Harvard students classified as “race unknown” having risen from almost nothing to a regular 5–15 percent of all undergraduates over the last twenty years, with similar levels reached at other elite schools.

Such fears that checking the “Asian” box on an admissions application may lead to rejection are hardly unreasonable, given that studies have documented a large gap between the average test scores of whites and Asians successfully admitted to elite universities. Princeton sociologist Thomas J. Espenshade and his colleagues have demonstrated that among undergraduates at highly selective schools such as the Ivy League, white students have mean scores 310 points higher on the 1600 SAT scale than their black classmates, but Asian students average 140 points above whites.19 The former gap is an automatic consequence of officially acknowledged affirmative action policies, while the latter appears somewhat mysterious.

 

These broad statistical differences in the admission requirements for Asians are given a human face in Golden’s discussions of this subject, in which he recounts numerous examples of Asian-American students who overcame dire family poverty, immigrant adversity, and other enormous personal hardships to achieve stellar academic performance and extracurricular triumphs, only to be rejected by all their top university choices. His chapter is actually entitled “The New Jews,” and he notes the considerable irony that a university such as Vanderbilt will announce a public goal of greatly increasing its Jewish enrollment and nearly triple those numbers in just four years, while showing very little interest in admitting high-performing Asian students.20

All these elite universities strongly deny the existence of any sort of racial discrimination against Asians in the admissions process, let alone an “Asian quota,” with senior administrators instead claiming that the potential of each student is individually evaluated via a holistic process far superior to any mechanical reliance on grades or test scores; but such public postures are identical to those taken by their academic predecessors in the 1920s and 1930s as documented by Karabel. Fortunately, we can investigate the plausibility of these claims by examining the decades of officially reported enrollment data available from the website of the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES).

The ethnic composition of Harvard undergraduates certainly follows a highly intriguing pattern. Harvard had always had a significant Asian-American enrollment, generally running around 5 percent when I had attended in the early 1980s. But during the following decade, the size of America’s Asian middle class grew rapidly, leading to a sharp rise in applications and admissions, with Asians exceeding 10 percent of undergraduates by the late 1980s and crossing the 20 percent threshold by 1993. However, from that year forward, the Asian numbers went into reverse, generally stagnating or declining during the two decades which followed, with the official 2011 figure being 17.2 percent.21

Even more surprising has been the sheer constancy of these percentages, with almost every year from 1995–2011 showing an Asian enrollment within a single point of the 16.5 percent average, despite huge fluctuations in the number of applications and the inevitable uncertainty surrounding which students will accept admission. By contrast, prior to 1993 Asian enrollment had often changed quite substantially from year to year. It is interesting to note that this exactly replicates the historical pattern observed by Karabel, in which Jewish enrollment rose very rapidly, leading to imposition of an informal quota system, after which the number of Jews fell substantially, and thereafter remained roughly constant for decades. On the face of it, ethnic enrollment levels which widely diverge from academic performance data or application rates and which remain remarkably static over time provide obvious circumstantial evidence for at least a de facto ethnic quota system.

 

In another strong historical parallel, all the other Ivy League universities seem to have gone through similar shifts in Asian enrollment at similar times and reached a similar plateau over the last couple of decades. As mentioned, the share of Asians at Harvard peaked at over 20 percent in 1993, then immediately declined and thereafter remained roughly constant at a level 3–5 points lower. Asians at Yale reached a 16.8 percent maximum in that same year, and soon dropped by about 3 points to a roughly constant level. The Columbia peak also came in 1993 and the Cornell peak in 1995, in both cases followed by the same substantial drop, and the same is true for most of their East Coast peers. During the mid- to late-1980s, there had been some public controversy in the media regarding allegations of anti-Asian discrimination in the Ivy League, and the Federal Government eventually even opened an investigation into the matter.22 But once that investigation was closed in 1991, Asian enrollments across all those universities rapidly converged to the same level of approximately 16 percent, and remained roughly static thereafter (See chart below). In fact, the yearly fluctuations in Asian enrollments are often smaller than were the changes in Jewish numbers during the “quota era” of the past,23 and are roughly the same relative size as the fluctuations in black enrollments, even though the latter are heavily influenced by the publicly declared “ethnic diversity goals” of those same institutions.

The largely constant Asian numbers at these elite colleges are particularly strange when we consider that the underlying population of Asians in America has been anything but static, instead growing at the fastest pace of any American racial group, having increased by almost 50 percent during the last decade, and more than doubling since 1993. Obviously, the relevant ratio would be to the 18–21 age cohort, but adjusting for this factor changes little: based on Census data, the college-age ratio of Asians to whites increased by 94 percent between 1994 and 2011, even while the ratio of Asians to whites at Harvard and Columbia fell over these same years.24

Put another way, the percentage of college-age Asian-Americans attending Harvard peaked around 1993, and has since dropped by over 50 percent, a decline somewhat larger than the fall in Jewish enrollment which followed the imposition of secret quotas in 1925.25 And we have noted the parallel trends in the other Ivy League schools, which also replicates the historical pattern.

Trends of Asian enrollment at Caltech and the Ivy League universities, compared with growth of Asian college-age population; Asian age cohort population figures are based on Census CPS, and given the small sample size, are subject to considerable yearly statistical fluctuations. Source: Appendices B and C.

Furthermore, during this exact same period a large portion of the Asian-American population moved from first-generation immigrant poverty into the ranks of the middle class, greatly raising their educational aspirations for their children. Although elite universities generally refuse to release their applicant totals for different racial groups, some data occasionally becomes available. Princeton’s records show that between 1980 and 1989, Asian-American applications increased by over 400 percent compared to just 8 percent for other groups, with an even more rapid increase for Brown during 1980-1987, while Harvard’s Asian applicants increased over 250 percent between 1976 and 1985.26 It seems likely that the statistics for other Ivy League schools would have followed a similar pattern and these trends would have at least partially continued over the decades which followed, just as the Asian presence has skyrocketed at selective public feeder schools such as Stuyvesant and Bronx Science in New York City and also at the top East Coast prep schools. Yet none of these huge changes in the underlying pool of Asian applicants seemed to have had noticeable impact on the number admitted to Harvard or most of the Ivy League.

 


Estimating Asian Merit

One obvious possible explanation for these trends might be a decline in average Asian scholastic performance, which would certainly be possible if more and more Asian students from the lower levels of the ability pool were pursuing an elite education.27 The mean SAT scores for Asian students show no such large decline, but since we would expect elite universities to draw their students from near the absolute top of the performance curve, average scores by race are potentially less significant than the Asian fraction of America’s highest performing students.

To the extent that the hundred thousand or so undergraduates at Ivy League schools and their approximate peers are selected by academic merit, they would mostly be drawn from the top one-half to one percent of their American age-cohort, and this is the appropriate pool to consider. It is perfectly possible that a particular ethnic population might have a relatively high mean SAT score, while still being somewhat less well represented in that top percent or so of measured ability; racial performance does not necessarily follow an exact “bell curve” distribution. For one thing, a Census category such as “Asian” is hardly homogenous or monolithic, with South Asians and East Asians such as Chinese and Koreans generally having much higher performance compared to other groups such as Filipinos, Vietnamese, or Cambodians, just as the various types of “Hispanics” such as Cubans, Mexicans, and Puerto Ricans differ widely in their socio-economic and academic profiles. Furthermore, the percentage of a given group taking the SAT may change over time, and the larger the percentage taking that test, the more that total will include weaker students, thereby depressing the average score.

Fortunately, allegations of anti-Asian admissions bias have become a topic of widespread and heated debate on the Internet, and disgruntled Asian-American activists have diligently located various types of data to support their accusations, with the recent ethnic distribution of National Merit Scholarship (NMS) semifinalists being among the most persuasive. Students receiving this official designation represent approximately the top one-half of one percent of a state’s high school students as determined by their scores on the PSAT, twin brother to the SAT. Each year, the NMS Corporation distributes the names and schools of these semifinalists for each state, and dozens of these listings have been tracked down and linked on the Internet by determined activists, who have then sometimes estimated the ethnic distribution of the semifinalists by examining their family names.28 Obviously, such a name analysis provides merely an approximate result, but the figures are striking enough to warrant the exercise. (All these NMS semifinalist estimates are discussed in Appendix E.)29

For example, California has a population comparable to that of the next two largest states combined, and its 2010 total of 2,003 NMS semifinalists included well over 1,100 East Asian or South Asian family names. California may be one of the most heavily Asian states, but even so Asians of high school age are still outnumbered by whites roughly 3-to-1, while there were far more high scoring Asians. Put another way, although Asians represented only about 11 percent of California high school students, they constituted almost 60 percent of the top scoring ones. California’s list of NMS semifinalists from 2012 also followed a very similar ethnic pattern. Obviously, such an analysis based on last names is hardly precise, but it is probably correct to within a few percent, which is sufficient for our crude analytical purposes.

In addition, the number of test-takers is sufficiently large that an examination of especially distinctive last names allows us to pinpoint and roughly quantify the academic performance of different Asian groups. For example, the name “Nguyen” is uniquely Vietnamese and carried by about 1 in 3.6 of all Americans of that ethnicity, while “Kim” is just as uniquely Korean, with one in 5.5 Korean-Americans bearing that name.30 By comparing the prevalence of these particular names on the California NMS semifinalist lists with the total size of the corresponding California ethnicities, we can estimate that California Vietnamese are significantly more likely than whites to score very highly on such tests, while Koreans seem to do eight times better than whites and California’s Chinese even better still. (All these results rely upon the simplifying assumption that these different Asian groups are roughly proportional in their numbers of high school seniors.)

Interestingly enough, these Asian performance ratios are remarkably similar to those worked out by Nathaniel Weyl in his 1989 book The Geography of American Achievement, in which he estimated that Korean and Chinese names were over-represented by 1000 percent or more on the complete 1987 lists of national NMS semifinalists, while Vietnamese names were only somewhat more likely to appear than the white average.31 This consistency is quite impressive when we consider that America’s Asian population has tripled since the late 1980s, with major changes as well in socio-economic distribution and other characteristics.

The results for states other than California reflect this same huge abundance of high performing Asian students. In Texas, Asians are just 3.8 percent of the population but were over a quarter of the NMS semifinalists in 2010, while the 2.4 percent of Florida Asians provided between 10 percent and 16 percent of the top students in the six years from 2008 to 2013 for which I have been able to obtain the NMS lists. Even in New York, which contains one of our nation’s most affluent and highly educated white populations and also remains by far the most heavily Jewish state, Asian over-representation was enormous: the Asian 7.3 percent of the population—many of them impoverished immigrant families—accounted for almost one-third of all top scoring New York students.

America’s eight largest states contain nearly half our total population as well as over 60 percent of all Asian-Americans, and each has at least one NMS semifinalist list available for the years 2010–2012. Asians account for just 6 percent of the population in these states, but contribute almost one-third of all the names on these rosters of high performing students. Even this result may be a substantial underestimate, since over half these Asians are found in gigantic California, where extremely stiff academic competition has driven the qualifying NMS semifinalist threshold score to nearly the highest in the country; if students were selected based on a single nationwide standard, Asian numbers would surely be much higher. This pattern extends to the aggregate of the twenty-five states whose lists are available, with Asians constituting 5 percent of the total population but almost 28 percent of semifinalists. Extrapolating these state results to the national total, we would expect 25–30 percent of America’s highest scoring high school seniors to be of Asian origin.32 This figure is far above the current Asian enrollment at Harvard or the rest of the Ivy League.

Ironically enough, the methodology used to select these NMS semifinalists may considerably understate the actual number of very high-ability Asian students. According to testing experts, the three main subcomponents of intellectual ability are verbal, mathematical, and visuospatial, with the last of these representing the mental manipulation of objects. Yet the qualifying NMS scores are based on math, reading, and writing tests, with the last two both corresponding to verbal ability, and without any test of visuospatial skills. Even leaving aside the language difficulties which students from an immigrant background might face, East Asians tend to be weakest in the verbal category and strongest in the visuospatial, so NMS semifinalists are being selected by a process which excludes the strongest Asian component and doubles the weight of the weakest.33

 

This evidence of a massively disproportionate Asian presence among top-performing students only increases if we examine the winners of national academic competitions, especially those in mathematics and science, where judging is the most objective. Each year, America picks its five strongest students to represent our country in the International Math Olympiad, and during the three decades since 1980, some 34 percent of these team members have been Asian-American, with the corresponding figure for the International Computing Olympiad being 27 percent. The Intel Science Talent Search, begun in 1942 under the auspices of the Westinghouse Corporation, is America’s most prestigious high school science competition, and since 1980 some 32 percent of the 1320 finalists have been of Asian ancestry (see Appendix F).

Given that Asians accounted for just 1.5 percent of the population in 1980 and often lived in relatively impoverished immigrant families, the longer-term historical trends are even more striking. Asians were less than 10 percent of U.S. Math Olympiad winners during the 1980s, but rose to a striking 58 percent of the total during the last thirteen years 2000–2012. For the Computing Olympiad, Asian winners averaged about 20 percent of the total during most of the 1990s and 2000s, but grew to 50 percent during 2009–2010 and a remarkable 75 percent during 2011–2012.

The statistical trend for the Science Talent Search finalists, numbering many thousands of top science students, has been the clearest: Asians constituted 22 percent of the total in the 1980s, 29 percent in the 1990s, 36 percent in the 2000s, and 64 percent in the 2010s. In particular science subjects, the Physics Olympiad winners follow a similar trajectory, with Asians accounting for 23 percent of the winners during the 1980s, 25 percent during the 1990s, 46 percent during the 2000s, and a remarkable 81 percent since 2010. The 2003–2012 Biology Olympiad winners were 68 percent Asian and Asians took an astonishing 90 percent of the top spots in the recent Chemistry Olympiads. Some 61 percent of the Siemens AP Awards from 2002–2011 went to Asians, including thirteen of the fourteen top national prizes.

Yet even while all these specific Asian-American academic achievement trends were rising at such an impressive pace, the relative enrollment of Asians at Harvard was plummeting, dropping by over half during the last twenty years, with a range of similar declines also occurring at Yale, Cornell, and most other Ivy League universities. Columbia, in the heart of heavily Asian New York City, showed the steepest decline of all.

There may even be a logical connection between these two contradictory trends. On the one hand, America over the last two decades has produced a rapidly increasing population of college-age Asians, whose families are increasingly affluent, well-educated, and eager to secure an elite education for their children. But on the other hand, it appears that these leading academic institutions have placed a rather strict upper limit on actual Asian enrollments, forcing these Asian students to compete more and more fiercely for a very restricted number of openings. This has sparked a massive Asian-American arms-race in academic performance at high schools throughout the country, as seen above in the skyrocketing math and science competition results. When a far greater volume of applicants is squeezed into a pipeline of fixed size, the pressure can grow enormously.

The implications of such massive pressure may be seen in a widely-discussed front page 2005 Wall Street Journal story entitled “The New White Flight.”34 The article described the extreme academic intensity at several predominantly Asian high schools in Cupertino and other towns in Silicon Valley, and the resulting exodus of white students, who preferred to avoid such an exceptionally focused and competitive academic environment, which included such severe educational tension. But should the families of those Asian students be blamed if according to Espensade and his colleagues their children require far higher academic performance than their white classmates to have a similar chance of gaining admission to selective colleges?

Although the “Asian Tiger Mom” behavior described by author Amy Chua provoked widespread hostility and ridicule, consider the situation from her perspective. Being herself a Harvard graduate, she would like her daughters to follow in her own Ivy League footsteps, but is probably aware that the vast growth in Asian applicants with no corresponding increase in allocated Asian slots requires heroic efforts to shape the perfect application package. Since Chua’s husband is not Asian, she could obviously encourage her children to improve their admissions chances by concealing their ethnic identity during the application process; but this would surely represent an enormous personal humiliation for a proud and highly successful Illinois-born American of Chinese ancestry.

The claim that most elite American universities employ a de facto Asian quota system is certainly an inflammatory charge in our society. Indeed, our media and cultural elites view any accusations of “racial discrimination” as being among the most horrific of all possible charges, sometimes even regarded as more serious than mass murder.35 So before concluding that these accusations are probably true and considering possible social remedies, we should carefully reconsider their plausibility, given that they are largely based upon a mixture of circumstantial statistical evidence and the individual anecdotal cases presented by Golden and a small handful of other critical journalists. One obvious approach is to examine enrollment figures at those universities which for one reason or another may follow a different policy.

According to incoming student test scores and recent percentages of National Merit Scholars, four American universities stand at the absolute summit of average student quality—Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Caltech, the California Institute of Technology; and of these Caltech probably ranks first among equals.36 Those three top Ivies continue to employ the same admissions system which Karabel describes as “opaque,” “flexible,” and allowing enormous “discretion,”37 a system originally established to restrict the admission of high-performing Jews. But Caltech selects its students by strict academic standards, with Golden praising it for being America’s shining example of a purely meritocratic university, almost untouched by the financial or political corruption so widespread in our other elite institutions. And since the beginning of the 1990s, Caltech’s Asian-American enrollment has risen almost exactly in line with the growth of America’s underlying Asian population, with Asians now constituting nearly 40 percent of each class (See chart on p. 18).

Obviously, the Caltech curriculum is narrowly focused on mathematics, science, and engineering, and since Asians tend to be especially strong in those subjects, the enrollment statistics might be somewhat distorted compared to a more academically balanced university. Therefore, we should also consider the enrollment figures for the highly-regarded University of California system, particularly its five most prestigious and selective campuses: Berkeley, UCLA, San Diego, Davis, and Irvine. The 1996 passage of Proposition 209 had outlawed the use of race or ethnicity in admissions decisions, and while administrative compliance has certainly not been absolute—Golden noted the evidence of some continued anti-Asian discrimination—the practices do seem to have moved in the general direction of race-blind meritocracy.38 And the 2011 Asian-American enrollment at those five elite campuses ranged from 34 percent to 49 percent, with a weighted average of almost exactly 40 percent, identical to that of Caltech.39

In considering these statistics, we must take into account that California is one of our most heavily Asian states, containing over one-quarter of the total national population, but also that a substantial fraction of UC students are drawn from other parts of the country. The recent percentage of Asian NMS semifinalists in California has ranged between 55 percent and 60 percent, while for the rest of America the figure is probably closer to 20 percent, so an overall elite-campus UC Asian-American enrollment of around 40 percent seems reasonably close to what a fully meritocratic admissions system might be expected to produce.

By contrast, consider the anomalous admissions statistics for Columbia. New York City contains America’s largest urban Asian population, and Asians are one-third or more of the entire state’s top scoring high school students. Over the last couple of decades, the local Asian population has doubled in size and Asians now constitute over two-thirds of the students attending the most selective local high schools such as Stuyvesant and Bronx Science, perhaps triple the levels during the mid-1980s.40 Yet whereas in 1993 Asians made up 22.7 percent of Columbia’s undergraduates, the total had dropped to 15.6 percent by 2011. These figures seem extremely difficult to explain except as evidence of sharp racial bias.

 


Asian-Americans and Jews

A natural question to consider is the surprising lack of attention this issue seems to have attracted, despite such remarkably telling statistics and several articles over the years in major newspapers by Golden and other prominent journalists. One would think that a widespread practice of racial discrimination by America’s most elite private universities—themselves leading bastions of “Political Correctness” and strident anti-racist ideology—would attract much more public scrutiny, especially given their long prior history of very similar exclusionary policies with regard to Jewish enrollment.41 Without such scrutiny and the political mobilization it generates, the status quo seems unlikely to change.42

Indeed, Karabel convincingly demonstrates that the collapse of the long-standing Jewish quotas in the Ivy League during the decade following World War II only occurred as a result of massive media and political pressure, pressure surely facilitated by very heavy Jewish ownership of America’s major media organs, including all three television networks, eight of nine major Hollywood studios, and many of the leading newspapers, including both the New York Times and the Washington Post. By contrast, Asian-Americans today neither own nor control even a single significant media outlet, and they constitute an almost invisible minority in films, television, radio, and print. For most Americans, what the media does not report simply does not exist, and there is virtually no major media coverage of what appear to be de facto Asian quotas at our top academic institutions.

But before we conclude that our elite media organs are engaging in an enormous “conspiracy of silence” regarding this egregious pattern of racial discrimination at our most prestigious universities, we should explore alternate explanations for these striking results. Perhaps we are considering the evidence from entirely the wrong perspective, and ignoring the most obvious—and relatively innocuous—explanation.

In recent decades, the notion of basing admissions on “colorblind” meritocratic standards such as standardized academic test scores has hardly been an uncontroversial position, with advocates for a fully “diversified” student body being far more prominent within the academic community. Indeed, one of the main attacks against California’s 1996 Proposition 209 was that its requirement of race-neutrality in admissions would destroy the ethnic diversity of California’s higher education system, and the measure was vigorously opposed by the vast majority of vocal university academics, both within that state and throughout the nation. Most leading progressives have long argued that the students selected by our elite institutions should at least roughly approximate the distribution of America’s national population, requiring that special consideration be given to underrepresented or underprivileged groups of all types.

racialtrends2

We must remember that at all the universities discussed above, Asian students are already enrolled in numbers far above their 5 percent share of the national population, and the Iron Law of Arithmetic is that percentages must always total to one hundred. So if additional slots were allocated to Asian applicants, these must necessarily come from some other group, perhaps blacks raised in the ghettos of Detroit or desperately poor Appalachian whites, who might be the first in their families to attend college. These days in America, most Asians are a heavily urbanized, highly affluent population,43 overwhelmingly part of the middle- or upper-middle class, and boosting their Harvard numbers from three times their share of the population up to five or six might not be regarded as the best policy when other groups are far needier. To be sure, the broad racial category “Asian” hides enormous internal complexity—with Chinese, Koreans, and South Asians being far more successful than Filipinos, Vietnamese, or Cambodians—but that is just as true of the equally broad “white” or “Hispanic” labels, which also conceal much more than they reveal.

Furthermore, elite universities explicitly claim to consider a wide range of other admissions factors besides academic performance. Geographical diversity would certainly hurt Asian chances since nearly half their population lives in just the three states of California, New York, and Texas.44 Top athletes gain a strong admissions edge, and few Asians are found in the upper ranks of basketball, football, baseball, and other leading sports, an occasional Jeremy Lin notwithstanding. Since most Asians come from a recent immigrant background, they would rarely receive the “legacy boost” going to students whose families have been attending the Ivy League for generations. And it is perfectly possible that ideological considerations of diversity and equity might make administrators reluctant to allow any particular group to become too heavily over-represented relative to its share of the general population. So perhaps highly-qualified Asians are not being rejected as Asians, but simply due to these pre-existing ideological and structural policies of our top universities, whether or not we happen to agree with them.45 In fact, when an Asian student rejected by Harvard filed a complaint of racial discrimination with the U.S. Department of Education earlier this year, the Harvard Crimson denounced his charges as “ludicrous,” arguing that student diversity was a crucial educational goal and that affirmative action impacted Asians no more than any other applicant group.46

The best means of testing this hypothesis would be to compare Asian admissions with those of a somewhat similar control group. One obvious candidate would be the population of elite East Coast WASPs which once dominated the Ivy League. Members of this group should also be negatively impacted by admissions preferences directed towards applicants from rural or impoverished backgrounds, but there seems considerable anecdotal evidence that they are still heavily over-represented in the Ivy League relative to their academic performance or athletic prowess, strengthening the suspicion that Asian applicants are receiving unfair treatment. However, solid statistical data regarding this elite WASP subpopulation is almost non-existent, and anyway the boundaries of the category are quite imprecise and fluid across generations. For example, the two wealthy Winklevoss twins of Greenwich, Conn. and Harvard Facebook fame might appear to be perfect examples of this social class, but their grandfather actually had an eighth-grade education and came from a long line of impoverished coalminers in rural Pennsylvania.47

Fortunately, an alternate comparison population is readily available, namely that of American Jews,48 a group which is both reasonably well-defined and one which possesses excellent statistical information, gathered by various Jewish organizations and academic scholars. In particular, Hillel, the nationwide Jewish student organization with chapters on most major university campuses, has for decades been providing extensive data on Jewish enrollment levels. Since Karabel’s own historical analysis focuses so very heavily on Jewish admissions, his book also serves as a compendium of useful quantitative data drawn from these and similar sources.49

Once we begin separating out the Jewish portion of Ivy League enrollment, our picture of the overall demographics of the student bodies is completely transformed. Indeed, Karabel opens the final chapter of his book by performing exactly this calculation and noting the extreme irony that the WASP demographic group which had once so completely dominated America’s elite universities and “virtually all the major institutions of American life” had by 2000 become “a small and beleaguered minority at Harvard,” being actually fewer in number than the Jews whose presence they had once sought to restrict.50 Very similar results seem to apply all across the Ivy League, with the disproportion often being even greater than the particular example emphasized by Karabel.

In fact, Harvard reported that 45.0 percent of its undergraduates in 2011 were white Americans, but since Jews were 25 percent of the student body, the enrollment of non-Jewish whites might have been as low as 20 percent, though the true figure was probably somewhat higher.51 The Jewish levels for Yale and Columbia were also around 25 percent, while white Gentiles were 22 percent at the former and just 15 percent at the latter. The remainder of the Ivy League followed this same general pattern.

This overrepresentation of Jews is really quite extraordinary, since the group currently constitutes just 2.1 percent of the general population and about 1.8 percent of college-age Americans.52 Thus, although Asian-American high school graduates each year outnumber their Jewish classmates nearly three-to-one, American Jews are far more numerous at Harvard and throughout the Ivy League. Both groups are highly urbanized, generally affluent, and geographically concentrated within a few states, so the “diversity” factors considered above would hardly seem to apply; yet Jews seem to fare much better at the admissions office.

Even more remarkable are the historical trajectories. As noted earlier, America’s Asian population has been growing rapidly over the last couple of decades, so the substantial decline in reported Ivy League Asian enrollment has actually constituted a huge drop relative to their fraction of the population. Meanwhile, the population of American Jews has been approximately constant in numbers, and aging along with the rest of the white population, leading to a sharp decline in the national proportion of college-age Jews, falling from 2.6 percent in 1972 and 2.2 percent in 1992 to just 1.8 percent in 2012. Nevertheless, total Jewish enrollment at elite universities has held constant or actually increased, indicating a large rise in relative Jewish admissions. In fact, if we aggregate the reported enrollment figures, we discover that 4 percent of all college-age American Jews are currently enrolled in the Ivy League, compared to just 1 percent of Asians and about 0.1 percent of whites of Christian background.53

One reasonable explanation for these remarkable statistics might be that although Asian-Americans are a high-performing academic group, American Jews may be far higher-performing, perhaps not unlikely for an ethnicity that gave the world Einstein, Freud, and so many other prominent intellectual figures. Thus, if we assume that our elite universities reserve a portion of their slots for “diversity” while allocating the remainder based on “academic merit,” Jews might be handily beating Asians (and everyone else) in the latter competition. Indeed, the average Jewish IQ has been widely reported in the range of 110–115, implying a huge abundance of individuals at the upper reaches of the distribution of intellect. So perhaps what had seemed like a clear pattern of anti-Asian discrimination is actually just the workings of academic meritocracy, at least when combined with a fixed allocation of “diversity admissions.”

The easiest means of exploring this hypothesis is to repeat much of our earlier examination of Asian academic performance, but now to include Jews as part of our analysis. Although Jewish names are not quite as absolutely distinctive as East or South Asian ones, they can be determined with reasonably good accuracy, so long as we are careful to note ambiguous cases and recognize that our estimates may easily be off by a small amount; furthermore, we can utilize especially distinctive names as a validation check. But strangely enough, when we perform this sort of analysis, it becomes somewhat difficult to locate major current evidence of the celebrated Jewish intellect and academic achievement discussed at such considerable length by Karabel and many other authors.

For example, consider California, second only to New York in the total number of its Jews, and with its Jewish percentage far above the national average. Over the last couple of years, blogger Steve Sailer and some of his commenters have examined the complete 2010 and 2012 NMS semifinalist lists of the 2000 or so top-scoring California high school seniors for ethnicity, and discovered that as few as 4–5 percent of the names seem to be Jewish, a figure not so dramatically different than the state’s 3.3 percent Jewish population, and an estimate which I have personally confirmed.54 Meanwhile, the state’s 13 percent Asians account for over 57 percent of the top performing students. Thus, it appears that California Asians are perhaps three times as likely as Jews to do extremely well on academic tests, and this result remains unchanged if we adjust for the age distributions of the two populations.

One means of corroborating these surprising results is to consider the ratios of particularly distinctive ethnic names, and Sailer reported such exact findings made by one of his Jewish readers. For example, across the 2000-odd top scoring California students in 2010, there was just a single NMS semifinalist named Cohen, and also one each for Levy, Kaplan, and a last name beginning with “Gold.” Meanwhile, there were 49 Wangs and 36 Kims, plus a vast number of other highly distinctive Asian names. But according to Census data, the combined number of American Cohens and Levys together outnumber the Wangs almost two-to-one, and the same is true for the four most common names beginning with “Gold.” Put another way, California contains nearly one-fifth of all American Jews, hence almost 60,000 Cohens, Kaplans, Levys, Goldens, Goldsteins, Goldbergs, Goldmans, and Golds, and this population produced only 4 NMS semifinalists, a ratio almost identical to that produced by our general last name estimates. The 2012 California NMS semifinalist lists yield approximately the same ratios.

When we consider the apparent number of Jewish students across the NMS semifinalist lists of other major states, we get roughly similar results. New York has always been the center of the American Jewish community, and at 8.4 percent is half again as heavily Jewish as any other state, while probably containing a large fraction of America’s Jewish financial and intellectual elite. Just as we might expect, the 2011 roster of New York NMS semifinalists is disproportionately filled with Jewish names, constituting about 21 percent of the total, a ratio twice as high as for any other state whose figures are available. But even here, New York’s smaller and much less affluent Asian population is far better represented, providing around 34 percent of the top scoring students. Jews and Asians are today about equal in number within New York City but whereas a generation ago, elite local public schools such as Stuyvesant were very heavily Jewish, today Jews are outnumbered at least several times over by Asians.55

This same pattern of relative Asian and Jewish performance on aptitude exams generally appears in the other major states whose recent NMS semifinalist lists I have located and examined, though there is considerable individual variability, presumably due to the particular local characteristics of the Asian and Jewish populations. Across six years of Florida results, Asian students are more than twice as likely to be high scorers compared to their Jewish classmates, with the disparity being nearly as great in Pennsylvania. The relative advantage of Asians is a huge factor of 5.0 in Michigan and 4.1 in Ohio, while in Illinois Asians still do 150 percent as well as Jews. Among our largest states, only in Texas is the Asian performance as low as 120 percent, although Jews are the group that actually does much better in several smaller states, usually those in which the Jewish population is tiny.

As noted earlier, NMS semifinalist lists are available for a total of twenty-five states, including the eight largest, which together contain 75 percent of our national population, as well as 81 percent of American Jews and 80 percent of Asian-Americans, and across this total population Asians are almost twice as likely to be top scoring students as Jews. Extrapolating these results to the nation as a whole would produce a similar ratio, especially when we consider that Asian-rich California has among the toughest NMS semifinalist qualification thresholds. Meanwhile, the national number of Jewish semifinalists comes out at less than 6 percent of the total based on direct inspection of the individual names, with estimates based on either the particularly distinctive names considered by Sailer or the full set of such highly distinctive names used by Weyl yielding entirely consistent figures. Weyl had also found this same relative pattern of high Jewish academic performance being greatly exceeded by even higher Asian performance, with Koreans and Chinese being three or four times as likely as Jews to reach NMS semifinalist status in the late 1980s, though the overall Asian numbers were still quite small at the time.56

Earlier we had noted that the tests used to select NMS semifinalists actually tilted substantially against Asian students by double-weighting verbal skills and excluding visuospatial ability, but in the case of Jews this same testing-bias has exactly the opposite impact. Jewish ability tends to be exceptionally strong in its verbal component and mediocre at best in the visuospatial,57 so the NMS semifinalist selection methodology would seem ideally designed to absolutely maximize the number of high-scoring Jews compared to other whites or (especially) East Asians. Thus, the number of high-ability Jews we are finding should be regarded as an extreme upper bound to a more neutrally-derived total.

But suppose these estimates are correct, and Asians overall are indeed twice as likely as Jews to rank among America’s highest performing students. We must also consider that America’s Asian population is far larger in size, representing roughly 5 percent of college-age students, compared to just 1.8 percent for Jews. Therefore, assuming an admissions system based on strictest objective meritocracy, we would expect our elite academic institutions to contain nearly five Asians for every Jew; but instead, the Jews are far more numerous, in some important cases by almost a factor of two. This raises obvious suspicions about the fairness of the Ivy League admissions process.

Once again, we can turn to the enrollment figures for strictly meritocratic Caltech as a test of our estimates. The campus is located in the Los Angeles area, home to one of America’s largest and most successful Jewish communities, and Jews have traditionally been strongly drawn to the natural sciences. Indeed, at least three of Caltech’s last six presidents have been of Jewish origin, and the same is true for two of its most renowned faculty members, theoretical physics Nobel Laureates Richard Feynman and Murray Gell-Mann. But Caltech’s current undergraduates are just 5.5 percent Jewish, and the figure seems to have been around this level for some years; meanwhile, Asian enrollment is 39 percent, or seven times larger. It is intriguing that the school which admits students based on the strictest, most objective academic standards has by a very wide margin the lowest Jewish enrollment for any elite university.

Let us next turn to the five most selective campuses of the University of California system, whose admissions standards shifted substantially toward objective meritocracy following the 1996 passage of Prop. 209. The average Jewish enrollment is just over 8 percent, or roughly one-third that of the 25 percent found at Harvard and most of the Ivy League, whose admissions standards are supposedly far tougher. Meanwhile, some 40 percent of the students on these UC campuses are Asian, a figure almost five times as high. Once again, almost no elite university in the country has a Jewish enrollment as low as the average for these highly selective UC campuses.58

Another interesting example is MIT, whose students probably rank fifth in academic strength, just below the three HYP schools and Caltech, and whose admissions standards are far closer to a meritocratic ideal than is found in most elite schools, though perhaps not quite as pristine as those of its Caltech rival. Karabel notes that MIT has always had a far more meritocratic admissions system than nearby Harvard, tending to draw those students who were academic stars even if socially undistinguished. As an example, in the 1930s Feynman had been rejected by his top choice of Columbia possibly due to its Jewish quota, and instead enrolled at MIT.59 But today, MIT’s enrollment is just 9 percent Jewish, a figure lower than that anywhere in the Ivy League, while Asians are nearly three times as numerous, despite the school being located in one of the most heavily Jewish parts of the country.

 


The Strange Collapse of Jewish Academic Achievement

From my own perspective, I found these statistical results surprising, even shocking.

I had always been well aware of the very heavy Jewish presence at elite academic institutions. But the underwhelming percentage of Jewish students who today achieve high scores on academic aptitude tests was totally unexpected, and very different from the impressions I had formed during my own high school and college years a generation or so ago. An examination of other available statistics seems to support my recollections and provides evidence for a dramatic recent decline in the academic performance of American Jews

The U.S. Math Olympiad began in 1974, and all the names of the top scoring students are easily available on the Internet. During the 1970s, well over 40 percent of the total were Jewish, and during the 1980s and 1990s, the fraction averaged about one-third. However, during the thirteen years since 2000, just two names out of 78 or 2.5 percent appear to be Jewish. The Putnam Exam is the most difficult and prestigious mathematics competition for American college students, with five or six Putnam winners having been selected each year since 1938. Over 40 percent of the Putnam winners prior to 1950 were Jewish, and during every decade from the 1950s through the 1990s, between 22 percent and 31 percent of the winners seem to have come from that same ethnic background. But since 2000, the percentage has dropped to under 10 percent, without a single likely Jewish name in the last seven years.

This consistent picture of stark ethnic decline recurs when we examine the statistics for the Science Talent Search, which has been selecting 40 students as national finalists for America’s most prestigious high school science award since 1942, thus providing a huge statistical dataset of over 2800 top science students. During every decade from the 1950s through the 1980s, Jewish students were consistently 22–23 percent of the recipients, with the percentage then declining to 17 percent in the 1990s, 15 percent in the 2000s, and just 7 percent since 2010. Indeed, of the thirty top ranked students over the last three years, only a single one seems likely to have been Jewish. Similarly, Jews were over one-quarter of the top students in the Physics Olympiad from 1986 to 1997, but have fallen to just 5 percent over the last decade, a result which must surely send Richard Feynman spinning in his grave.

Other science competitions provide generally consistent recent results, though without the long track record allowing useful historical comparisons. Over the last dozen years, just 8 percent of the top students in the Biology Olympiad have been Jewish, with none in the last three years. Between 1992 and 2012, only 11 percent of the winners of the Computing Olympiad had Jewish names, as did just 8 percent of the Siemens AP Award winners. And although I have only managed to locate the last two years of Chemistry Olympiad winners, these lists of 40 top students contained not a single probable Jewish name.

Further evidence is supplied by Weyl, who estimated that over 8 percent of the 1987 NMS semifinalists were Jewish,60 a figure 35 percent higher than found in today’s results. Moreover, in that period the math and verbal scores were weighted equally for qualification purposes, but after 1997 the verbal score was double-weighted,61 which should have produced a large rise in the number of Jewish semifinalists, given the verbal-loading of Jewish ability. But instead, today’s Jewish numbers are far below those of the late 1980s.

Taken in combination, these trends all provide powerful evidence that over the last decade or more there has been a dramatic collapse in Jewish academic achievement, at least at the high end.

Several possible explanations for this empirical result seem reasonably plausible. Although the innate potential of a group is unlikely to drop so suddenly, achievement is a function of both ability and effort, and today’s overwhelmingly affluent Jewish students may be far less diligent in their work habits or driven in their studies than were their parents or grandparents, who lived much closer to the bracing challenges of the immigrant experience. In support of this hypothesis, roughly half of the Jewish Math Olympiad winners from the last two decades have had the sort of highly distinctive names which would tend to mark them as recent immigrants from the Soviet Union or elsewhere, and such names were also very common among the top Jewish science students of the same period, even though this group represents only about 10 percent of current American Jews. Indeed, it seems quite possible that this large sudden influx of very high performing immigrant Jews from the late 1980s onward served to partially mask the rapid concurrent decline of high academic achievement among native American Jews, which otherwise would have become much more clearly evident a decade or so earlier.

This pattern of third or fourth generation American students lacking the academic drive or intensity of their forefathers is hardly surprising, nor unique to Jews. Consider the case of Japanese-Americans, who mostly arrived in America during roughly the same era. America’s Japanese have always been a high-performing group, with a strong academic tradition, and Japan’s international PISA academic scores are today among the highest in the world. But when we examine the list of California’s NMS semifinalists, less than 1 percent of the names are Japanese, roughly in line with their share of the California population.62 Meanwhile, Chinese, Koreans, and South Asians are 6 percent of California but contribute 50 percent of the top scoring students, an eight-fold better result, with a major likely difference being that they are overwhelmingly of recent immigrant origin. In fact, although ongoing Japanese immigration has been trivial in size, a significant fraction of the top Japanese students have the unassimilated Japanese first names that would tend to indicate they are probably drawn from that tiny group.

In his 1966 book The Creative Elite in America, Weyl used last name analysis to document a similarly remarkable collapse in achievement among America’s Puritan-descended population, which had once provided a hugely disproportionate fraction of our intellectual leadership, but for various reasons went into rapid decline from about 1900 onward. He also mentions the disappearance of the remarkable Scottish intellectual contribution to British life after about 1800. Although the evidence for both these historical parallels seems very strong, the causal factors are not entirely clear, though Weyl does provide some possible explanations.63

In some respects, perhaps it was the enormously outsize Jewish academic performance of the past which was highly anomalous, and the more recent partial convergence toward white European norms which is somewhat less surprising. Over the years, claims have been widely circulated that the mean Jewish IQ is a full standard deviation—15 points—above the white average of 100,64 but this seems to have little basis in reality. Richard Lynn, one of the world’s foremost IQ experts, has performed an exhaustive literature review and located some 32 IQ samples of American Jews, taken from 1920 to 2008. For the first 14 studies conducted during the years 1920–1937, the Jewish IQ came out very close to the white American mean, and it was only in later decades that the average figure rose to the approximate range of 107–111.65

In a previous article “Race, IQ & Wealth,” I had suggested that the IQs of ethnic groups appear to be far more malleable than many people would acknowledge, and may be particularly influenced by factors of urbanization, education, and affluence.66 Given that Jews have always been America’s most heavily urbanized population and became the most affluent during the decades in question, these factors may account for a substantial portion of their huge IQ rise during most of the twentieth century. But with modern electronic technology recently narrowing the gaps in social environment and educational opportunities between America’s rural and urban worlds, we might expect a portion of this difference to gradually dissipate. American Jews are certainly a high-ability population, but the innate advantage they have over other high-ability white populations is probably far smaller than is widely believed.

This conclusion is supported by the General Social Survey (GSS), an online dataset of tens of thousands of American survey responses from the last forty years which includes the Wordsum vocabulary test, a very useful IQ proxy correlating at 0.71. Converted into the corresponding IQ scores, the Wordsum-IQ of Jews is indeed quite high at 109. But Americans of English, Welsh, Scottish, Swedish, and Catholic Irish ancestry also have fairly high mean IQs of 104 or above, and their combined populations outnumber Jews by almost 15-to-1, implying that they would totally dominate the upper reaches of the white American ability distribution, even if we excluded the remaining two-thirds of all American whites, many of whose IQs are also fairly high. Furthermore, all these groups are far less highly urbanized or affluent than Jews,67 probably indicating that their scores are still artificially depressed to some extent. We should also remember that Jewish intellectual performance tends to be quite skewed, being exceptionally strong in the verbal subcomponent, much lower in math, and completely mediocre in visuospatial ability; thus, a completely verbal-oriented test such as Wordsum would actually tend to exaggerate Jewish IQ.

Stratifying the white American population along religious lines produces similar conclusions. An analysis of the data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth found that Americans raised in the Episcopal Church actually exceeded Jews in mean IQ, while several other religious categories came quite close, leading to the result that the overwhelming majority of America’s high-ability white population had a non-Jewish background.68

Finally, in the case of Jews, these assimilation- or environment-related declines in relative academic performance may have been reinforced by powerful demographic trends. For the last generation or two, typical Jewish women from successful or even ordinary families have married very late and averaged little more than a single child, while the small fraction of Jewish women who are ultra-Orthodox often marry in their teens and then produce seven or eight children.69 As a consequence, this extremely religious subpopulation has been doubling in size every twenty years, and now easily exceeds 10 percent of the total, including a far higher percentage of younger Jews. But ultra-Orthodox Jews have generally been academically mediocre, often with enormously high rates of poverty and government dependency.70 Therefore, the combination of these two radically different trends of Jewish reproduction has acted to stabilize the total number of Jewish youngsters, while probably producing a sharp drop in their average academic achievement.

 


Meritocracy vs. Jews

Although the relative importance of these individual factors behind Jewish academic decline is unclear, the decline itself seems an unmistakable empirical fact, and the widespread unawareness of this fact has had important social consequences.

My casual mental image of today’s top American students is based upon my memories of a generation or so ago, when Jewish students, sometimes including myself, regularly took home a quarter or more of the highest national honors on standardized tests or in prestigious academic competitions; thus, it seemed perfectly reasonable that Harvard and most of the other Ivy League schools might be 25 percent Jewish, based on meritocracy. But the objective evidence indicates that in present day America, only about 6 percent of our top students are Jewish, which now renders such very high Jewish enrollments at elite universities totally absurd and ridiculous. I strongly suspect that a similar time lag effect is responsible for the apparent confusion in many others who have considered the topic.

For example, throughout his very detailed book, Karabel always seems to automatically identify increasing Jewish enrollments with academic meritocracy, and Jewish declines with bias or discrimination, retaining this assumption even when his discussion moves into the 1990s and 2000s. He was born in 1950, graduated Harvard in 1972, and returned there to earn his Ph.D. in 1977, so this may indeed have been the reality during his formative years.71 But he seems strikingly unaware that the world has changed since then, and that over the last decade or two, meritocracy and Jewish numbers have become opposing forces: the stricter the meritocratic standard, the fewer the Jews admitted.

Most of my preceding analysis has focused on the comparison of Asians with Jews, and I have pointed out that based on factors of objective academic performance and population size, we would expect Asians to outnumber Jews by perhaps five to one at our top national universities; instead, the total Jewish numbers across the Ivy League are actually 40 percent higher. This implies that Jewish enrollment is roughly 600 percent greater relative to Asians than should be expected under a strictly meritocratic admissions system.

Obviously, all these types of analysis may be applied just as easily to a comparison of Jews with non-Jewish whites, and the results turn out to be equally striking. The key factor is that although Jewish academic achievement has apparently plummeted in recent decades, non-Jewish whites seem to have remained relatively unchanged in their performance, which might be expected in such a large and diverse population. As a consequence, the relative proportions of top-performing students have undergone a dramatic shift.

We must bear in mind that the official U.S. Census category of “Non-Hispanic white” (which I will henceforth label “white”) is something of an ethnic hodgepodge, encompassing all the various white European ancestry groups, as well as a substantial admixture of North Africans, Middle Easterners, Iranians, Turks, Armenians, and Afghans. It amounts to everyone who is not black, Hispanic, Asian, or American Indian, and currently includes an estimated 63 percent of all Americans.

Determining the number of whites among NMS semifinalists or winners of various academic competitions is relatively easy. Both Asian and Hispanic names are quite distinctive, and their numbers can be estimated by the methods already discussed. Meanwhile, blacks are substantially outnumbered by Hispanics and they have much weaker academic performance, so they would produce far fewer very high scoring students. Therefore, we can approximate the number of whites by merely subtracting the number of Asian and Hispanic names as well as an estimated black total based on the latter figure, and then determine the number of white Gentiles by also subtracting the Jewish total.

Once we do this and compare the Jewish and non-Jewish white totals for various lists of top academic performers, we notice a striking pattern, with the historical ratios once ranging from near-equality to about one-in-four up until the recent collapse in Jewish performance. For example, among Math Olympiad winners, white Gentiles scarcely outnumbered Jews during the 1970s, and held only a three-to-two edge during the 1980s and 1990s, but since 2000 have become over fifteen times as numerous. Between 1938 and 1999, Putnam Exam winners had averaged about two white Gentiles for every Jew, with the ratios for each decade oscillating between 1.5 and 3.0, then rising to nearly 5-to-1 during 2001–2005, and without a single Jewish name on the winner list from 2006 onward.

The elite science competitions follow a broadly similar pattern. Non-Jewish whites had only outnumbered Jews 2-to-1 among the Physics Olympiad winners during 1986–1997, but the ratio rose to at least 7-to-1 during 2002–2012. Meanwhile, white Gentiles were more numerous by nearly 6-to-1 among 1992–2012 Computing Olympiad winners, 4-to-1 among the 2002–2011 Siemens AP Award winners, and over 3-to-1 among 2003–2012 Biology Olympiad champions. Across the sixty-odd years of America’s Science Talent Search, Jews had regularly been named finalists at a relative rate fifteen- or even twenty-times that of their white Gentile classmates, but over the last decade or so, this has dropped by half.

The evidence of the recent NMS semifinalist lists seems the most conclusive of all, given the huge statistical sample sizes involved. As discussed earlier, these students constitute roughly the highest 0.5 percent in academic ability, the top 16,000 high school seniors who should be enrolling at the Ivy League and America’s other most elite academic universities. In California, white Gentile names outnumber Jewish ones by over 8-to-1; in Texas, over 20-to-1; in Florida and Illinois, around 9-to-1. Even in New York, America’s most heavily Jewish state, there are more than two high-ability white Gentile students for every Jewish one. Based on the overall distribution of America’s population, it appears that approximately 65–70 percent of America’s highest ability students are non-Jewish whites, well over ten times the Jewish total of under 6 percent.

Needless to say, these proportions are considerably different from what we actually find among the admitted students at Harvard and its elite peers, which today serve as a direct funnel to the commanding heights of American academics, law, business, and finance. Based on reported statistics, Jews approximately match or even outnumber non-Jewish whites at Harvard and most of the other Ivy League schools, which seems wildly disproportionate. Indeed, the official statistics indicate that non-Jewish whites at Harvard are America’s most under-represented population group, enrolled at a much lower fraction of their national population than blacks or Hispanics, despite having far higher academic test scores.

 

When examining statistical evidence, the proper aggregation of data is critical. Consider the ratio of the recent 2007–2011 enrollment of Asian students at Harvard relative to their estimated share of America’s recent NMS semifinalists, a reasonable proxy for the high-ability college-age population, and compare this result to the corresponding figure for whites. The Asian ratio is 63 percent, slightly above the white ratio of 61 percent, with both these figures being considerably below parity due to the substantial presence of under-represented racial minorities such as blacks and Hispanics, foreign students, and students of unreported race. Thus, there appears to be no evidence for racial bias against Asians, even excluding the race-neutral impact of athletic recruitment, legacy admissions, and geographical diversity.

However, if we separate out the Jewish students, their ratio turns out to be 435 percent, while the residual ratio for non-Jewish whites drops to just 28 percent, less than half of even the Asian figure. As a consequence, Asians appear under-represented relative to Jews by a factor of seven, while non-Jewish whites are by far the most under-represented group of all, despite any benefits they might receive from athletic, legacy, or geographical distribution factors. The rest of the Ivy League tends to follow a similar pattern, with the overall Jewish ratio being 381 percent, the Asian figure at 62 percent, and the ratio for non-Jewish whites a low 35 percent, all relative to their number of high-ability college-age students.

Just as striking as these wildly disproportionate current numbers have been the longer enrollment trends. In the three decades since I graduated Harvard, the presence of white Gentiles has dropped by as much as 70 percent, despite no remotely comparable decline in the relative size or academic performance of that population; meanwhile, the percentage of Jewish students has actually increased. This period certainly saw a very rapid rise in the number of Asian, Hispanic, and foreign students, as well as some increase in blacks. But it seems rather odd that all of these other gains would have come at the expense of whites of Christian background, and none at the expense of Jews.

Furthermore, the Harvard enrollment changes over the last decade have been even more unusual when we compare them to changes in the underlying demographics. Between 2000 and 2011, the relative percentage of college-age blacks enrolled at Harvard dropped by 18 percent, along with declines of 13 percent for Asians and 11 percent for Hispanics, while only whites increased, expanding their relative enrollment by 16 percent. However, this is merely an optical illusion: in fact, the figure for non-Jewish whites slightly declined, while the relative enrollment of Jews increased by over 35 percent, probably reaching the highest level in Harvard’s entire history. Thus, the relative presence of Jews rose sharply while that of all other groups declined, and this occurred during exactly the period when the once-remarkable academic performance of Jewish high school students seemed to suddenly collapse.

Most of the other Ivy League schools appear to follow a fairly similar trajectory. Between 1980 and 2011, the official figures indicate that non-Jewish white enrollment dropped by 63 percent at Yale, 44 percent at Princeton, 52 percent at Dartmouth, 69 percent at Columbia, 62 percent at Cornell, 66 percent at Penn, and 64 percent at Brown. If we confine our attention to the last decade or so, the relative proportion of college-age non-Jewish whites enrolled at Yale has dropped 23 percent since 2000, with drops of 28 percent at Princeton, 18 percent at Dartmouth, 19 percent at Columbia and Penn, 24 percent at Cornell, and 23 percent at Brown. For most of these universities, non-white groups have followed a mixed pattern, mostly increasing but with some substantial drops. I have only located yearly Jewish enrollment percentages back to 2006, but during the six years since then, there is a uniform pattern of often substantial rises: increases of roughly 25 percent at Yale, 45 percent at Columbia, 10 percent at Cornell, 15 percent at Brown, and no declines anywhere.

Fourteen years ago I published a widely-discussed column in the Wall Street Journal highlighting some of the absurdities of our affirmative action system in higher education.72 In particular, I pointed out that although Jews and Asians then totaled merely 5 percent of the American population, they occupied nearly 50 percent of the slots at Harvard and most of the other elite Ivies, while non-Jewish whites were left as the most under-represented student population, with relative numbers below those of blacks or Hispanics. Since then Jewish academic achievement has seemingly collapsed but relative Jewish enrollment in the Ivies has generally risen, while the exact opposite combination has occurred for both Asians and non-Jewish whites. I find this a strange and unexpected development.

 

It is important to recognize that all of these enrollment statistics are far less precise than we might ideally desire. As mentioned earlier, over the last couple of decades widespread perceptions of racial bias in admissions have led a significant number of students to refuse to reveal their race, which the official statistics classify as “race unknown.” This group almost certainly consists of Asians and whites, but it is impossible for us to determine the relative proportions, and without this information our above estimates can only be approximate.

Similarly, nearly all our figures on Jewish enrollment were ultimately drawn from the estimates of Hillel, the national Jewish campus organization, and these are obviously approximate. However, the Hillel data is the best we possess for recent decades, and is regularly used by the New York Times and other prominent media outlets, while also serving as the basis for much of Karabel’s award-winning scholarship. Furthermore, so long as any latent bias in the data remained relatively constant, we could still correctly analyze changes over time.

For these sorts of reasons, any of the individual figures provided above should be treated with great caution, but the overall pattern of enrollments—statistics compiled over years and decades and across numerous different universities—seems likely to provide an accurate description of reality.

 


Elite Colleges Look Neither Like America Nor Like America’s Highest-Ability Students

We are therefore faced with the clear conundrum that Jewish students seem to constitute roughly 6 percent of America’s highest-ability high school graduates and non-Jewish whites around 65–70 percent, but these relative ratios differ by perhaps 1000 percent from the enrollments we actually find at Harvard and the other academic institutions which select America’s future elites. Meanwhile, an ethnic distribution much closer to this apparent ability-ratio is found at Caltech, whose admissions are purely meritocratic, unlike the completely opaque, subjective, and discretionary Ivy League system so effectively described by Karabel, Golden, and others.

One obvious explanatory factor is that the Ivy League is located in the Northeast, a region of the country in which the Jewish fraction of the population is more than twice the national average. However, these schools also constitute America’s leading national universities, so their geographical intake is quite broad, with Harvard drawing less than 40 percent of its American students from its own region, and the others similarly tending to have a nationally distributed enrollment. So this factor would probably explain only a small portion of the discrepancy. Furthermore, MIT utilizes a considerably more meritocratic and objective admissions system than Harvard, and although located just a few miles away has a ratio of Jewish to non-Jewish whites which differs by nearly a factor of four in favor of the latter compared to its crosstown rival.

By the late 1960s Jewish students had become a substantial fraction of most Ivy League schools and today some of their children may be benefiting from legacies. But until about twenty-five years ago, white Gentiles outnumbered their Jewish classmates perhaps as much as 3-to-1, so if anything we might expect the admissions impact of legacies to still favor the former group. Anyway, the research of Espenshade and his colleagues have shown that being a legacy provides an admissions advantage in the range of 19–26 percent,73 while we are attempting to explain enrollment differences of roughly 1000 percent.

American Jews are certainly more affluent than most other groups, but all Ivy League universities admit their American students on a “need-blind” basis, so perceptions of ability to pay cannot be a factor, even if any evidence existed that Jewish applicants were actually wealthier than their non-Jewish counterparts. Many Jewish alumni are very generous to their alma maters, but so are non-Jews, and indeed nine of the ten largest university donations in history have come from non-Jewish individuals, nearly all in the last fifteen years;74 thus, mercenary hopes of large future bequests would probably not be influencing these skewed admissions.

Perhaps Jews simply apply to these schools in far greater relative numbers, with successful, educationally-ambitious Jewish families being much more likely to encourage their bright children to aim at the Ivies than the parents of equally bright non-Jews. However, since these elite schools release no information regarding the ethnic or racial skew of their applications, we have no evidence for this hypothesis. And why would high-ability non-Jews be 600 percent or 800 percent more likely to apply to Caltech and MIT than to those other elite schools, which tend to have a far higher national profile?

Anyway, the numbers alone render this explanation implausible. Each year, the Ivy League colleges enroll almost 10,000 American whites and Asians, of whom over 3000 are Jewish. Meanwhile, each year the NMS Corporation selects and publicly names America’s highest-ability 16,000 graduating seniors; of these, fewer than 1000 are Jewish, while almost 15,000 are non-Jewish whites and Asians. Even if every single one of these high-ability Jewish students applied to and enrolled at the Ivy League—with none going to any of America’s other 3000 colleges—Ivy League admissions officers are obviously still dipping rather deep into the lower reaches of the Jewish ability-pool, instead of easily drawing from some 15,000 other publicly identified candidates of far greater ability but different ethnicity. Why would these universities not simply send out inexpensive mailings to these 15,000 top students, encouraging them to apply, especially since their geographical, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds might help to considerably “diversify” undergraduate enrollments, while greatly raising the average student test scores by which these universities supposedly live or die in the competitive college-rankings.

The situation becomes even stranger when we focus on Harvard, which this year accepted fewer than 6 percent of over 34,000 applicants and whose offers of admission are seldom refused. Each Harvard class includes roughly 400 Jews and 800 Asians and non-Jewish whites; this total represents over 40 percent of America’s highest-ability Jewish students, but merely 5 percent of their equally high-ability non-Jewish peers. It is quite possible that a larger percentage of these top Jewish students apply and decide to attend than similar members from these other groups, but it seems wildly implausible that such causes could account for roughly an eight-fold difference in apparent admissions outcome. Harvard’s stated “holistic” admissions policy explicitly takes into account numerous personal characteristics other than straight academic ability, including sports and musical talent. But it seems very unlikely that any remotely neutral application of these principles could produce admissions results whose ethnic skew differs so widely from the underlying meritocratic ratios.

One datapoint strengthening this suspicion of admissions bias has been the plunge in the number of Harvard’s entering National Merit Scholars, a particularly select ability group, which dropped by almost 40 percent between 2002 and 2011, falling from 396 to 248. This exact period saw a collapse in Jewish academic achievement combined with a sharp rise in Jewish Harvard admissions, which together might easily help to explain Harvard’s strange decline in this important measure of highest student quality.

Harvard could obviously fill its entire class with high-scoring valedictorians or National Merit Scholars but chooses not to do so. In 2003, Harvard rejected well over half of all applicants with perfect SAT scores, up from rejecting a quarter a few years earlier, and in 2010 Princeton acknowledged it also admitted only about half.75 According to Harvard’s dean of admissions, “With the SAT, small differences of 50 or 100 points or more have no significant effect on admissions decisions.”76 In fact, a former Senior Admissions Officer at Harvard has claimed that by the mid-2000s as few as 5 percent of the students at highly selective universities such as his own were admitted purely based on academic merit.77

It is important to note that these current rejection rates of top scoring applicants are vastly higher than during the 1950s or 1960s, when Harvard admitted six of every seven such students and Princeton adopted a 1959 policy in which no high scoring applicant could be refused admission without a detailed review by a faculty committee.78 An obvious indication of Karabel’s obtuseness is that he describes and condemns the anti-meritocratic policies of the past without apparently noticing that they have actually become far worse today. An admissions framework in which academic merit is not the prime consideration may be directly related to the mystery of why Harvard’s ethnic skew differs in such extreme fashion from that of America’s brightest graduating seniors. In fact, Harvard’s apparent preference for academically weak Jewish applicants seems to be reflected in their performance once they arrive on campus.79

 

Having considered and largely eliminated these several possible explanatory factors, we can only speculate as to the true causes of such seemingly anomalous enrollment statistics at our Ivy League universities. However, we cannot completely exclude the possible explanation that these other top students are simply not wanted at such elite institutions, perhaps because their entrance in large numbers might drastically transform the current ethnic and cultural mix. After all, Karabel devoted hundreds of pages of his text to documenting exactly this pattern of Ivy League admissions behavior during the 1920s and 1930s, so why should we be surprised if it continues today, at least at an unconscious level, but simply with the polarities reversed?

It would be unreasonable to ignore the salient fact that this massive apparent bias in favor of far less-qualified Jewish applicants coincides with an equally massive ethnic skew at the topmost administrative ranks of the universities in question, a situation which once again exactly parallels Karabel’s account from the 1920s. Indeed, Karabel points out that by 1993 Harvard, Yale, and Princeton all had presidents of Jewish ancestry,80 and the same is true for the current presidents of Yale, Penn, Cornell, and possibly Columbia, as well as Princeton’s president throughout during the 1990s and Yale’s new incoming president, while all three of Harvard’s most recent presidents have either had Jewish origins or a Jewish spouse.81

At most universities, a provost is the second-ranking official, being responsible for day-to-day academic operations. Although Princeton’s current president is not Jewish, all seven of the most recent Princeton provosts stretching back to 1977 have had such ancestry, with several of the other Ivies not being far behind.82 A similar degree of massive overrepresentation is found throughout the other top administrative ranks of the rest of the Ivy League, and across American leading educational institutions in general, and these are the institutions which select our future national elites.

I have not the slightest reason to doubt that the overwhelming majority of these individuals are honest and sincere, and attempt to do their best for their institutions and their students. But as our liberal intellectual elites regularly emphasize, unconscious biases or shared assumptions can become a huge but unnoticed problem when decision-making occurs within a very narrow circle, whose extreme “non-diversity” may lead to lack of introspection, and what else can be said when for the last two decades almost all of the leaders of our most elite universities have been drawn from an ethnic community constituting just 2 percent of America’s population?

As a perfect example of such a situation, consider an amusing incident from the mid-1980s, when Asian groups first noticed a sharp decline in Asian admissions rates to Harvard and accused the university of having begun a quiet effort to restrict Asian numbers, criticism which was vigorously resisted by senior Harvard officials. During this period, Henry Rosovsky, Harvard’s Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (and later Acting President), referred to Asian American students as “no doubt the most over-represented group in the university.”83 At that point, Harvard’s Asian students were enrolled at 300 percent of parity, while those of Rosovsky’s own ethnicity were probably at 900 percent or more of parity.84

Unconscious biases may become especially serious when combined with an admissions system based on the extreme flexibility and subjectivity that exists at these colleges. As mentioned, three of Caltech’s last six presidents have been of Jewish origins, but the objective admissions system has produced no sign of ethnic favoritism, and largely meritocratic MIT also seems unaffected by having had two Jewish presidents of the last five.85 But when machinery already exists for admitting or rejecting whomever a university wishes, on any grounds whatsoever, that machinery may be unconsciously steered in a particular direction by the shared group biases of the individuals controlling it.

 


The Disturbing Reality of the Elite College Admission System

Perhaps the most detailed statistical research into the actual admissions practices of American universities has been conducted by Princeton sociology professor Thomas J. Espenshade and his colleagues, whose results were summarized in his 2009 book No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal, co-authored with Alexandria Walton Radford. Their findings provide an empirical look at the individual factors that dramatically raise or lower the likelihood of acceptance into the leading American universities which select the next generation of our national elites.

The research certainly supports the widespread perception that non-academic factors play a major role in the process, including athletic ability and “legacy” status. But as we saw earlier, even more significant are racial factors, with black ancestry being worth the equivalent of 310 points, Hispanics gaining 130 points, and Asian students being penalized by 140 points, all relative to white applicants on the 1600 point Math and Reading SAT scale. 86

Universities always emphasize the importance of non-academic (and subjective) “leadership traits” as a central reason why they do not rely upon grades and academic test scores to select at least their white students, arguing that evidence of such personal initiative and leadership should often outweigh somewhat lower academic performance in predicting future success and value to our society. And on the face of it, these claims may seem plausible.

But the difficulty comes from the fact that such subjective factors must necessarily be assessed subjectively, by the particular individuals sitting in the Yale or Columbia admissions offices, and their cultural or ideological background may heavily taint their decision-making. One of Ephanshade’s most striking findings was that excelling in certain types of completely mainstream high school activities actually reduced a student’s admission chances by 60–65 percent, apparently because teenagers with such interests were regarded with considerable disfavor by the sort of people employed in admissions; these were ROTC, 4-H Clubs, Future Farmers of America, and various similar organizations.87 Consider that these reported activities were totally mainstream, innocuous, and non-ideological, yet might easily get an applicant rejected, presumably for being cultural markers. When we recognize the overwhelmingly liberal orientation of nearly all our elite universities and the large communities of academics and administrators they employ, we can easily imagine what might become of any applicants who proudly proclaimed their successful leadership roles in an activity associated with conservative Christianity or rightwing politics as their extracurricular claim to fame.

Our imagination is given substance by The Gatekeepers, a fascinating and very disturbing inside look at the admissions system of Wesleyan, an elite liberal arts college in Middleton, Conn. The author was Jacques Steinberg, a veteran National Education Correspondent at the New York Times, and now its editor focusing on college admissions issues. Although Wesleyan definitely ranks a notch or so below the Ivies in selectivity, Steinberg strongly suggests that the admissions decision-making process is very similar, and while his 2002 book described the selection of the Fall 2000 entering class, his afterword to the 2012 edition states that the overall process has remained largely unchanged down to the present day. Whether or not Steinberg himself recognizes it, the most striking fact—which would surely shock students almost anywhere else in the Developed World—is the enormous focus on ideology and ethnic background compared to academic achievement or evidence of intellectual ability, as well as the powerful role of “connections” and clout.

Consider the case of Tiffany Wang, a Chinese immigrant student raised in the Silicon Valley area, where her father worked as an engineer. Although English was not her first language, her SAT scores were over 100 points above the Wesleyan average, and she ranked as a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, putting her in the top 0.5 percent of high school students (not the top 2 percent as Steinberg mistakenly claims). Nevertheless, the admissions officer rated her just so-so in academics, and seemed far more positively impressed by her ethnic activism in the local school’s Asian-American club. Ultimately, he stamped her with a “Reject,” but later admitted to Steinberg that she might have been admitted if he had been aware of the enormous time and effort she had spent campaigning against the death penalty, a political cause near and dear to his own heart. Somehow I suspect that a student who boasted of leadership in pro-death penalty activism among his extracurriculars might have fared rather worse in this process. And presumably for similar reasons, Tiffany was also rejected by all her other prestigious college choices, including Yale, Penn, Duke, and Wellesley, an outcome which greatly surprised and disappointed her immigrant father.88

There was also the case of half-Brazilian Julianna Bentes, with slight black ancestry, who came from a middle-class family and attended on a partial scholarship one of America’s most elite prep schools, whose annual tuition now tops $30,000; her SAT scores were somewhat higher than Tiffany’s, and she was an excellent dancer. The combination of her academic ability, dancing talent, and “multiracial” background ranked her as one of America’s top college recruitment prospects, gaining her admission and generous financial packages from Harvard, Yale, Stanford and every other elite university to which she applied, including the University of Chicago’s most prestigious academic scholarship award and a personal opportunity to meet Chelsea Clinton while visiting Stanford, which she did, before ultimately selecting Yale.89

Finally, there was the case of Becca Jannol, a girl from a very affluent Jewish family near Beverly Hills, who attended the same elite prep school as Julianna, but with her parents paying the full annual tuition. Despite her every possible advantage, including test-prep courses and retaking the exam, her SAT scores were some 240 points lower on the 1600 point scale, placing her toward the bottom of the Wesleyan range, while her application essay focused on the philosophical challenges she encountered when she was suspended for illegal drug use. But she was a great favorite of her prep school counselor, who was an old college friend of the Wesleyan admissions officer, and using his discretion, he stamped her “Admit.” Her dismal academic record then caused this initial decision to be overturned by a unanimous vote of the other members of the full admissions committee, but he refused to give up, and moved heaven and earth to gain her a spot, even offering to rescind the admissions of one or more already selected applicants to create a place for her. Eventually he got her shifted from the Reject category to wait-list status, after which he secretly moved her folder to the very top of the large waiting list pile.90

In the end “connections” triumphed, and she received admission to Wesleyan, although she turned it down in favor of an offer from more prestigious Cornell, which she had obtained through similar means. But at Cornell, she found herself “miserable,” hating the classes and saying she “didn’t see the usefulness of [her] being there.” However, her poor academic ability proved no hindrance, since the same administrator who had arranged her admission also wrangled her a quick entrance into a special “honors program” he personally ran, containing just 40 of the 3500 students in her year. This exempted her from all academic graduation requirements, apparently including classes or tests, thereby allowing her to spend her four college years mostly traveling around the world while working on a so-called “special project.” After graduation, she eventually took a job at her father’s successful law firm, thereby realizing her obvious potential as a member of America’s ruling Ivy League elite, or in her own words, as being one of “the best of the best.”91

Steinberg’s description of the remaining handful of Wesleyan applicants seems to fall into a very similar pattern, indicating that our elite admissions process operates under the principle of “Ideology and Diversity tempered by Corruption.” Certainly the majority of the decisions made seem to demonstrate that although the Maoist doctrine of favoring “Red over Expert” was abandoned decades ago in China, it is still alive and well in America’s elite university admissions process, though sometimes mitigated by factors of wealth and influence.92 The overwhelmingly liberal orientation of the elite university community, the apparent willingness of many liberals to actively discriminate against non-liberals, and the fact that American Jews remain perhaps the most liberal ethnic community may together help explain a significant portion of our skewed enrollment statistics.93

We should also note that although admissions officers are poorly paid, earning less than public school teachers,94 they nevertheless control a very valuable resource. According to Steinberg’s account, when individual officers are particularly forceful in their advocacy for an obviously under-qualified applicant, their colleagues regularly ask them, perhaps jokingly, “how much are they paying you to get that student admitted?”95 Indeed, Golden states that admissions officers at top universities are constantly being offered explicit bribes, sometimes even including promises of houses or cruises.96 And although Steinberg’s presentation of Wesleyan’s admissions practices was glowingly favorable, it may have been more than pure coincidence that the particular admissions officer who was the focus of his reporting decided to seek employment elsewhere just before the book was scheduled to appear in print.97

Steinberg’s narrative is engagingly written and he makes no effort to conceal his own ideological orientation, but some of his major lapses are troubling. For example, he accepts without question the notion that Asian-American applicants receive a racial “diversity” boost in elite admissions, though it has been obvious for decades that the exact opposite is true. And in his introduction, he describes the disturbingly exclusionary world of the past, explaining that until the late 1950s Jews “need not have bothered trying” to enroll at Harvard or the other Ivies.98 Yet in fact, Jews were heavily, often massively over-represented in the Ivy League throughout the entire Twentieth Century, and by 1952 constituted 25 percent of Harvard undergraduates, a rate some 700 percent higher than their share of the general population.99

Steinberg is an award-winning journalist who has spent most of the last 15 years covering education for the New York Times, and surely ranks near the very top of his profession; his book was widely reviewed and almost universally praised. For such huge factual errors to pass unnoticed is a very disturbing indication of the knowledge and assumptions of the individuals who shape our public perceptions on the realities of higher education in our society.

 

In fact, it seems likely that some of these obvious admissions biases we have noticed may be related to the poor human quality and weak academic credentials of many of the university employees making these momentous decisions. As mentioned above, the job of admissions officer is poorly paid, requires no professional training, and offers few opportunities for career advancement; thus, it is often filled by individuals with haphazard employment records. As one of the “Little Ivies,” Wesleyan is among America’s most prestigious liberal arts colleges, and Steinberg’s description of the career paths of its handful of admissions officers is eye-opening: the interim Director of Admissions had most recently screened food-stamp recipients and run a psychiatric half-way house; another had worked as an animal control officer and managed a camera store; a third unsuccessfully sought a job as a United Airlines flight attendant; others were recent college graduates, whose main college interests had been sports or ethnic studies.100 The vast majority seem to possess minimal academic expertise and few intellectual interests, raising serious questions about their ability to reasonably evaluate their higher-quality applicants.

As additional evidence, we can consider What It Really Takes to Get into the Ivy League, a 2003 advice book written by Chuck Hughes, who spent five years as a Senior Admissions Officer at Harvard, after having himself graduated from that university. Although he strongly emphasizes his own college participation in varsity sports, he never says a word about any personal academic interests, and near the end of his book on elite college admissions, he appears to describe Duke, Northwestern, and Rice as being members of the Ivy League.101

A more explicit statement of this exact problem is found in A for Admission, a very candid 1997 description of the admissions process at elite private universities written by Michele A. Hernandez, who had spent four years as Dartmouth’s Assistant Director of Admissions. Near the beginning of her book, Hernandez explains that over half of Ivy League admissions officers are individuals who had not attended such academically challenging universities, nor probably had the intellectual capability to do so, and were sometimes confused about the relative ranking of SAT scores and other basic academic credentials. She also cautions students to avoid any subtlety in their essays, lest their words be misunderstood by their readers in the admissions office, whose degrees are more likely to have been in education than in any serious academic discipline.102

It seems quite possible that poorly-paid liberal arts or ethnic-studies majors, probably with few quantitative skills and a vaguely “progressive” ideological focus, could implement highly unfair admissions decisions without even realizing their actions. According to Steinberg, admissions officers seem to assume that an important part of their duty is maximizing non-white enrollment, and this is especially true if they themselves are non-white, while there is no indication that they are actually aware of America’s overall population distribution.103

The last point is not a trivial one, since although our country is only about 13 percent black, according to a 2001 Gallup survey most people thought the figure was 33 percent, with the average non-white putting it at 40 percent.104 This was roughly confirmed by the GSS respondents in 2000, who also believed that nearly 18 percent of Americans were Jewish, a figure more than eight times too large.105 A very recent 2012 survey found that Americans believe Protestants outnumber Jews in this country by only 2.5 to 1, when the actual ratio is ten times greater.106

Such shocking demographic ignorance is hardly confined solely to the uneducated. For example, soon after Karabel’s book appeared, a prominent Massachusetts law school dean with a major interest in ethnic discrimination issues devoted two hours of his televised public affairs program to a detailed discussion of the topic with the author, but at the end let slip that he believed California’s population was 50 percent Asian, an utter absurdity.107 So perhaps many college administrators may have little idea about which ethnic groups are already enrolled above parity and which are below, instead taking their marching orders from an amorphous academic narrative which valorizes “racial diversity.”

Meanwhile, any hint of “anti-Semitism” in admissions is regarded as an absolutely mortal sin, and any significant reduction in Jewish enrollment may often be denounced as such by the hair-trigger media. For example, in 1999 Princeton discovered that its Jewish enrollment had declined to just 500 percent of parity, down from more than 700 percent in the mid-1980s, and far below the comparable figures for Harvard or Yale. This quickly resulted in four front-page stories in the Daily Princetonian, a major article in the New York Observer, and extensive national coverage in both the New York Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education.108 These articles included denunciations of Princeton’s long historical legacy of anti-Semitism and quickly led to official apologies, followed by an immediate 30 percent rebound in Jewish numbers. During these same years, non-Jewish white enrollment across the entire Ivy League had dropped by roughly 50 percent, reducing those numbers to far below parity, but this was met with media silence or even occasional congratulations on the further “multicultural” progress of America’s elite education system.

I suspect that the combined effect of these separate pressures, rather than any planned or intentional bias, is the primary cause of the striking enrollment statistics that we have examined above. In effect, somewhat dim and over-worked admissions officers, generally possessing weak quantitative skills, have been tasked by their academic superiors and media monitors with the twin ideological goals of enrolling Jews and enrolling non-whites, with any major failures risking harsh charges of either “anti-Semitism” or “racism.” But by inescapable logic maximizing the number of Jews and non-whites implies minimizing the number of non-Jewish whites.

 


Problems with Pure Diversity and Pure Meritocracy

In recent decades, elite college admissions policy has frequently become an ideological battlefield between liberals and conservatives, but I would argue that both these warring camps have been missing the actual reality of the situation.

Conservatives have denounced “affirmative action” policies which emphasize race over academic merit, and thereby lead to the enrollment of lesser qualified blacks and Hispanics over their more qualified white and Asian competitors; they argue that our elite institutions should be color-blind and race-neutral. Meanwhile, liberals have countered that the student body of these institutions should “look like America,” at least approximately, and that ethnic and racial diversity intrinsically provide important educational benefits, at least if all admitted students are reasonably qualified and able to do the work.

My own position has always been strongly in the former camp, supporting meritocracy over diversity in elite admissions. But based on the detailed evidence I have discussed above, it appears that both these ideological values have gradually been overwhelmed and replaced by the influence of corruption and ethnic favoritism, thereby selecting future American elites which are not meritocratic nor diverse, neither being drawn from our most able students nor reasonably reflecting the general American population.

The overwhelming evidence is that the system currently employed by most of our leading universities admits applicants whose ability may be unremarkable but who are beneficiaries of underhanded manipulation and favoritism. Nations which put their future national leadership in the hands of such individuals are likely to encounter enormous economic and social problems, exactly the sort of problems which our own country seems to have increasingly experienced over the last couple of decades. And unless the absurdly skewed enrollments of our elite academic institutions are corrected, the composition of these feeder institutions will ensure that such national problems only continue to grow worse as time passes. We should therefore consider various means of correcting the severe flaws in our academic admissions system, which functions as the primary intake valve of our future national elites.

One obvious approach would be to wave a magic wand and make the existing system “work better” by replacing many thousands of college admissions officers by individuals more competent and less venal, guardians of the common good who would properly balance objective academic merit against other intrinsic student qualities, while avoiding any lapse into rank favoritism. But this same simple solution could always be proposed for any other obviously failing system, including Soviet-style Communism.

A more fundamental change might be to directly adopt the implicit logic of America’s “academic diversity” movement—whose leadership has been overwhelmingly Jewish 109—and require our elite universities to bring their student bodies into rough conformity with the overall college-age population, ethnicity by ethnicity, in which case the Jewish presence at Harvard and the rest of the Ivy League would drop to between 1.5 and 2 percent.110

However, even leaving aside the rights and wrongs of such a proposal, it would be extremely difficult to implement in practice. The pattern of American ethnic origins is complex and interwoven, with high intermarriage rates, leading to categories being fluid and ambiguous. Furthermore, such an approach would foster clear absurdities, with wealthy Anglo-Saxons from Greenwich, Conn. being propelled into Yale because they fill the “quota” created on the backs of the impoverished Anglo-Saxons of Appalachia or Mississippi.

An opposite approach would be to rely on strictest objective meritocracy, with elite universities automatically selecting their students in academic rank-order, based on high school grades and performance on standardized exams such as the SAT. This approach would be similar to that used in many other developed countries around the world, but would produce severe social problems of its own.

Consider the notorious examples of the single-minded academic focus and testing-frenzy which are already sometimes found at many predominantly Asian immigrant high schools, involving endless cram-courses and massive psychological pressure. This seems very similar to the stories of extreme educational effort found in countries such as Japan, South Korea, and China, where educational success is an overriding social value and elite admissions are fully determined by rank-order academic performance. At present, these severe educational pressures on American teenagers have been largely confined to a portion of our small Asian-American population and perhaps some of their non-Asian schoolmates, but if Harvard and its peers all selected their students based on such criteria, a huge fraction of American students would be forced to adopt similar work-habits or lose any hope of gaining admission. Do we really want to produce an entire nation of “Asian Tiger Moms” of all ethnicities and backgrounds, probably with horrible consequences for the future mental health, personal creativity, and even long-term academic performance of the next generation?

Also, we would expect such a system to heavily favor those students enrolled at our finest secondary schools, whose families could afford the best private tutors and cram-courses, and with parents willing to push them to expend the last ounce of their personal effort in endless, constant studying. These crucial factors, along with innate ability, are hardly distributed evenly among America’s highly diverse population of over 300 million, whether along geographical, socio-economic, or ethnic lines, and the result would probably be an extremely unbalanced enrollment within the ranks of our top universities, perhaps one even more unbalanced than that of today. Although American cultural elites may currently pay too much lip service to “diversity” as a value, there is also such a thing as too little educational diversity. Do we really want a system in which all of America’s top 100 universities selected their students much like Caltech does today, and therefore had a similar academic environment?

We should also consider that under such a selection system, any interest or involvement not directly contributing to the academic transcript—including activities associated with artistic talent, sports ability, or extra-curricular leadership—would disappear from our top universities, since students who devoted any significant time to those pursuits would tend to lose out to those who did not. Even those highest-ability students who gained admission would tend to forego the benefits of encountering classmates with a somewhat more balanced mix of interests and abilities, a group closer to the American mainstream, and might therefore develop a very one-sided and unrealistic view of our national population. And if every student admitted to Harvard believed, not without some justification, that he had been objectively determined to be among the smartest and hardest working 0.05 percent of all Americans his age, that might not be the best psychological starting point for a teenager just entering his adult life and future career.

These same problems would also manifest themselves in an admissions system based on strict meritocracy as adjusted by socio-economic status, which Richard Kahlenberg prominently advocated in his 1996 book The Remedy, and various other writings. Although this approach has always seemed reasonably attractive to me and the results would certainly provide more socio-economical balance than straight meritocracy, other “diversity” enhancements might be minimal. We should remember that a significant fraction of our Asian immigrant population combines very low socio-economic status with extremely strong academic performance and educational focus, so it seems likely that this small group would capture a hugely disproportionate share of all admissions spots influenced by these modifying factors, which may or may not be fully realized by advocates of this approach.

 


An Inner Ring and an Outer Ring

But if selecting our future elites by purest “diversity” wouldn’t work, and using purest “meritocracy” would seem an equally bad idea, what would be the right approach to take as a replacement for today’s complex mixture of diversity, meritocracy, favoritism, and corruption?

Perhaps an important starting point would be to recognize that in any normal distribution curve, numbers widen greatly and differences become far less significant below the very top. Today’s academic supporters of “affirmative action” frequently claim that beneath the strongest tier of academic applicants to Yale or Stanford, the differences between particular students become relatively small, only slightly indicative of how they will perform at the college if they are enrolled;111 and this claim is not entirely false. A large fraction of all the students applying have demonstrated that they have the ability and commitment to adequately perform the college work in question, and although they are unlikely to graduate in the top 5 percent of Princeton’s class, the same is also true of the vast majority of their classmates. The average student at Harvard is going to be an average Harvard student, and perhaps it would be better if a large majority of the admitted students would not find this prospect a horrifying disappointment after their previously stellar career of having always been the biggest student fish in their smallish academic ponds.

The notion of top universities only selecting a slice of their students based on purest academic merit certainly seems to be the standard today, and was so in the past as well. Karabel recounts how during the 1950s and 1960s, Harvard reserved about 10 percent of its spots for “top brains,” while selecting the remainder based on a mixture of different factors.112 In Choosing Elites, Robert Klitgaard indicates that roughly this same approach continued into the 1980s, with only a fraction of admitted students being classified and admitted as “first-class scholars.”113 As already mentioned, according to Hughes, who served five years as a Harvard Senior Admissions Officer at Harvard, by the mid-2000s only 5 percent or less of Harvard undergraduates were selected purely on academic merit, with extracurricular activities and a wide variety of unspecified other criteria being used to choose among the other 80–85 percent of applicants who could actually handle the academic work; and this same pattern is found at most other highly selective universities.114 Given a widening funnel of ability, it is absurd to base admissions decisions on just a small difference of twenty or thirty points on the SAT, which merely encourages students to spend thousands of hours cramming in order to gain those extra crucial twenty or thirty points over their competitors.

But if our elite colleges were to select only a portion of their students based on purest academic merit, how should they pick the remainder, merely by flipping a coin? Actually, that might not be such a terrible idea, at least compared with the current system, in which these decisions are often seemingly based on massive biases and sometimes even outright corruption. After all, if we are seeking a student body which is at least somewhat diverse and reasonably representative of the American population, random selection is hardly the least effective means of ensuring that outcome. And the result would be true diversity, rather than the dishonest and ridiculous pseudo-diversity of our existing system.

The notion of using random selection to overcome the risk of unfair bias has been used for centuries, including in our own country, and is regularly found in matters of the greatest civic importance, especially those involving life and death. Our jury system relies on the random selection of a handful of ordinary citizens to determine the guilt or innocence of even the most eminent and powerful individuals, as well as to render corporate verdicts with penalties reaching into the billions. The millions of Americans ordered to fight and perhaps die in our major wars were generally called into the military by the process of a random draft lottery. And today, the enormous growth of games of chance and financial lotteries, often government-run, have become an unfortunate but very popular aspect of our entire economic system. Compared to these situations, requiring an excellent but hardly spectacular student to take his chances on winning a spot at Harvard or Yale hardly seems unreasonable.

In The Big Test, journalist Nicholas Lemann traces the history of meritocratic admissions policy, and the philosophical conflicts which liberals faced once that policy first came into direct conflict with the racial diversity they also favored, beginning when the DeFunis “reverse discrimination” case reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1974. At that point, one of the high court’s strongest liberal voices was Justice William O. Douglas, and he repeatedly considered the possible use of random lotteries as the fairest means of allocating college admissions slots below the top tier of most highly qualified applicants.115

Let us explore the likely social implications of such an admissions policy, focusing solely on Harvard and following a very simple model, in which (say) 300 slots or around 20 percent of each entering class are allocated based on pure academic merit (the “Inner Ring”), with the remaining 1300 slots being randomly selected from the 30,000 or so American applicants considered able to reasonably perform at the school’s required academic level and thereby benefit from a Harvard education (the “Outer Ring”).

First, we must recognize that the 300 applicants admitted by straight merit would be an exceptionally select group, representing just the top 2 percent of America’s 16,000 NMS semifinalists. Also, almost any American students in this group or even reasonably close would be very well aware of that fact, and more importantly, nearly all other students would realize they were far too distant to have any chance of reaching that level, no matter how hard they studied or how many hours they crammed, thus freeing them from any terrible academic pressure. Under today’s system, the opaque and haphazard nature of the admissions process persuades tens of thousands of students they might have a realistic shot at Harvard if only they would study a bit harder or participate in one more resume-stuffing extracurricular,116 but that would no longer be the case, and they would be able to relax a bit more during their high school years, just so long as they did well enough to qualify and try their luck as one of the “Outer Ring” of applicants.

The 300 Inner Ring students would certainly be quite different in all sorts of ways from the average high school student, even aside from their greater academic ability and drive; they might not be “diverse” in any sense of the word, whether geographically, ethnically, or socio-economically. But the remaining 1300 Outer Ring students would represent a random cross-section of the tens of thousands of students who applied for admission and had reasonably good academic ability, and since they would constitute 80 percent of the enrollment, Harvard would almost certainly become far more diverse and representative of America’s total population in almost all ways than is the case today, when 30 percent of its students come from private schools, often the most elite and expensive ones.117

Furthermore, the vast majority of Harvard graduates—and everyone who later dealt with them—would know perfectly well that they had merely been “lucky” in gaining their admission, thereby tempering the sort of arrogance found among too many of today’s elite college graduates. And our vast and growing parasitic infrastructure of expensive cram-schools, private tutors, special academies, and college application consultants would quickly be reduced to what was merited by their real academic value, which may actually be close to nil. A general armistice would have been declared in America’s endlessly growing elite admissions arms-race.

Under such a system, Harvard might no longer boast of having America’s top Lacrosse player or a Carnegie Hall violinist or a Senatorial scion. But the class would be filled with the sort of reasonably talented and reasonably serious athletes, musicians, and activists drawn as a cross-section from the tens of thousands of qualified applicants, thereby providing a far more normal and healthier range of students.

The terrible family pressure which students, especially immigrant students, often today endure in the college admissions process would be greatly reduced. Even the most ambitious parents would usually recognize that their sons and daughters are unlikely to ever outrank 99.99 percent of their fellow students academically, so their only hope of reaching a school like Harvard would be the same as that of everyone else, via the admissions lottery. And losing in a random drawing can hardly be a source of major shame to any family.

One of the most harmful aspects of recent American society has been the growth of a winner-take-all mentality, in which finishing even just slightly below the top rung at any stage of the career ladder seems to amount to economic and sometimes personal failure. An aspect of this is that our most elite businesses tend to only recruit from the top universities, assuming that these possess a near-monopoly on the brightest and most talented students, even though it actually appears that favoritism and corruption these days are huge factors in admission. But if it were explicitly known that the vast majority of Harvard students had merely been winners in the application lottery, top businesses would begin to cast a much wider net in their employment outreach, and while the average Harvard student would probably be academically stronger than the average graduate of a state college, the gap would no longer be seen as so enormous, with individuals being judged more on their own merits and actual achievements. A Harvard student who graduated magna cum laude would surely have many doors open before him, but not one who graduated in the bottom half of his class.

This same approach of an Inner Ring and an Outer Ring of admissions could similarly be applied to most of America’s other selective colleges, perhaps with some variations in the relative sizes of the two groups. It is possible that some universities such as Caltech, which today selects its 200 entering freshmen by purely meritocratic academic rank-order, might prefer to retain that system, in which case the Inner Ring would constitute the entire enrollment. Other universities, which glorify the extremes of total diversity, might choose to select almost all their students by random lot. But for most, the sort of split enrollment I have outlined might work reasonably well.

Since colleges would still be positioned in a hierarchy of national excellence and prestige, those students whose academic record just missed placing them within the Inner Ring of a Harvard or a Yale would almost certainly gain automatic admission to a Columbia, Cornell, or Duke, and the same sort of cascading effect would be found down through all subsequent layers of selectivity. Thus, although America’s top couple of thousand students each year would not all be found among the 4000 entering Harvard, Yale, or Princeton, they would at least gain admission to some Ivy or its equivalent, in contrast to the shocking examples of admissions injustice recounted by Golden.

Since essays, personal statements, lists of extracurricular achievements and so many other uniquely complex and time-consuming elements of the American admissions process would no longer exist, students could easily apply to long lists of possible colleges, ranking them in order of personal preference. Meanwhile, the colleges themselves could dispense with nearly their entire admissions staff, since the only remaining part of the admissions process would be determining the academic ranking of the tiny fraction of top applicants, which could be performed quickly and easily. Harvard currently receives almost 35,000 applications, which must each be individually read and evaluated in a massive undertaking, but applying a crude automatic filter of grades and test scores would easily winnow these down to the 1,000 plausible candidates for those 300 Inner Ring slots, allowing a careful evaluation of those highest-performing students on pure academic grounds.

Eliminating at a stroke the enormous expense and complexity of our baroque admissions process might actually raise the quality of the students attending elite colleges by drawing more applicants into the system, especially if, as I suggest elsewhere, tuition at our top private colleges were drastically reduced or even eliminated (See “Paying Tuition to a Giant Hedge Fund”).

The late James Q. Wilson certainly ranked as one of America’s most highly-regarded social scientists of the second half of the twentieth century, and when he was awarded the Gold Medal of the National Institute of Social Sciences in 2011, his remarks provided some fascinating details of his own educational background. Although an outstanding high school student in Southern California, no one in his family had ever previously attended college nor had he himself given it any thought, instead starting work in his father’s auto repair shop after graduation in order to learn the trade of a car mechanic. However, one of his teachers arranged his admission to a small college on a full scholarship, which launched him on his stellar academic career.118

It seems likely that the vast paperwork and expense of today’s admissions system, with its endless forms, intrusive questionnaires, fee-waiver-applications, and general bureaucracy intimidates many bright students, especially those from impoverished or immigrant backgrounds, and deters them from even considering an application to our elite colleges, especially since they perhaps wrongly assume that they would stand no chance of success. But filling out a few very simple forms and having their test scores and grades scores automatically forwarded to a list of possible universities would give them at least the same chance in the lottery as any other applicant whose academic skills were adequate.

 

percapita Following the 1991 collapse and disintegration of the Soviet Union, some observers noted with unease that the United States was left as about the only remaining large and fully-functional multi-ethnic society, and the subsequent collapse and disintegration of ethnically diverse Yugoslavia merely strengthened these concerns. China is sometimes portrayed by the ignorant American media as having large and restive minority populations, but it is 92 percent Han Chinese, and if we exclude a few outlying or thinly populated provinces—the equivalents of Alaska, Hawaii, and New Mexico—closer to 95 percent Han, with all its top leadership drawn from that same background and therefore possessing a natural alignment of interests. Without doubt, America’s great success despite its multiplicity of ethnic nationalities is almost unique in modern human history. But such success should not be taken for granted.

Many of the Jewish writers who focus on the history of elite university admissions, including Karabel, Steinberg, and Lemann, have critiqued and rebuked the America of the first half of the Twentieth Century for having been governed by a narrow WASP ascendency, which overwhelmingly dominated and controlled the commanding heights of business, finance, education, and politics; and some of their criticisms are not unreasonable. But we should bear in mind that this dominant group of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants—largely descended from among the earliest American settlers and which had gradually absorbed and assimilated substantial elements of Celtic, Dutch, German, and French background—was generally aligned in culture, religion, ideology, and ancestry with perhaps 60 percent of America’s total population at the time, and therefore hardly represented an alien presence.119 By contrast, a similarly overwhelming domination by a tiny segment of America’s current population, one which is completely misaligned in all these respects, seems far less inherently stable, especially when the institutional roots of such domination have continually increased despite the collapse of the supposedly meritocratic justification. This does not seem like a recipe for a healthy and successful society, nor one which will even long survive in anything like its current form.

Power corrupts and an extreme concentration of power even more so, especially when that concentration of power is endlessly praised and glorified by the major media and the prominent intellectuals which together constitute such an important element of that power. But as time goes by and more and more Americans notice that they are poorer and more indebted than they have ever been before, the blandishments of such propaganda machinery will eventually lose effectiveness, much as did the similar propaganda organs of the decaying Soviet state. Kahlenberg quotes Pat Moynihan as noting that the stagnant American earnings between 1970 and 1985 represented “the longest stretch of ‘flat’ income in the history of the European settlement of North America.”120 The only difference today is that this period of economic stagnation has now extended nearly three times as long, and has also been combined with numerous social, moral, and foreign policy disasters.

Over the last few decades America’s ruling elites have been produced largely as a consequence of the particular selection methods adopted by our top national universities in the late 1960s. Leaving aside the question of whether these methods have been fair or have instead been based on corruption and ethnic favoritism, the elites they have produced have clearly done a very poor job of leading our country, and we must change the methods used to select them. Conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. once famously quipped that he would rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 names listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard. So perhaps an important step in solving our national problems would be to apply a similar method to selecting the vast majority of Harvard’s students.

Ron Unz is publisher of The American Conservative.


 

Primary Bibliography

The Shape of the River (1998) William G. Bowen and Derek Bok

Equity and Excellence in American Higher Education (2005) William G. Bowen, Martin A. Kurzweil, and Eugene M. Tobin

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (2011) Amy Chua

No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal (2009) Thomas J. Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford

The Price of Admission (2006) Daniel Golden

Twilight of the Elites (2012) Christopher Hayes

A Is For Admission (1997) Michele A. Hernandez

Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street (2009)
Karen Ho

Asian Americans in Higher Education and at Work (1988) Jayjia Hsia

What It Really Takes to Get into the Ivy League (2003) Chuck Hughes

The Chosen (2005) Jerome Karabel

Choosing Elites (1985) Robert Klitgaard

The Big Test (1999) Nicholas Lemann

The Chosen People: A Study of Jewish Intelligence and Achievement (2011) Richard Lynn

How to Be a High School Superstar (2010) Cal Newport

Joining the Club: A History of Jews and Yale (1985) Dan A. Oren

How They Got Into Harvard (2005) The Harvard Crimson

The Gatekeepers (2002/2012) Jacques Steinberg

The Half-Opened Door (1979/2010) Marcia Graham Synnott

The Retreat from Race (1992/1998) Dana Y. Takagi

The Abilities and Achievements of Orientals in North America (1982) Philip E. Vernon

The Creative Elite in America (1966) Nathaniel Weyl

The Geography of American Achievement (1989) Nathaniel Weyl


(Reprinted from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
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  1. Well, legacy programs are alive and well. According to the read, here’s the problem:

    “The research certainly supports the widespread perception that non-academic factors play a major role in the process, including athletic ability and “legacy” status. But as we saw earlier, even more significant are racial factors, with black ancestry being worth the equivalent of 310 points, Hispanics gaining 130 points, and Asian students being penalized by 140 points, all relative to white applicants on the 1600 point Math and Reading SAT scale.”

    These arbitrary point systems while well intended are not a reflection of AA design. School lawyers in a race not be penalized for past practices, implemented their own versions of AA programs. The numbers are easy to challenge because they aren’t based on tangible or narrow principles. It’s weakneses are almost laughable. Because there redal goal was to thwart any real challenge that institutions were idle in addressing past acts of discrimination. To boost their diversity issues, asians were heavily recruited. Since AA has been in place a lot of faulty measures were egaged in: Quotas for quotas sake. Good for PR, lousy for AA and issues it was designed to address.

    I think the statistical data hides a very important factor and practice. Most jews in this country are white as such , and as such only needed t change their names and hide behaviors as a strategy of surving the entrance gauntlet. That segregation created a black collegiate system with it’s own set of elite qualifiers demonsrates that this model isn’t limitted to the Ivy league.

    That an elite system is devised and practiced in members of a certain club networks so as to maintain their elite status, networks and control, this is a human practice. And it once served as something to acheive. It was thought that the avenues of becoming an elite were there if one wanted to strive for it. Hard work, honesty, persistence, results . . . should yeild X.

    And while I am not as focussed on the poverty ve wealth dynamic. this century has reveale something very disappointing that you address. That the elites have done a very poor job of leading the ship of state, while still remaining in leadership belies such a bold hypocrisy in accountability, it’s jarring. The article could actually be titled: “The Myth of the Best and the Brightest.”

    I don’t think it’s just some vindictive intent. and while americans have always known and to an extent accepted that for upper income citizens, normal was not the same as normal on the street. Fairness, was not the same jn practice nor sentiment. What may becoming increasing intolerant has been the obvious lack of accountbility among elites. TARP looked like the elites looking out for each other as opposed the ship of state. I have read three books on the financials and they do not paint a pretty portrait of Ivy League leadership as to ethics, cheating, lying, covering up, and shamelessly passing the buck. I will be reading this again I am sure.

    It’s sad to think that we may be seeing te passing of an era. in which one aspired to be an elite not soley for their wealth, but the model they provided od leadership real or imagined. Perhaps, it passed long ago, and we are all not just noticing.
    I appreciated you conclusions, not sure that I am comfortable with some of the solutions.

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  2. Since I still hanker to be an elite in some manner, It is interesting to note my rather subdued response to the cheating. Sadly, this too may be an open secret of standard fair — and that is very very sad. And disappointing. Angering even.

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  3. The shifting social demography of deans, house masters and admissions committees may be a more important metric than the composition of the student body, as it determines the shape of the curriculum, and the underlying culture of the university as a legacy in itself.

    If Ron harrows the literary journals of the Jackson era with equal diligence. he may well turn up an essay or two expressing deep shock at Unitarians admitting too many of the Lord’s preterite sheep to Harvard, or lamenting the rise of Methodism at Yale and the College of New Jersey.

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  4. Harvard is a university, much like Princeton and Yale, that continues based on its reputation, something that was earned in the past. When the present catches up to them people will regard them as nepotistic cauldrons of corruption. Look at the financial disaster that befell the USA and much of the globe back in 2008. Its genesis can be found in the clever minds of those coming out of their business schools (and, oddly enough, their Physics programs as well). They are teaching the elite how to drain all value from American companies, as the rich plan their move to China, the new land of opportunity. When 1% of the population controls such a huge portion of the wealth, patriotism becomes a loadstone to them. The elite are global. Places like Harvard cater to them, help train them to rule the world….but first they must remake it.

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  5. Rob in CT
    says:
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    First, I appreciated the length and depth of your article.

    Having said that, to boil it down to its essence:

    Subconcious bias/groupthink + affirmative action/diversity focus + corruption + innumeracy = student bodies at elite institutions that are wildly skewed vis-a-vis both: 1) the ethnic makeup of the general population; and 2) the makeup of our top-performing students.

    Since these institutions are pipelines to power, this matters.

    I rather doubt that wage stagnation (which appears to have begun in ~1970) can be pinned on this – that part stuck out, because there are far more plausible causes. To the extent you’re merely arguing that our elite failed to counter the trend, ok, but I’m not sure a “better” elite would have either. The trend, after all, favored the elite.

    Anyway, I find your case is plausible.

    Your inner/outer circle hybrid option is interesting. One (perhaps minor) thing jumps out at me: kids talk. The innies are going to figure out who they are and who the outies are. The outies might have their arrogance tempered, but the innies? I suspect they’d be even *more* arrogant than such folks are now (all the more so because they’d have better justification for their arrogance), but I could be wrong.

    Perhaps more significantly, this:

    But if it were explicitly known that the vast majority of Harvard students had merely been winners in the application lottery, top businesses would begin to cast a much wider net in their employment outreach, and while the average Harvard student would probably be academically stronger than the average graduate of a state college, the gap would no longer be seen as so enormous, with individuals being judged more on their own merits and actual achievements

    Is a very good reason for Harvard, et al. to resist the idea. I think you’re right that this would be a good thing for the country, but it would be bad for Harvard. I think the odds of convincing Harvard to do it out of the goodness of their administrators hearts is unlikely. You are basically asking them to purposefully damage their brand.

    All in all, I think you’re on to something here. I have my quibbles (the wage stagnation thing, and the graph with Chinese vs USA per capita growth… come on, apples and oranges there!), but overall I think I agree that your proposal is likely superior to the status quo.

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  6. Bryan
    says:
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    Don’t forget the mess one finds after they ARE admitted to these schools. I dropped out of Columbia University in 2010.

    You can “make it” on an Ivy-league campus if you are a conservative-Republican-type with all the rich country-club connections that liberals use to stereotype.

    Or you can succeed if you are a poor or working-class type who is willing to toe the Affirmative Action party line and be a good “progressive” Democrat (Obama stickers, “Gay Pride” celebrations, etc.)

    If you come from a poor or working-class background and are religious, or culturally conservative or libertarian in any way, you might as well save your time and money. You’re not welcome, period. And if you’re a military veteran you WILL be actively persecuted, no matter what the news reports claim.

    It sucks. Getting accepted to Columbia was a dream come true for me. The reality broke my heart.

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  7. Mendy Finkel
    says:
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    Regarding the overrepresentation of Jewish students compared to their actual academic merit, I think the author overstates the role bias (subjective, or otherwise) plays in this:

    1) , a likely explanation is that Jewish applicants are a step ahead in knowing how to “play the admissions game.” They therefore constitute a good percentage of applicants that admission committees view as “the total package.” (at least a higher percentage than scores alone would yield). Obviously money and connections plays a role in them knowing to say precisely what adcoms want to hear, but in any case, at the end of the day, if adcoms are looking for applicants with >1400 SATs, “meaningful” life experiences/accomplishments, and a personal statement that can weave it all together into a compelling narrative, the middle-upper-class east coast Jewish applicant probably constitutes a good percentage of such “total package” applicants. I will concede however that this explanation only works in explaining the prevalence of jews vs. whites in general. With respect to Asians, however, since they are likely being actively and purposefully discriminated against by adcoms, having the “complete package” would be less helpful to them.

    2) Another factor is that, regardless of ethnicity, alumni children get a boost and since in the previous generation Jewish applicants were the highest achieving academic group, many of these lesser qualified jews admitted are children of alumni.

    3) That ivy colleges care more about strong verbal scores than mathematics (i.e., they prefer 800V 700M over 700V 800M), and Jewish applicants make up a higher proportion of the high verbal score breakdowns.

    4) Last, and perhaps more importantly we do not really know the extent of Jewish representation compared to their academic merit. Unlike admitted Asian applicants, who we know, on average, score higher than white applicants, we have no similar numbers of Jewish applicants. The PSAT numbers are helpful, but hardly dispositive considering those aren’t the scores colleges use in making their decision information.

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  8. @Bryan– Getting accepted to Columbia was a dream come true for me. The reality broke my heart.

    I’m touched by this. I’ve spent tons of time at Columbia, a generation ago–and my background fit fine–the kind of WASP background Jews found exotic and interesting. But I can see your point, sad to say. There are other great schools–Fordham, where my wife went to law school at night, has incredible esprit de corps — and probably, person for person, has as many lawyers doing good and interesting work as Columbia.

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  9. JJM
    says:
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    I still haven’t finished reading yet, but this is an impressive, thorough and critical work. I already know a few people that I will be forwarding this to.

    Thank you for the fine article.

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  10. HAR
    says:
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    “There are other great schools–Fordham, where my wife went to law school at night, has incredible esprit de corps — and probably, person for person, has as many lawyers doing good and interesting work as Columbia.”

    Someone doesn’t know much about the legal market.

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  11. KXB
    says:
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    “Tiffany was also rejected by all her other prestigious college choices, including Yale, Penn, Duke, and Wellsley, an outcome which greatly surprised and disappointed her immigrant father.88″

    In the fall of 1990, my parents had me apply to 10 colleges. I had the profile of many Indian kids at the time – ranked in the top 10 of the class, editor of school paper, Boy Scouts. SAT scores could have been better, but still strong. Over 700 in all achievement tests save Bio, which was 670.

    Rejected by 5 schools, waitlisted by 3, accepted into 2 – one of them the state univ.

    One of my classmates, whose family was from Thailand, wound up in the same predicament as me. His response, “Basketball was designed to keep the Asian man down.”

    The one black kid in our group – got into MIT, dropped out after one year because he could not hack it. The kid from our school who should have gone, from an Italian-American family, and among the few who did not embrace the guido culture, went to Rennsealer instead, and had professional success after.

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  12. Milton F.
    says:
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    As a University of Chicago alum, I infer that by avoiding the label “elite” on such a nifty chart we can be accurately categorized as “meritocratic” by The American Conservative.

    Then again, this article doesn’t even purport to ask why elite universities might be in the business of EDUCATING a wider population of students, or how that education takes place.

    Perhaps, by ensuring that “the best” students are not concentrated in only 8 universities is why the depth and quality of America’s education system remains the envy of the world.

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  13. a
    says:
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    Two comments:

    In my high school, there were roughly 15 of us who had been advanced two years ahead in math. Of those, 10 were Jewish; only two of them had a ‘Jewish’ last name. In my graduate school class, half (7) are Jewish. None has a ‘Jewish’ last name. So I’m pretty dubious of the counting method that you use.

    Also, it’s clear that there are Asian quotas at these schools, but it’s not clear that Intel Science Fairs, etc, are the best way to estimate what level of talent Asians have relative to other groups. I was curious so I google High School Poetry Competition, High School Constitution Competition, High School Debating Competition. None of the winners here seem to have an especially high Asian quotient. So maybe a non-technical (liberal arts) university would settle on ~25-30% instead of ~40% asian? And perhaps a (small) part of the problem is a preponderance of Asian applicants excelling in technical fields, leading to competition against each other rather than the general population? Just wonderin’

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  14. Regarding the declining Jewish achievement, it looks like it can be primarily explained through demographics:

    “Intermarriage rates have risen from roughly 6% in 1950 to approximately 40–50% in the year 2000.[56][57] This, in combination with the comparatively low birthrate in the Jewish community, has led to a 5% decline in the Jewish population of the United States in the 1990s.”

    Jewish surnames don’t mean what they used to. And intermarriage rates are lowest among the low-performing and highly prolific Orthodox.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Jews#Demographics

    Jewish birth rates have been falling faster than the white population, especially for the non-Orthodox:

    “In contrast to the ongoing trends of assimilation, some communities within American Jewry, such as Orthodox Jews, have significantly higher birth rates and lower intermarriage rates, and are growing rapidly. The proportion of Jewish synagogue members who were Orthodox rose from 11% in 1971 to 21% in 2000, while the overall Jewish community declined in number. [60] In 2000, there were 360,000 so-called “ultra-orthodox” (Haredi) Jews in USA (7.2%).[61] The figure for 2006 is estimated at 468,000 (9.4%).[61]”

    http://www.jewishdatabank.org/Reports/RecentTrends_Sheskin_2011.pdf

    “a very low fertility rate of 1.9, of which 1.4 will be raised
    as Jews (2.15 is replacement rate)”

    http://www.aish.com/jw/s/48899452.html

    “As against the overall average of 1.86 children per Jewish woman, an informed estimate gives figures ranging upward from 3.3 children in “modern Orthodox” families to 6.6 in Haredi or “ultra-Orthodox” families to a whopping 7.9 in families of Hasidim.”

    These statistics would suggest that half or more of Jewish children are being born into these lower-performing groups. Given their very low intermarriage rates, a huge portion of the secular, Reform, and Conservative Jews must be intermarrying (more than half if the aggregate 43% intermarriage figure is right). And the high-performing groups may now be around 1 child per woman or lower, and worse for the youngest generation.

    So a collapse in Jewish representation in youth science prizes can be mostly explained by the collapse of the distinct non-Orthodox Jewish youth.

    Incidentally, intermarriage also produces people with Jewish ancestry who get classified as gentiles using last names or self-identification, reducing Jewish-gentile gaps by bringing up nominal gentile scores at the same time as nominal-Jewish scores are lowered.

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  15. Adam
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    The center of power in this country being located in the Northeast is nothing new. Whether it be in it’s Ivy League schools or the ownership of natural resources located in other regions, particularly the South, the Northeast has always had a disproportionate share of influence in the power structures, particularly political and financial, of this nation. This is one of the reasons the definition of “white” when reviewing ethnicity is so laughably inaccurate. There is a huge difference in opportunity between WASP or Jewish in the Northeast, for instance, and those of Scots Irish ancestory in the mountain south. Hopefully statistical analysis such as this can break open that stranglehold, especially as it is directly impacting a minority group in a negative fashion. Doing this exercise using say, white Baptists comparerd to other white subgroups, while maybe equally valid in the results, would be seen as racist by the very Ivy League system that is essentially practicing a form of racism.

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  16. Bryan
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    Scott, thanks for your words of commiseration.

    Yeah, my ultimate goal was to attend law school, and a big part of the heartbreak for me–or heartburn, the more cynical would call it–was seeing how skewed and absurd the admissions process to law school is.

    I have no doubt that I could have eventually entered into a “top tier” law school, and that was a dream of mine also. I met with admissions officers from Duke, Harvard, Stanford, Fordham, etc. I was encouraged. I had the grades and background for it.

    But–and I’m really not trying to sound corny 0r self-important here–what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul? I really don’t feel that I’m exaggerating when I say that that’s exactly how it felt to me.

    The best experience I had while In New York was working as an after-school programs administrator for P.S. 136, but that was only because of the kids. They’ll be old and bitter and cynical soon enough.

    At one point it occurred to me that I should have just started claiming “Black” as my ethnicity when I first started attending college as an adult. I never attended high-school so it couldn’t have been disproved. I’m part Sicilian so I could pass for 1/4 African-American. Then I would have received the preference toward admission that, say, Michael Jordan’s kids or Barack Obama’s kids will receive when they claim their Ivy-league diplomas. I should have hid the “white privilege” I’ve enjoyed as the son of a fisherman and a waitress from one of the most economically-depressed states in America.

    The bottom line is that those colleges are political brainwashing centers for a country I no longer believe in. I arrived on campus in 2009 and I’m not joking at all when I say I was actively persecuted for being a veteran and a conservative who was not drinking the Obama Kool-aid. Some big fat African-American lady, a back-room “administrator” for Columbia, straight-up threw my VA benefits certification in the garbage, so my money got delayed by almost two months. I had no idea what was going on. I had a wife and children to support.

    The fact that technology has enabled us to sit here in real-time and correspond back-and-forth about the state of things doesn’t really change the state of things. They are irredeemable. This country is broke and broken.

    If Abraham Lincoln were born today in America he would wind up like “Uncle Teardrop” from Winter’s Bone. Back then, in order to be an attorney, you simply studied law and starting trying cases. If you were good at it then you were accepted and became a lawyer. Today, something has been lost. There is no fixing it. I don’t want to waste my time trying to help by being “productive” to the new tower of Babel or pretending to contribute.

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  17. J Harlan
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    The most worrying aspect of all this is that graduating from an Harvard or Yale seems to have become a prerequisite to be President. Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, Gore, Kerry, Romney, Obama.

    This might be random chance but if not is it possible that all of the tall, married, church going, non-bald, non-obese, clean shaven talent in the US went to the same two schools?

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  18. ilan
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    Perhaps only one thing you left out, which is especially important with regard to Jewish enrollment and applications at Ivy leagues, and other schools as well.
    Jewish high school graduates actively look out for campuses with large Jewish populations, where they feel more comfortable.
    I don’t know the figures, but I believe Dartmouth, for example, has a much smaller Jewish population than Columbia, and it will stay that way because of a positive feedback loop. (i.e. Jews would rather be at Columbia than Dartmouth, or sometimes even rather be at NYU than Dartmouth). This explains some of the difference among different schools (and not solely better admission standards).
    This is also especially relevant to your random lottery idea, which will inevitably lead to certain schools being overwhelmingly Asian, others being overwhelmingly Jewish, etc., because the percentage of applicants from every ethnicity is different in every school. This will necessarily eliminate any diversity which may or may not have existed until now.

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  19. TM
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    I like the lottery admissions idea a lot but the real remedy for the US education system would be to abandon the absurd elite cult altogether. There is not a shred of evidence that graduates of so-called elite institutions make good leaders. Many of them are responsible for the economic crash and some of them have brought us the disaster of the Bush presidency. Many better functioning countries – Germany, the Scandinavians – do not have elite higher education systems. When I enrolled to University in Germany, I showed up at the enrollment office the summer before the academic year started, filled out a form (1), and provided a certified copy of my Abitur certificate proving that I was academically competent to attend University. I never wasted a minute on any of the admissions games that American middle class teenagers and their parents are subjected to. It would surely have hurt my sense of dignity to be forced to jump through all these absurd and arbitrary hoops.

    Americans, due to their ignorance of everything happening outside their borders, have no clue that a system in which a person is judged by what “school” they attended is everything but normal. It is part of the reason for American dysfunction.

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  20. Luke Lea
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    Since they are the pool from which tomorrow’s governing elites will be chosen, I’d much rather see Ivy League student bodies which reflected the full ethnic and geographic diversity of the US. Right now rural and small town Americans and those of Catholic and Protestant descent who live in the South and Mid-West — roughly half the population — are woefully under-represented, which explains why their economic interests have been neglected over the last forty years. We live in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic representative democracy and our policy-making elites must reflect that diversity. Else the country will come apart.

    Thus I recommend ‘affirmative action for all’ in our elite liberal arts colleges and universities (though not our technical schools). Student bodies should be represent ‘the best and the brightest’ of every ethnic group and geographical area of the country. Then the old school ties will truly knit our society together in a way that is simply not happening today.

    A side benefit — and I mean this seriously — is that our second and third tier colleges and universities would be improved by an influx of Asian and Ashkenazi students (even though the very best would still go to Harvard).

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  21. Jack
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    I believe that this article raises – and then inappropriately immediately dismisses – the simplest and most likely reason for the over-representation of Jewish students at Ivy League Schools in the face of their declining bulk academic performance:

    They apply to those schools in vastly disproportionate numbers.

    Without actual data on the ethnicity of the applicants to these and other schools, we simply cannot rule out this simple and likely explanation.

    It is quite clear that a large current of Jewish American culture places a great emphasis on elite college attendance, and among elite colleges, specifically values the Ivy League and its particular cache as opposed to other elite institutions such as MIT. Also, elite Jewish American culture, moreso than elite Asian American culture, encourages children to go far away from home for college, considering such a thing almost a right of passage, while other ethnic groups tend to encourage children to remain closer. A high performing Asian student from, say, California, is much more likely to face familial pressure to stay close to home for undergrad (Berkeley, UCLA, etc) than a high performing Jewish student from the same high school, who will likely be encouraged by his or her family to apply to many universities “back east”.

    Without being able to systematically compare – with real data – the ethnicities of the applicants to those offered admission, these conclusions simply cannot be accepted.

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  22. Pat Boyle
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    Different expectations for different races should worry traditional Americans.

    If we become comfortable with different academic standards for Asians will we soon be expected to apply different laws to them also? Will we apply different laws or at least different interpretations of the same laws to blacks?

    The association of East Asians with CalTech is now as strong as the association of blacks with violent crime. Can not race conscious jurisprudence be far behind?

    Around a millenium ago in England it mattered to the court if you were a commoner or a noble. Nobles could exercise ‘high justice’ with impunity. They were held to different standards. Their testimony counted for more in court. The law was class concious.

    Then we had centuries of reform. We had ‘Common Law’. By the time of our revolution the idea that all were equal before the law was a very American kind of idea. We were proud that unlike England we did not have a class system.

    Today we seem to be on the threshold of a similar sytem of privileges and rights based on race. Let me give an example. If there were a domestic riot of somekind and a breakdown of public order, the authorities might very well impose a cufew. That makes good sense for black male teens but makes little or no sense for elderly Chinese women. I can envision a time when we have race specific policies for curfews and similar measures.

    It seems to be starting in schools. It could be that the idea of equality before the law was an idea that only flourished between the fifteenth century and the twenty first.

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  23. “But filling out a few very simple forms and having their test scores and grades scores automatically forwarded to a list of possible universities would give them at least the same chance in the lottery as any other applicant whose academic skills were adequate.”

    They get a lot of applications. I am guessing they chuck about 1/2 or more due to the application being incomplete, the applicant did not follow instructions, the application was sloppy, or just obviously poor grades/test scores. The interview and perhaps the essay and recommendations are necessary to chuck weirdos and psychopaths you do not want sitting next to King Fahd Jr. So the “byzantine” application process is actually necessary to reduce the number of applicants to be evaluated.

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  24. Kelly
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    I have a friend who went to Stanford with me in the early 80s. She has two sons who recently applied to Stanford. The older son had slightly better grades and test scores. The younger son is gay. Guess which one got in?

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  25. Columbia GS
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    Bryan,

    If you were in Columbia’s GS school, (or even if you were CC/SEAS/Barnard) you ought to reach out to some of on-campus and alumni veteran’s groups. They can help you maneuver through the school. (I know there’s one that meets at a cafe on 122 and Broadway) CU can be a lonely and forbidding place for anyone and that goes double for GSers and quadruple for veterans.

    You ought to give it another go. Especially if you aren’t going somewhere else that’s better. Reach out to your deans and make a fuss. No one in the bureaucracy wants to help but you can force them to their job.

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  26. FN
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    Mr. Unz, the issues of jewish/gentile intermarriage and the significance of jewish-looking names do indeed merit more consideration than they were given in this otherwise very enlightening article.

    What would the percentage of jews in Ivy-League universities look like if the methodology used to determine the percentage of jewish NMS semifinalists were applied to the list of Ivy League students (or some available approximation of it)?

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  27. Ben K
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    For background: I’m an Asian-American who worked briefly in legacy admissions at an Ivy and another non-Ivy top-tier, both while in school (work-study) and as an alum on related committees.

    Mendy Finkel’s observations are spot on. Re: her 1st point, personal “presentation” or “branding” is often overlooked by Asian applicants. An admission officer at another Ivy joked they drew straws to assign “Night of a 1000 Lee’s”, so accomplished-but-indistinguishable was that group.

    A few points on the Asian analysis:

    1. I think this analysis would benefit from expanding beyond HYP/Ivies when considering the broader meritocracy issue. Many Asians esteem technical-leaning schools over academically-comparable liberal arts ones, even if the student isn’t a science major. When I was in college in the 90′s, most Asian parents would favor a Carnegie Mellon or Hopkins over Brown, Columbia or Dartmouth (though HYP, of course, had its magnetic appeal). The enrollment percentages reflect this, and while some of this is changing, this is a fairly persistent pattern.

    2. Fundraising is crucial. The Harvard Class of ’77 example isn’t the most telling kind of number. In my experience, Jewish alumni provide a critical mass in both the day-to-day fundraising and the resultant dollars. And they play a key role, both as givers and getters, in the signature capital campaign commitments (univ hospitals, research centers, etc.). This isn’t unique to Jewish Ivy alumni; Catholic alumni of ND or Georgetown provide similar support. But it isn’t clear what the future overall Asian commitment to the Ivy “culture of fundraising” will be, which will continue to be a net negative in admissions.

    Sidenote: While Asians greatly value the particular civic good, they are uneasy with it being so hinged to an opaque private sector, in this case, philanthropy. That distinction, blown out a bit, speaks to some of the Republican “Asian gap”.

    3. I would not place too much weight on NMS comparisons between Asians and Jews. In my experience, most Asians treat the PSAT seriously, but many established Jews do not – the potential scholarship money isn’t a factor, “NMS semifinalist” isn’t an admissions distinction, and as Mendy highlighted, colleges don’t see the scores.

    On a different note, while the “weight” of an Ivy degree is significant, it’s prestige is largely concentrated in the Northeast and among some overseas. In terms of facilitating access and mobility, a USC degree might serve you better in SoCal, as would an SMU one in TX.

    And like J Harlan, I also hope the recent monopoly of Harvard and Yale grads in the presidency will end. No doubt, places like Whittier College, Southwest Texas State Teachers’ College, and Eureka College gave earlier presidents valuable perspectives and experience that informed their governing.

    But thank you, Ron, for a great provocative piece. Very well worth the read.

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  28. Hey Ron, your next article should be on the military academies, and all those legacies that go back to the Revolutionary War. How do you get into the French military academy, and do the cadets trace their family history back to the soldiers of Napoleon or Charles Martel or whatever?

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  29. M_Young
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    “Thus, there appears to be no evidence for racial bias against Asians, even excluding the race-neutral impact of athletic recruitment, legacy admissions, and geographical diversity.”

    Yes, at UCLA, at least up to 2004, Asian and white admits had nearly identical SATs and GPAs.

    Further, it just isn’t the case that Asians are so spectacular as people seem to think. Their average on the SAT Verbal is slightly less than whites, their average on SAT Writing is slightly more. Only in math do they have a significant advantage, 59 points or .59 standard deviation. Total advantage is about .2 over the three tests. Assuming that Harvard or Yale admit students at +3 standard deviations overall, and plugging the relative group quantiles +(3, 2.8) into a normal distribution, we get that .14% of white kids would get admitted, versus .26% of Asian kids. Or, 1.85 Asian kids for every one white kid.

    But, last year 4.25 times as many whites as Asians took the SAT, so there still should be about 2.28 times as many white kids being admitted as Asians (4.25/1.85).

    On GPA, whites and Asians are also pretty similar on average, 3.52 for Asians who took the SAT, 3.45 for whites who took the SAT. So that shouldn’t be much of a factor.

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  30. T.S.
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    I am a Cadet at the US Military Academy at West Point and generally pretty familiar with trans-national Academy admissions processes. There’s an excellent comparative study of worldwide military academy admissions that was done in the late ’90′s you might find interesting (IIRC it was done by a group in the NATO Defence College) and I think you will find that although soldiers are often proud of their family histories to a fault, it is not what controls entrance to the officer corps in most countries. “Legacy” is definitely meaningless in US Military Academy admissions, although can be very helpful in the separate process of securing a political appointment to attend the Academy once accepted for admission and in an Army career. West Point is not comparable to the Ivy League schools in the country, because (ironically) the admissions department that makes those comparisons lets in an inordinate number of unqualified candidates and ensures our student body includes a wide range of candidates, from people who are unquestionably “Ivy League material” to those who don’t have the intellect to hack it at any “elite” institution. Prior the changes in admissions policies and JFK ordering an doubling of the size of the Corps of Cadets in the ’60′s, we didn’t have this problem. But, I digress. My point is, the Academy admissions system is very meritocratic.

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  31. Todd
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    Thank you for the great article.

    I am a Jewish alum of UPenn, and graduated in the late 90s. That puts me almost a generation ago, which may be before the supposed Jewish decline you write about. I was in an 80%+ Jewish fraternity, and at least 2/3 of my overall network of friends at Penn was also Jewish. As was mentioned earlier, I have serious qualms with your methods for counting Jews based upon last name.

    Based upon my admittedly non-scientific sample, the percentage of us who had traditionally Jewish last names was well under half and closer to 25%. My own last name is German, and you would never know I am Jewish based solely upon my name (nor would you based upon the surname of 3/4 of my grandparents, despite my family being 100% Jewish with no intermarriages until my sister).

    By contrast, Asians are much easier to identify based upon name. You may overcount certain names like Lee that are also Caucasian, but it is highly unlikely that you will miss any Asian students when your criterion is last name.

    Admittedly I skimmed parts of the article, but were other criterion used to more accurately identify the groups?

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  32. Interesting
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    Great article.

    The Jewish presence is definitely understated by just looking at surnames. As is the American Indian.

    My maternal grandfather was Ashkenazi and his wife was 1/2 Ashkenazi and 1/4 Apache. He changed his name to a Scots surname that matched his red hair so as to get ahead as a business man in 20s due to KKK and anti-German feelings at the time. Their kids had two PHDs and a Masters between them despite their parents running a very blue collar firm.

    My surname comes from my dad and its a Scottish surname although he was 1/4 Cherokee. On that side we are members of the FF of Virignia. Altogether I am more Jewish and American Indian than anything else yet would be classified as white. I could easily claim to be
    Jewish or Indian on admissions forms. I always selected white. I was NMSF.

    Both my sister and I have kids. Her husband is a full blood Indian with a common English surname. One of my nieces made NMSF and another might. My sisters kids do not think of themselves as any race and check other.

    My wife is 1/4 Indian and 3/4 English. My kids are young yet one has tested to an IQ in the 150s.

    Once you get West of the Appalachians, there are a lot of mutts in the non-gentile whites. A lot of Jews and American Indians Anglicized themselves a generation or two ago and they are lumped into that group – as well as occupy the top percentile academically.

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  33. A Jew
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    Interesting article with parts I would agree with but also tinged with bias and conclusions that I would argue are not fully supported by the data.

    I think more analysis is needed to confirm your conclusions. As others have mentioned there may be problems with your analysis of NMS scores. I think graduate admissions and achievements especially in the math and sciences would be a better measure of intellectual performance.

    Now, I didn’t attend an Ivy League school, instead a public university, mainly because I couldn’t afford it or so I thought. I was also a NMS finalist.

    But I always was of the opinion that except for the most exceptional students admission to the Ivies was based on the wealth of your family and as you mentioned there are quite a few affluent Jews so I imagine they do have a leg up. Harvard’s endowment isn’t as large as it is by accident.

    It is interesting that you didn’t discuss the stats for Stanford.

    Lastly, I think your solution is wrong. The pure meritocracy is the only fair solution. Admissions should be based upon the entrance exams like in Asia and Europe.

    There are plenty of options for those who don’t want to compete and if the Asians dominate admissions at the top schools so be it.

    Hopefully, all of this will be mute point n a few years as online education options become more popular with Universities specializing in graduate education and research.

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  34. Leon
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    Ron Unz on Asians (ie Asian Americans): “many of them impoverished immigrant families”

    Why do you twice repeat this assertion. Asians are the wealthiest race and most of the wealthiest ethnic groups tracked by the Census Bureau, which includes immigrants.

    A potentially bigger issue completely ignored by your article is how do colleges differentiate between ‘foreign’ students (overwhelmingly Asian) and American students. Many students being counted as “Asian American” are in reality wealthy and elite foreign “parachute kids” (an Asian term), dropped onto the generous American education system or into boarding schools to study for US entrance exams, qualify for resident tuition rates and scholarships, and to compete for “American” admissions slots, not for the usually limited ‘foreign’ admission slots. Probably people from non-Asian countries are pulling the same stunt, but it seems likely dominated by Asians. And expect many more with the passage of the various “Dream Acts”
    So American kids must compete with the offspring of all the worlds corrupt elite for what should be opportunities for US Americans.

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  35. New York PSAT data:

    http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/NY_12_05_02_01.pdf

    In New York Asian-Americans make up 9.5%, whites 50.4%, Latinos 18.3% and African-Americans 15.7%.

    California PSAT data:

    http://media.collegeboard.com/digitalServices/pdf/research/CA_12_05_02_01.pdf

    In California Asian-Americans make up 19.7% of PSAT takers, and whites make up 31.9%, with 37% Latino and 5.7% African-American.

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  36. johhn a
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    Am I the only one that finds the comparison of Asians (a race) to Jews (a religion) as basis for a case of discrimination completely flawed? I got in at Harvard and don’t remember them even asking me what my religion was.

    The value of diversity is absolutely key. I have a bunch of very good Asian friends and I love them dearly, but I don’t believe a place like CalTech with its 40% demographics cannot truly claim to be a diverse place any more.

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  37. nooffensebut
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    Regarding the SAT, we do know more than just differences of averages between whites and Asians. We have some years of score distributions. As recently as 1992, 1.2% of whites and 5.1% of Asians scored between 750 and 800 on the math subtest. As recently as 1985, 0.20% of whites and 0.26% of Asians scored in that range on the verbal/critical reading subtest. On a different form of the writing subtest than is currently used, 5.0% of whites and 3.0% of Asians scored greater than 60 in 1985. We also know that, as the white-Asian average verbal/critical reading gap shrank to almost nothing and the average math gap grew in Asians’ favor, the standard deviations on both for Asians have been much higher than every other group but have stayed relatively unchanged and have become, in fact, slightly lower than in 1985. Therefore, Asians probably greatly increased their share of top performers.

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  38. Xian P.
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    @Milton F.: “Perhaps, by ensuring that “the best” students are not concentrated in only 8 universities is why the depth and quality of America’s education system remains the envy of the world.”

    Hardly. America’s education system is “the envy” because of the ability for minorities to get placement into better schools, not solely for the education they receive. Only a very select few institutions are envied for their education primarily, 90% of the colleges and universities across the country are sub-standard education providers, same with high schools.

    I would imagine you’re an educator at some level, more than likely, at one of the sub-standard colleges or even perhaps a high school teacher. You’re attempting to be defensive of the American education system, when in reality, you’re looking at the world through rose colored glasses. Working from within the system, rather than from the private sector looking back, gives you extreme tunnel vision. That, coupled with the average “closed mindedness” of educators in America is a dangerous approach to advancing the structure of the American education system. You and those like you ARE the problem and should be taken out of the equation as quickly as possible. Please retire ASAP or find another career.

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  39. Rob Schacter
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    Aside from the complete lack of actual ivy league admission data on jewish applicants, a big problem with unz’s “jewish affirmative action” claim is how difficult such a policy would be to carry out in complete secrecy.

    Now, it would be one thing if Unz was claiming that jews are being admitted with similar numbers to non-jewish whites, but in close cases, admissions staff tend to favor jewish applicants. But he goes much further than that. Unz is claiming that jews, as a group, are being admitted with lower SAT scores than non-jewish whites. Not only that, but this policy is being carried out by virtually every single ivy league college and it has been going on for years. Moreover, this preference is so pervasive, that it allows jews to gain admissions at many times the rate that merit alone would yield, ultimately resulting in entering classes that are over 20% Jewish.

    If a preference this deep, consistent and widespread indeed exists, there is no way it could be the result of subjective bias or intentional tribal favoritism on the part of individual decision makers. It would have to be an official, yet unstated, admissions policy in every ivy league school. Over the years, dozens (if not hundreds) of admission staff across the various ivy league colleges would be engaging in this policy, without a single peep ever leaking through about Jewish applicants getting in with subpar SAT scores. We hear insider reports all the time about one group is favored or discriminated against (we even have such an insider account in this comment thread), but we hear nothing about the largest admission preference of them all.

    Remember, admissions staffs usually include other ethnic minorities. I couldn’t imagine them not wondering why jews need to be given such a big boost so that they make up almost a quarter of the entering class. Even if every member of every admissions committee were Jewish liberals, it would still be almost impossible to keep this under wraps.

    Obviously, I have never seen actual admission numbers for Jewish applicants, so I could be wrong, and there could in fact be an unbreakable wall of secrecy regarding the largest and most pervasive affirmative action practice in the country. Or, perhaps, the ivy league application pool contains a disproportionate amount of high scoring jewish applicants.

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  40. Dr O
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    As some who is Jewish from the former Soviet Union, and who was denied even to take an entrance exam to a Moscow college, I am saddened to see that American educational admission process looks more and more “Soviet” nowadays. Kids are denied opportunities because of their ethnic or social background, in a supposedly free and fair country!

    But this is just a tip of the iceberg. The American groupthink of political correctness, lowest common denominator, and political posturing toward various political/ethnic/religious/sexual orientation groups is rotting this country inside out.

    Worse things are yet to come.

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  41. Julia
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    “Similarly, Jews were over one-quarter of the top students in the Physics Olympiad from 1986 to 1997, but have fallen to just 5 percent over the last decade, a result which must surely send Richard Feynman spinning in his grave.”

    Actually, Richard Feynman famously rejected genetic explanations of Jewish achievement (whether he was right or wrong to do so is another story), and aggressively resisted any attempts to list him as a “Jewish scientist” or “Jewish Nobel Prize winner.” I am sure he would not cared in the slightest bit how many Jews were participating in the Physics Olympiad, as long as the quality of the students’ work continued to be excellent. Here is a letter he wrote to a woman seeking to include him in a book about Jewish achievement in the sciences.

    Dear Miss Levitan:

    In your letter you express the theory that people of Jewish origin have inherited their valuable hereditary elements from their people. It is quite certain that many things are inherited but it is evil and dangerous to maintain, in these days of little knowledge of these matters, that there is a true Jewish race or specific Jewish hereditary character. Many races as well as cultural influences of men of all kinds have mixed into any man. To select, for approbation the peculiar elements that come from some supposedly Jewish heredity is to open the door to all kinds of nonsense on racial theory.

    Such theoretical views were used by Hitler. Surely you cannot maintain on the one hand that certain valuable elements can be inherited from the “Jewish people,” and deny that other elements which other people may find annoying or worse are not inherited by these same “people.” Nor could you then deny that elements that others would consider valuable could be the main virtue of an “Aryan” inheritance.

    It is the lesson of the last war not to think of people as having special inherited attributes simply because they are born from particular parents, but to try to teach these “valuable” elements to all men because all men can learn, no matter what their race.

    It is the combination of characteristics of the culture of any father and his father plus the learning and ideas and influences of people of all races and backgrounds which make me what I am, good or bad. I appreciate the valuable (and the negative) elements of my background but I feel it to be bad taste and an insult to other peoples to call attention in any direct way to that one element in my composition.

    At almost thirteen I dropped out of Sunday school just before confirmation because of differences in religious views but mainly because I suddenly saw that the picture of Jewish history that we were learning, of a marvelous and talented people surrounded by dull and evil strangers was far from the truth. The error of anti-Semitism is not that the Jews are not really bad after all, but that evil, stupidity and grossness is not a monopoly of the Jewish people but a universal characteristic of mankind in general. Most non-Jewish people in America today have understood that. The error of pro-Semitism is not that the Jewish people or Jewish heritage is not really good, but rather the error is that intelligence, good will, and kindness is not, thank God, a monopoly of the Jewish people but a universal characteristic of mankind in general.

    Therefore you see at thirteen I was not only converted to other religious views but I also stopped believing that the Jewish people are in any way “the chosen people.” This is my other reason for requesting not to be included in your work.

    I am expecting that you will respect my wishes.

    Sincerely yours,

    Richard Feynman

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  42. Ben K
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    @Rob Schacter – your last point is basically spot-on. The Ivies are fairly unique in the high proportion of Jewish applicants. History, geographical bias, and self-selection all play a role. I think the overall preference distortion is probably not as wide as Unz claims, but you will see similar tilts at Stanford, Northwestern, etc. that reflect different preference distortions.

    @Leon, two quick points.

    1st – the census tracks by household, which generally overestimates Asian wealth. Many families have three generations and extended members living in one household (this reflects that many of them work together in a small family business).

    2nd – most of the time, it’s clear in the application (the HS, personal info, other residency info, etc.) which Asian applicants are Asian-American and which are “Parachute Kids”. But the numbers are much smaller than one might think, and the implication depends on the school.

    At Ivies, parachute kids (both Asian and not) tend to compete with each other in the application pool, and aren’t substantially informing the broader admissions thesis in this article. I’m not saying that’s right, just saying it’s less material than we might think.

    They more likely skew the admissions equation in great-but-not-rich liberal arts colleges (like Grinnell) and top public universities (like UCLA), which are both having budget crises and need full fare students, parachute or not. And for the publics, this includes adding more higher-tuition, out-of-state students, which further complicates assertions of just whose opportunities are being lost.

    I will bring this back to fundraising and finances again, because the broader point is about who is stewarding and creating access: so long as top universities are essentially run as self-invested feedback loops, and position and resource themselves accordingly (and other universities have to compete with them), we will continue to see large, persistent discrepancies in who can participate.

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  43. When I applied to Harvard College back in 1976, I was proud of my application essay. In it, I proposed that the US used the Israeli army as a proxy, just as the Russians were using the Cuban army at the time.
    Alas, I wasn’t admitted (I did get into Yale, which didn’t require free-form essay like that).

    This, of course, illustrates the point that coming from an Application Hell instead of from central Illinois helps a student know how to write applications. It also illustrates what might help explain the mystery of high Jewish admissions: political bias. Jews are savvier about knowing what admissions officers like to hear (including the black and Latino ones, who as a previous commentor said aren’t likely to be pro-semite). They are also politically more liberal, and so don’t have to fake it. And their families are more likely to read the New York Times and thus have the right “social graces” as we might call them, of this age.
    It would be interesting to know how well “true WASPS” do in admissions. This could perhaps be estimated by counting Slavic and Italian names, or Puritan New England last names. I would expect this group to do almost as well as Jews (not quite as well, because their ability would be in the lower end of the Legacy group).

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  44. The missing variable in this analysis is income/class. While Unz states that many elite colleges have the resources to fund every student’s education, and in fact practice need-blind admissions, the student bodies are skewed towards the very highest percentile of the income and wealth distribution. SAT scores may also scale with parents’ income as well.

    Tuition and fees at these schools have nearly doubled relative to inflation in the last 25-30 years, and with home prices in desirable neighborhoods showing their own hyper-inflationary behavior over the past couple of decades (~15 yrs, especially), the income necessary to pay for these schools without burdening either the student or parents with a lot of debt has been pushed towards the top decile of earners. A big chunk of the upper middle class has been priced out. This could hit Asian professionals who may be self made harder than other groups like Jews who may be the second or third generation of relative affluence, and would thus have advantages in having less debt when starting their families and careers and be less burdened in financing their homes. Would be curious to see the same analysis if $$ could be controlled.

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  45. I would also like to add that I am a late ’80′s graduate of Wesleyan who ceased his modest but annual financial contribution to the school after reading The Gatekeepers.

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  46. Rebecca
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    If I had a penny for every Jewish American I met (including myself) whose first and last name gave no indication of his religion or ethnicity, I’d be rich. Oh–and my brother and I have four Ivy League degrees between us.

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  47. black guy
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    I almost clicked on a different link the instance I came across the word “elite” , but curiosity forced my hand.
    Just yesterday my mom was remarking how my cousin had gotten into MIT with an SAT score far below what I scored, and she finished by adding that I should have applied to an ivy-league college after high school. I as always, reminded her, I’m too “black for ivy games”.
    I always worked hard in school, participated in olympiads and symposiums, and was a star athlete. When it came to applying for college I found myself startled when forced to “quantify” my achievements in an “application package”. I did not do or engage in these activities solely to boost my chances of gaining admission into some elite college over similarly-hardworking Henry Wang or Jess Steinberg. I did these things because I loved doing them.
    Sports after class was almost a relaxation activity for me. Participating in math olympiads was a way for me to get a scoop on advanced mathematics. Participating in science symposiums was a chance for me to start applying my theoretical education to solve practical problems.
    The moment I realized I would have to kneel down before some admissions officer and “present my case”, outlining my “blackness”, athleticism, hard work, curiosity, and academic ability, in that specific order I should point, in order to have a fighting chance at getting admitted; is the moment all my “black rage” came out in an internal explosion of rebellion and disapproval of “elite colleges”.
    I instead applied to a college that was blind to all of the above factors. I am a firm believer that hard work and demonstrated ability always win out in the end. I’ve come across, come up against is a better way to put it, Ivy-league competition in college competitions and applications for co-ops and internships, and despite my lack of “eliteness” I am confident that my sheer ability and track record will put me in the “interview candidate” pool.

    Finally, my opinion is: let elite schools keep doing what they are doing. It isn’t a problem at all, the “elite” tag has long lost its meaning.

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  48. Ellen M
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    The difficulty with using Jewish sounding last names to identify Jewish students works poorly in two ways today. Not only, as others have pointed out, do many Jews not have Jewish sounding last names, but there are those, my grandson for example, who have identifiably Jewish last names and not much in the way of Jewish background.

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  49. Mendicus
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    Interesting reading. The article opens a deceptively simple statistical window into a poorly understood process — a window which I would guess even the key participants have never looked through. I especially appreciated the insights provided by the author’s examination of Asian surname-frequencies and their over-representation in NMS databases.

    Though this is a long and meticulously argued piece, it would have benefited from a more thorough discussion of the statistical share of legacies and athletic scholarships in elite admissions.

    Perhaps, though, it would be better to focus on increasing meritocracy in the broader society, which would inevitably lead to some discounting of the value of educational credentials issued by these less than meritocratic private institutions.

    It is precisely because the broader society is also in many key respects non-meritocratic that the non-meritocratic admissions practices of elite institutions are sustainable.

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  50. Anon
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    Despite the very long and detailed argument, the writer’s interpretation of a pro-Jewish admissions bias at Ivy-league schools is worryingly flawed.

    First, he uses two very different methods of counting Jews: name recognition for counting various “objective” measures such as NMS semifinalists and Hillel stats for those admitted to Harvard. The first is most likely an underestimate while the latter very possibly inflated (in both cases especially due to the very large numbers of partially-Jewish students, in the many interpretations that has). I wonder how much of his argument would just go away if he simply counted the number of Jews in Harvard using the same method he used to count their numbers in the other cases. Would that really be hard to do?

    Second, he overlooks the obvious two sources that can lead to such Asian/Jewish relative gaps in admissions. The first is the different groups’ different focus on Science/Math vs. on Writing/Culture. It is very possible that in recent years most Asians emphasize the former while Jews the latter, which would be the natural explanation to the Caltech vs Harvard racial composition (as well as to the other stats). The second is related but different and it is the different group’s bias in applications: the same cultural anecdotes would explain why Asians would favor applying to Caltech and Jews to Harvard. A natural interpretation of the data would be that Jews have learned to optimize for whatever criteria the Ivy leagues are using and the Asians are doing so for the Caltech criteria.

    Most strange is the author’s interpretation of how a pro-Jewish bias in admissions is actually put into effect: the application packets do not have the data of whether the applicant is Jewish or not, and I doubt that most admission officers figure it out in most cases. While it could be possible for admissions officers to have a bias for or against various types of characteristics that they see in the data in front of them (say Asian/Black/White or political activity), a systematic bias on unobserved data is a much more difficult proposition to make. Indeed the author becomes rather confused here combining the low education level of admissions officers, that they are “liberal arts or ethnic-studies majors” (really?), that they are “progressive”, and that there sometimes is corruption, all together presumably leading to a bias in favor of Jews?

    Finally, the author’s suggestion for changing admittance criteria is down-right bizarre for a conservative: The proposal is a centralized solution that he aims to force upon the various private universities, each who can only loose from implementing it.

    Despite the long detailed (but extremely flawed) article, I am afraid that it is more a reflection of the author’s biases than of admissions biases.

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  51. Allan
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    Both the article and the comments are illuminating. My takeaways:

    1) Affirmative action in favor of blacks and Hispanics is acknowledged.

    2) Admissions officers in the Ivy League appear to limit Asian admissions somewhat relative to the numbers of qualified applicants.

    3) They may also admit somewhat more Jewish applicants than would be warranted relative to their comparative academic qualifications. The degree to which this is true is muddled by the difficulty of identifying Jews by surnames, by extensive intermarriage, by changing demographics within the Jewish population, by geographic factors, and by the propensity to apply in the first place.

    4) (My major takeaway.) White Protestants and Catholics are almost certainly the sole groups that are greatly under-represented relative to their qualifications as well as to raw population percentages.

    5) This is due partly to subtle or open discrimination.

    6) I would hypothesize that a great many of the white Protestants and Catholics who are admitted are legacies, star athletes, and the progeny of celebrities in entertainment, media, politics, and high finance. White Protestant or Catholic applicants, especially from the hinterlands, who don’t fit one of these special categories–though they must be a very large component of Mr Unz’s pool of top talent–are out of luck.

    7) And everyone seems to think this is just fine.

    The inner and outer ring idea seems to me an excellent one, though the likelihood of it happening is next to nil, both because some groups would lose disproportionate access and because the schools’ imprimatur would be diminished in
    value.

    The larger point, made by several respondents, is that far too many institutions place far too much weight on the credentials conferred by a small group of screening institutions. The great advantage of the American system is not that it is meritocratic, either objectively or subjectively. It is that it is–or was–Protean in its flexibility. One could rise through luck or effort or brains, with credentials or without them, early in life or after false starts and setbacks. And there were regional elites or local elites rather than, as we increasingly see, a single, homogenized national elite. Success or its equivalent wasn’t something institutionally conferred.

    The result of the meritocratic process is that we are making a race of arrogant, entitled overlords, extremely skilled at the aggressive and assertive arts required to gain admission to, and to succeed in, a few similar and ideologically skewed universities and colleges; and who spend the remainder of their lives congratulating each other, bestowing themselves on the populace, and destroying the country.

    No wonder we are where we are.

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  52. Charles Hale
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    Welcome to China.

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  53. WG
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    This article is the product of careful and thoughtful research, and it identifies a problem hiding in plain sight. As a society, we have invested great trust in higher education as a transformative institution. It is clear that we have been too trusting.

    That the admissions policies of elite universities are meritocratic is hardly the only wrong idea that Americans have about higher education. Blind faith in higher education has left too many people with largely worthless degrees and crushing student-loan debt.

    Of course, the problems don’t end with undergraduate education. The “100 reasons NOT to go to grad school” blog offers some depressing reading:

    http://100rsns.blogspot.com/

    The higher education establishment has failed to address so many longstanding internal structural problems that it’s hard to imagine that much will change anytime soon.

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  54. Jack above makes the following point:

    “I believe that this article raises – and then inappropriately immediately dismisses – the simplest and most likely reason for the over-representation of Jewish students at Ivy League Schools in the face of their declining bulk academic performance:

    They apply to those schools in vastly disproportionate numbers.”

    Here’s the problem with that point. What Ron Unz demonstrates, quite effectively, is that today’s Jews simply don’t measure up to either their Asian or their White Gentile counterparts in terms of actual performance when they get into, say, Harvard. The quite massive difference in the proportions of those groups who get into Phi Beta Kappa renders this quite undeniable. What is almost certain is that policies that favored Asians and White Gentiles over the current crop of Jewish students would create a class of higher caliber in terms of academic performance.

    If indeed it’s true that Jews apply to Harvard in greater numbers, then, if the desire is to produce a class with the greatest academic potential, some appropriate way of correcting for the consequent distortion should be introduced. Certainly when it comes to Asians, college admissions committees have found their ways of reducing the numbers of Asians admitted, despite their intense interest in the Ivies.

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  55. One way of understanding Unz’s results here might be not so much that today’s Jewish student is far less inclined to hard academic work than those of yesteryear, but rather that others — White Gentiles and Asians — have simply caught up in terms of motivation to get into elite schools and perform to the best of their abilities.

    Certainly among members of the upper middle class, there has been great, and likely increasing, emphasis in recent years on the importance of an elite education and strong academic performance for ultimate success. This might well produce a much stronger class of students at the upper end applying to the Ivies.

    It may be that not only the Asians, but upper middle class White Gentiles, are “The New Jews”.

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  56. Howard
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    I don’t always agree with, Mr. Unz, but his expositions are always provocative and informative. As far as the criticisms of his data set go, he openly admits that they are less than ideal. However, the variances are so large that the margin of error can be excused. Jews are 40 TIMES more likely to be admitted to Harvard than Gentile whites. Asians are 10 times more likely. Of course, it could be possible that Jews, because of higher average IQs, actually produce 40 times as many members in the upper reaches of the cognitive elite.

    Given Richard Lynn’s various IQ studies of Jews and the relative preponderance of non-Jewish and Jewish whites in the population, however, whites ought to have a 7 to 1 representation vis-a-vis Jews in Ivy League institutions, assuming the IQ cutoff is 130. Their numbers are roughly equivalent instead.

    Because Ivy League admissions have been a hotbed of ethnic nepotism in the past, it seems that special care should be taken to avoid these improprieties (or the appearance thereof) in the future. But no such safeguards have been put in place. David Brooks has also struck the alarm about the tendency of elites to shut down meritocratic institutions once they have gained a foothold: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/13/opinion/brooks-why-our-elites-stink.html?_r=1&ref=global-home

    Clannish as the WASPs may have been, they were dedicated enough to ideals of fairness and equality that they opened the doors for their own dispossession. I predict that a new Asian elite will eventually eclipse our Jewish elite. Discrimination and repression can restrain a vigorously ascendant people but for so long. When they do, it will be interesting to see if this Asian cohort clings to its longstanding Confucian meritocratic traditions, embodied in the Chinese gaokao or if it too will succumb to the temptation, ever present in a multiethnic polity, of preferring ethnic kinsmen over others.

    Does anyone know how a minority such as the Uighurs fares in terms of elite Chinese university admissions?

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  57. Daniel
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    This may sound like special-pleading, but it’s not clear that full-scale IQ measures are meaningful when assessing and predicting Jewish performance. Jewish deficits on g-loaded spatial reasoning task may reflect specific visuo-spatial deficits and not deficits in g. As far as I know, no one doubts that the average Jewish VIQ is at least 112 (and possibly over 120). This score may explain jewish representation which seems to exceed what would be projected by their full-scale iq scores. Despite PIQ’s correllation to mathematical ability in most populations, we ought also remember that, at least on the WAIS, it is the VIQ scale that includes the only directly mathematical subtest. We should also note that Jewish mathematicians seem to use little visualization in their reasoning (cf. Seligman

    That said, I basically agree that Jews are, by and large, coasting. American Jews want their children to play hockey and join ‘greek life’ and stuff, not sit in libraries . It’s sad for those of us who value the ivory tower, but understandable given their stigmatiziation as a nerdish people.

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  58. Nick
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    I wonder if it would be at all possible to assess the political biases of admissions counselors at these schools by assessing the rates at which applicants from red states are admitted to the elite universities. I suppose you would have to know how many applied, and those data aren’t likely to exist in the public domain.

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  59. Alex
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    One major flaw with this article’s method of determining Jewish representation: distinctive Jewish surnames in no way make up all Jewish surnames. Distinctive Jewish surnames happen to be held by only 10-12% of all American Jews. In fact, the third most common American Jewish surname after Cohen and Levy is Miller. Mr. Unz’ methodology does not speak well for itself, given that he’s comparing a limited set of last names against a far more carefully scrutinized estimate.

    I’m not suggesting his estimate of national merit scholars and the like is off by a full 90%, but he’s still ending up with a significant undercount, possibly close to half. That would still mean Jews may be “wrongfully” over-represented are many top colleges and universities, but the disproportion is nowhere near as nefarious as he would suggest.

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  60. Ben K
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    @Nick – the “red state” application and admission rates isn’t useful data.

    Short answer: There are many reasons for this, but basically, historical momentum and comfort play a much bigger role in where kids apply than we think. I assure you, far more top Nebraska HS seniors want to be a Cornhusker than a Crimson, even though many would find a very receptive consideration and financial aid package.

    Long answer: 1st, although this article and discussion have been framed in broad racial/cultural terms, the mechanics of college admissions are mostly local and a bit like athletic recruiting – coverage (and cultivation) of specific regions and districts, “X” high school historically deliver “X” kinds of candidates, etc. So to the degree we may see broader trends noted in the article and discussion, some of that is rooted at the HS level and lower.

    2nd, in “red states”, most Ivy applicants come from the few blue or neutral districts. E.g.: the only 2 Utah HS’s that consistently have applicants to my Ivy alma mater are in areas that largely mirror other high-income, Dem-leaning areas nationwide rather than the rest of Utah.

    3rd, but, with some variation among the schools, the Ivy student body is more politically balanced than usually assumed. Remember, most students are upper-income, Northeastern suburban and those counties’ Dem/Rep ratio is often closer to 55/45 than 80/20.

    But to wrap up, ideology plays a negligible role in admissions generally (there’s always an exception); they have other fish to fry (see below).

    @soren in Goldman’s post (http://bit.ly/TrbJSB) and other commenters here:

    “Quota against Asians” is not entirely wrong, but it’s too strong because it implies the forward intent is about limiting their numbers.

    Put another way, Unz believes the Ivies are failing their meritocractic mission by over-admitting a group that is neither disadvantaged nor has highest technical credentials; and this comes at the expense of a group that is more often disadvantaged and with higher technical credentials. The Ivies would likely reply, “well, we define ‘meritocractic mission’ differently”.

    That may be a legitimate counter, but it’s also what needs more expansion and sunlight.

    But Unz’ analysis has a broader causation vs correlation gap. Just because admissions is essentially zero-sum doesn’t mean every large discrepancy in it is, even after allowing for soft biases. I’ve mentioned these earlier in passing, but here are just a couple other factors of note:

    1. Admissions is accountable for selection AND marketing and matriculation – these are not always complementary forces. Essentially, you want to maximize both the number and distribution (racial, geographic, types of accomplishment, etc.) of qualified applicants, but also the number you can safely turn down… but without discouraging future applications, upsetting certain stakeholders (specific schools, admissions counselors/consultants, etc.) or “harming” any data in the US News rankings.

    And you have a very finite time to do this, and – not just your competition, but the entire sector – is essentially doing this at the same time. You can see how an admissions process would develop certain biases over time to limit risks in an unpredictable, high volume market, even if rarely intended to target a specific group.

    2. Ivy fixation (but especially around HYP) is particularly concentrated in the Northeast – a sample from several top HS’ across America (public and private) would show much larger application and matriculation variations among their top students than would be assumed from Unz’s thesis.

    3. Different Ivies have different competitors/peers, which influences their diversity breakdowns – to some degree, they all co-compete, but just as often don’t. E.g.: Princeton often overlaps with Georgetown and Duke, Columbia with NYU and Cooper Union, Cornell with SUNY honors programs because it has some “in state” public colleges, etc.

    There’s much more, of course, but returning to Unz’s ethnographic thesis, I have this anecdote: we have two friends in finance, whose families think much of their success. The 1st is Asian, went to Carnegie Mellon, and is a big bank’s trading CTO; the 2nd is Jewish, went to Wharton, and is in private equity.

    Put another way, while both families shared a pretty specific vision of success, they differed a lot in the execution. The upper echelon of universities, and the kinds of elite-level mobility they offer, are much more varied than even 25 years ago. While the relative role of HYP in our country, and their soft biases in admission, are “true enough” to merit discussion, it’s probably not the discussion that was in this article.

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  61. Alex,

    While you may have a point as to the difficulty in some cases of identifying a Jewish surname, the most important thing methodologically is that the criteria be performed uniformly if one is comparing Jewish representation today vs. that of other periods. I can’t think, for example, of any reason that Cohens or Levys or Golds should be any less well represented today as opposed to many years ago if indeed there has not been an underlying shift in numbers of Jews in the relevant categories. (Nor, for that matter, should issues like intermarriage affect the numbers much here — for every mother whose maiden name is Cohen who marries a non-Jew with a non-Jewish surname, and whose half Jewish child will be counted as non-Jewish, there is, on average, going to be a man named Cohen who will marry a non-Jew, and whose half Jewish child will be counted as Jewish.)

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  62. Bud Wood
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    One might suppose that all this “inequity” and “discrimination” matters if we’re keeping score. However, seems to me that too much emphasis is typically placed on equality whereas real criteria in productive and satisfying lives are neglected. Kind’a like some people wanting bragging rights as much, if not more, than wanting positive reality.

    I guess I just went about my way and lived a pretty god life (so far). Who knows?; maybe those “bragging rights” are meaningful.

    Bud Wood
    Grad – Stanford Elec Engrg.

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  63. Thought provoking article.

    Ditto to many comments about the “last name problem”, even if its correction weakens but doesn’t invalidate the argument. (One imagines, chillingly, a new sub-field: “Jewish last name theory”, seeking to determine proportionalities of classic names validated against member/donor lists of synagogues and other Jewish organizations.)

    Regarding the 20% inner ring suggestion, it suffers from its harsh transition. Consider a randomized derating scheme: a random number between some lower bound (say 0.90) and 1.00 is applied to each score on the ranked applicant list.

    The added noise provides warmth to a cold test scores list. Such an approach nicely captures the directive: “study hard, but it’s not all about the grades”.

    By adjusting the lower bound, you can get whatever degree of representativeness relative to the application base you want.

    That it’s a “just a number” (rather than a complex subjectivity-laden labyrinth incessantly hacked at by consultants) could allow interesting conversations about how it could relate to the “top 1% / bottom 50%” wealth ratio. The feedback loop wants closure.

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  64. Alex
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    You missed my point, candid. A relatively small proportion of Jews, intermarried or otherwise, have distinctive Jewish names. I didn’t make that 10-12% figure up. It’s been cited in numerous local Jewish population studies and is used in part (but certainly far from whole) to help estimate those populations. It’s also been significantly dragged down over the years as the Jewish population (and hence the surname pool) has diversified, not just from intermarriage, but in-migration from groups who often lack “distinctive Jewish surnames” such as Jews from the former Soviet Union. Consider also that for obvious reasons, Hillel, which maintains Jewish centers on most campus, has an incentive to over-report by a bit. Jewish populations on college campuses in the distant past were easier to gather, given that it was far less un-PC to simply point blank inquire what religious background applicants came from.

    Again, I’m not saying there isn’t a downward trend in Jewish representation among high achievers (which, even if one were to accept Unz’s figures, Jews would still be triple relative to were they “should” be). But Unz has made a pretty significant oversight in doing his calculations. That may happen to further suit his personal agenda, but it’s not reality.

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  65. PghMike4
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    This is interesting, but I suspect mostly bogus, based on your not having a decent algorithm for discovering if someone’s Jewish.

    I’m not sure what exact mechanism you’re using to decide if a name is Jewish, but I’m certain it wouldn’t have caught anyone, including myself, in my father’s side of the family (Sephardic Jews from Turkey with Turkish surnames), nor my wife’s family, an Ellis Island Anglo name. Or probably most of the people in her family. And certainly watching for “Levi, Cohen and Gold*” isn’t going to do anything.

    And none of us have even intermarried!

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  66. tombarnes
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    Isn’t the point about Jewish over representation in the Ivy League about absolute numbers?
    Yes the Jewish demographic has a higher IQ at 115 to the Goyishe Kop 100 but Jewish people are only 2% of the population so you have 6 million Jewish people vying
    with 200 million white Goys for admission to the Ivy League and future control of the levers of power. That is a 33 times larger Bell curve so the right tail of the Goys’ Bell curve is still much larger than the Jewish Bell curve at IQ levels of 130 and 145, supposedly there are seven times more Goys with IQs of 130 and over 4 times more Goys with IQs of 145. So why the equality of representation, one to one, Jewish to white Goy in the Ivy Leagues?

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  67. Andrew
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    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-phu-quoc-nguyen/asian-american-students_b_2173993.html I hope everyone can participate in gaining admittance and everyone can improve the system legally. Real repair is needed.

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  68. Amanda
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    Russell K. Nieli on study by Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford (mentioned by Unz):

    “When lower-class whites are matched with lower-class blacks and other non-whites the degree of the non-white advantage becomes astronomical: lower-class Asian applicants are seven times as likely to be accepted to the competitive private institutions as similarly qualified whites, lower-class Hispanic applicants eight times as likely, and lower-class blacks ten times as likely. These are enormous differences and reflect the fact that lower-class whites were rarely accepted to the private institutions Espenshade and Radford surveyed. Their diversity-enhancement value was obviously rated very low.”

    ..

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  69. Scott Locklin
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    Having worked with folks from all manner of “elite” and not so elite schools in a technical field, the main conclusion I was able to draw was folks who went to “elite” colleges had a greater degree of entitlement. And that’s it.

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  70. Shlomo
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    If all of the author’s suspicions are correct, the most noteworthy takeaway would be that Jewish applicants have absolutely no idea that they are being given preferential treatment when applying to Ivys.

    Not that they think they are being discriminated against or anything, but no Jewish high school student or their parents think they have any kind of advantage, let alone such a huge one. Someone should tell all these Jews that they don’t need to be so anxious!

    Also, I know this is purely anecdotal but having gone to an ivy and knowing the numbers of dozens of other Jews who have also gone, I don’t think I have ever witnessed a “surprise” acceptance, where someone got in with a score under the median.

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  71. I don’t doubt for a minute that it’s increasingly difficult for Asian students to get into so-called “elite” universities. Having grown up in that community, I know a lot of people who were pressured into applying at Harvard and Yale but ended up *gasp* going to a very good local school. My sarcasm aside, we can’t really deny that having Harvard on your CV can virtually guarantee a ticket to success, regardless of whether or not you were just a C student. It happens.

    But what worries me about that is the fact that I know very well how hard Asian families tend to push their children. They do, after all, have one of the highest suicide rates… and that’s here in the US. If by some means the Asian population at elite universities is being controlled, as I suspect it is, that’s only going to make tiger mothers push their children even harder. That’s not necessarily a good thing for the child’s psyche, so instead of writing a novel here, I’ll simply give you this link. Since the author brought up the subject of Amy Chua and her book, I think it’s a pretty fitting explanation of the fears I have for my friends and their children if this trend is allowed to continue.

    http://www.asianmanwhitewoman.com/jocelyn/editorial/tiger-mother-rebuttal-why-east-west-mothers-are-superior/

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  72. to respond to Alice Zindagi
    Asian American does not have higher suicide rate.

    http://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/asian-american/suicide.aspx

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  73. Hope Murtaugh
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    As a former admissions staff person at Princeton, I always sigh when I read articles on elite college admissions processes which build cases on data analysis but which fail to consult with admissions experts on the interpretation of that data.

    I am neither an expert in sociology, nor am I a statistician, but I have sat in that chair, reading thousands of essays, and I have a few observations:

    1) The most selective part of any college’s admissions process is the part where students themselves decides whether or not to apply. Without data on the actual applicant sets, it is, at the least, misleading to attribute incongruities between the overall population’s racial/ethnic/income/what-have-you characteristics and the student bodies’ make-ups entirely to the admission decisions. The reality is that there is always a struggle in the admission offices to compensate for the inequities that the applicant pool itself delivers to their doorsteps.

    2) An experienced admission officer can tell you that applicants from cultures where academics and education are highly valued, and where the emphasis on a single test is quite high, will generally present with very high SAT scores. Race does not seem to be correlated, but immigrant status from such a culture is highly correlated. (This may partially explain Unz’s observation of a “decline” in Jewish scores, although I also do not believe that the surname tool for determining which scores are “Jewish” holds much water.)

    One of the reasons that such students often fare less well in holistic application processes is that the same culture that produces the work ethic and study skills which benefit SAT performance and GPA can also suppress activities and achievement outside of the academic arena. Therefore, to say that these students are being discriminated against because of race is a huge assumption. The true questions is whether the students with higher test scores are presenting activity, leadership and community contributions comparable to other parts of the applicant pool which are “overrepresented”.

    3) All of these articles seem to miss the point that a freshman class is a fixed size pie chart. Any piece that shrinks or grows will impact the other slices. My first thought upon reading Unz’ argument that the Asian slice shrank was, “What other pieces were forced to grow?” Forced growth in another slice of the class is the more likely culprit for this effect, much more likely than the idea that all of the Ivies are systematically discriminating against the latest victim.

    4) I could go on and on, but will spare you! My last note is to educate Mr. Unz on what an “Assistant Director” is in college admissions. Generally that position is equivalent to a Senior Admission Officer (one step up from entry level Admission Officer), while the head of the office might be the Dean and the next step down from that would be Associate Deans (not Assistant Directors). So while Michelle Hernandez was an Assistant Director, she was not the second in charge of Admissions, as your article implies. A minor distinction, but one which is important to point out so that her expertise and experience, as well as my own, as AN Assistant Director of Admission at Princeton, are not overstated.

    A last personal note: During Princeton’s four month reading season, I worked 7 days a week, usually for about 14 hours a day, in order to give the fullest, most human and considerate reading of each and every applicant that I could give. I am sure that the admission profession has its share of incompetents, corruptible people and just plain jerks, and apparently some of us are not intelligent enough to judge the superior applicants . . . . But most of us did it for love of the kids at that age (they are all superstars!), for love of our alma maters and what they did for us, and because we believed in the fairness of our process and the dignity with which we tried to do it.

    The sheer numbers of applicants and the fatigue of the long winters lend themselves to making poor jokes such as the “Night of 1000 Lee’s”, but a good dean of admission will police such disrespect, and encourage the staff, as mine did, to read the last applicant of the day with the same effort, energy and attention paid to the first. We admission folk have our honor, despite being underpaid and playing in a no-win game with regard to media coverage of our activities. I am happy to be able to speak up for the integrity of my former colleagues and the rest of the profession.

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  74. My own position has always been strongly in the former camp, supporting meritocracy over diversity in elite admissions.

    When these Ivy League institutions were first begun in the colonial period, they were not strictly speaking meritocratic. The prevailing idea was that Christocentric education is the right way to go, both from an eschatological and a temporal perspective, and the central focus was on building and strengthening family ties. The Catholic institutions of higher learning took on the vital role of preserving Church tradition from apostolic times and were thus more egalitarian and universalist. The results went far beyond all expectations.

    Nothing lasts forever. Your premise misses the essential point that the economy is for man and not vice-versa.

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  75. Perhaps this should have been titled The Reality of American Mediocrity?

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  76. Janet Mertz
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    Many of the statements in this article relating to Jews are rather misleading: for while the Hillel data regarding percentage of students who self-identify as Jews may be fairly accurate, the numbers the author cites based upon “likely Jewish names” are a gross under-count of the real numbers, leading to the appearance of a large disparity between the two which, in reality, does not exist. The reason for the under-count is that a large percentage of American Jews have either Anglicized their family name or intermarried, resulting in their being mistaken for non-Hispanic whites. Thus, one ends up with incorrect statements such as “since 2000, the percentage (of Jewish Putnam Fellows) has dropped to under 10 percent, without a single likely Jewish name in the last seven years”. The reality is that Jews, by Hillel’s definition of self-identified students, have continued to be prominent among the Putnam Fellows, US IMO team members, and high scorers in the USA Mathematical Olympiad. I have published a careful analysis of the true ethnic/racial composition of the very top-performing students in these math competitions from recent years (see, Andreescu et al. Notices of the AMS 2008; http://www.ams.org/notices/200810/fea-gallian.pdf). For example, Daniel Kane, a Putnam Fellow in 2002-2006, is 100% of Jewish ancestry; his family name had been Cohen before it was changed. Brian Lawrence was a Putnam Fellow in 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011; his mother is Jewish. Furthermore, many of the non-Jewish Putnam Fellows in recent years are Eastern European or East-Asian foreigners who matriculated to college in the US; they were not US citizen non-Jewish whites or Asian-Americans, respectively. Rather, my data indicate that in recent years both Jews and Asians have been 10- to 20-over-represented in proportion to their percentage of the US population among the students who excel at the highest level in these math competitions. The authors conclusions based upon data from other types of competitions is likely similarly flawed.

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  77. mannning
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    The title of this piece captured me to read what it was all about. What was discussed was admissions into elite colleges as the only focus on “meritocracy” in America. That leaves the tail of the distribution of high IQ people in America, minus those that make it into elite colleges, to be ignored, especially those that managed to be admitted to Cal Tech, or MIT, or a number of other universities where significant intellectual power is admitted and fostered. this seems to further the meme that only the elite graduates run the nation. They may have an early advantage through connections, but I believe that the Fortune 400 CEO’s are fairly evenly spread across the university world.

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  78. A couple more thoughts:

    (1) Jews are better at verbal IQ, Asians at math. Your measures are all math. That woudl be OK if all else were equal across time, but especially because Jews care a lot about admissions to Ivies, what we’d expect is that with growing Asian competition in math/science, Jews would give up and focus their energy on drama/writing/service. I wonder if Jewish kids are doing worse in music competitions too? Or rather— not even entering any more.

    (2) For college numbers, adjustment for US/foreign is essential. How many Asians at Yale are foreign? It could well be that Asian-Americans are far more under-represented than it seems, because they face quota competition from a billion Chinese and a billion Indians. Cal Tech might show the same result as the Ivies.

    (3) A separate but interesting study would be of humanities and science PhD programs. Different things are going on there, and the contrast with undergrads and with each other might be interseting.

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  79. MEH 0910
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    Half Sigma wrote about this Ron Unz article:

    I also learned that Jews are no longer as prominent in math and science achievement, and that’s not surprising to me at all, because everyone in the elite knows that STEM is for Asians and middle-class kids. Jewish parents have learned that colleges value sports and “leadership” activities more than raw academic achievement and nerdy activities like math olympiads, and that the most prestigious careers are value transference activities which don’t require science or high-level math.

    You should re-read my critique of Amy Chua’s parenting advice. Jews have figured out that’s crappy advice for 21st century America.

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  80. biaknabato
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    The higher representation of Jews in the Ivies compared to Asians who have better average academic records compared to Jews (applicants that is ) in the Ivies is due to the greater eligibility of Jews for preferences of every kind in the Ivies. In a typical Ivy school like Harvard, at least 60% of the freshman class will disappear because of the vast system of preferences that exists. There is no doubt that there is racial animus involved despite the denials of the Ivies and other private universities despite the constant denials involved like that of Rosovsky who happens to be a historian by training. Jews are classified as white in this country, hence there would presumably greater affinity for them among the white Board of Trustees and the adcom staff. This is in contrast to Asians who do not share the same culture or body physiogonomy as whites do.

    I had read the Unz article and the Andrew Goldman response to it. I just do not agree with Unz with his solutions to this problem. First of all private schools are not going to give legacy preferences and other kinds of preferences for the simple reason that it provides a revenue stream. Harvard is nothing but a business just like your Starbucks or Mcdonald’s on the corner.

    Around the world private universities regarded as nothing but the dumping ground of the children of the wealthy, the famous and those with connections who cannot compete with others with regards to their talent and ability regardless of what anyone will say from abroad about the private universities in their own country. Bottomline is in other countries , the privates simply do not get the top students in the country, the top public school does. People in other countries will simply look askance at the nonsensical admissions process of the Ivies and other private schools, the system that the Ivies use for admission does not produce more creative people contrary to its claims.

    The Goldman response has more to do with the humanities versus math . My simple response to Andrew Goldman would be this : a grade of A in Korean history is different from a grade of A in Jewish history, it is like comparing kiwis and bananas. The fast and decisive way of dealing with this problem is simply to deprive private schools of every single cent of tax money that practices legacy preferences and other kinds repugnant preferences be it for student aid or for research and I had been saying that for a long time. I would like to comment on the many points that had been raised here but I have no time.

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  81. The solution to a lot of problems would be transparency. I’d love to see the admissions and grade data of even one major university. Public universities should be required to post publicly the names, SAT scores, and transcripts of every student. Allowing such posting should be a requirement for admission.

    The public could then investigate further if, for example, it turned out that children of state senators had lower SAT scores. Scholars could then analyze the effect of diversity on student performance.

    Of course, already many public universities (including my own, Indiana), post the salaries of their professors on the web, and I haven’t seen much analysis or muckraking come out of that.

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  82. Dave Garrett
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    One factor hinted at in the article, but really needing to be addressed is the “school” that is being attended.

    By this, I mean, you need philosophy students to keep the philosophy department going. When I was in college 20 years ago, I was a humanities major. I took 1 class in 4 years with an Asian American student. 1 class. When I walked through the business building, it was about 50% Asian.

    Could Asian-American students only wanting to go to Harvard to go into business, science, or math be skewing those numbers? I don’t know, but it’s just a thought to put out there.

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  83. PragmaticMom
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    You are preaching to the choir! I blog on this extensively on my Asian Blog: JadeLuckClub.

    This has been going on for the last 30 years or more!

    All my posts are here under Don’t ID as Asian When Applying to College:

    http://jadeluckclub.com/category/asian-in-america/dont-id-as-asian-when-applying-to-college/

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  84. biaknabato
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    All private schools basically practice legacy prefrences and other kinds of preferences and this practice has been going on in the Ivies since time immemorial. The income revenue from these gallery of preferences will certainly not encourage the Ivies to give them up.

    In many countries around the world, private universiites are basically the dumping ground for the children of the wealthy , the famous and the well connected who could not get into the top public university of their choice in their own country. This no different from the Ivies in this country where these Ivies and other private universities are just a corral or holding pen for the children of the wealthy, the famous and the well connected and the famous who could not compete with others based on their won talent or ability.

    Abroad you have basically 3 choices if you could not get into the top public university of that country , they are:

    1) Go to a less competetive public university
    2)Go to a private university
    3) or go abroad to schools like the Ivies or in other countries where the entrance requirements to a public or private university are less competetive compared to the top public universities in your own home country.

    You can easily tell a top student from another country, he is the guy who is studying in this country under a government scholarship ( unless of course it was wrangled through corruption ). the one who is studying here through his own funds or through private means is likely to be the one who is a reject from the top public university in his own country. That is how life works.

    I am generally satisfied with the data that Ron provided about Jews compared to Asians where Jews are lagging behind Asians at least in grades and SAT scores in the high school level, from the data I had seen posted by specialized schools in NY like Stuy , Bronx Sci, Brook Tech, Lowell (Frisco ) etc.

    Ron is correct in asserting that the Ivies little represents the top students in this country. Compare UCLA and for example. For the fall 2011 entering freshman class at UCLA , there were 2391 domestic students at UCLA compared to 1148 at Harvard who scored above 700 in the Math portion of the SAT and there were 439 domestic students who scored a perfect 800 in the Math portion of the SAT at UCLA, more than Harvard or MIT certainly. For the fall 2012 freshman classs at UCLA the figure was 2409 and 447 respectively.

    We can devise a freshman class that will use only income, SATS,grades as a basis of admissions that will have many top students like UCLA has using only algorithms.

    The central test of fairness in any admissions system is to ask this simple question. Was there anyone admitted under that system admitted over someone else who was denied admission and with better grades and SAT scores and poorer ? If the answer is in the affirmative, then that system is unfair , if it is in the negative then the system is fair.

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  85. biakabato
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    I meant 1148 domestic students at Harvard for it’s fall 2011 freshman who possesed that particular attribute.

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  86. Tom Kung
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    I like the comments from Chales Hale. (Nov. 30, 2012) He says: “Welcome to China”. It said all in three words. All these have been experinced in China. They said there is no new things under the sun. History are nothing but repeated, China with its 5000 years experinced them all.

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  87. biaknabato
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    I meant that there were 439 domestic students in the fall 2011 freshman class at UCLA and 447 domestic students in the fall 2012 freshman class at UCLA who scored a perfect score of 800 in the Math portion of the SAT. In either case it is bigger than what Harvard or MIT has got.

    In fact for the fall 2011 of the entire UC system there were more students in the the freshman class of the entire UC system who scored above 700 in the Math portion of the SAT than the entire fall 2011 freshman of the Ivy League (Cornell not included since it is both a public and a private school )’

    As I mentioned earlier there were 2409 domestic students in the fall 2012 UCLA freshman class who scored above 700 in the Math portion of the SAT. We know that Harvard had only 1148 domestic students in its fall 2011 freshman class who scored above 700 in the Math portion of the SAT, why would Harvard ever want to have that many top students like Berkeley or UCLA have ? The answer to that is simple , it has to do with money. For every additional student that Harvard will enroll it would mean money being taken out of the endowment .

    Since the endowment needs constant replenishment. Where would these replenishment funds come from ? From legacies,from the children of the wealthy and the famous etc. of course . It would mean more legacy admits, more children of the wealthy admitted etc.
    That would mean that the admission rate at Harvard will rise, the mean SAT score of the entering class will be no different from the mean SAT scores of the entering freshman classes of Boston University and Boston College
    down the road. With rising admission rates and lower mean SAT scores for the entering freshman class that prospect will not prove appetizing or appealing to the applicant pool.

    Harvard ranks only 8th after Penn State in the production of undergrads who eventually get Doctorates in Science and Engineering. Of course Berkeley has the bragging rights for that kind of attribute.

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  88. biaknabato
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    In the scenario I had outlined above, it would mean that the mean SAT score of the Harvard freshman class will actually go down if it tried to increase the size of its freshman class and that kind of prospect ia unpalatable to Harvard and that is the reason as to why it wants to maintain its current ” air of exclusivity “.

    There is another way of looking at the quality of the Harvard student body. The ACM ICPC computer programming competition is regarded as the best known college competition among students around the world , it is a grueling programming marathon for 2 or 3 days presumably. Teams from universities around the world vie to win the contest that is dubbed the “Battle of the Brains ” What is arguably sad is that Ivy schools, Stanford and other private schools teams fielded in the finals of the competition are basically composed of foreign students or foreign born students and foreign born coaches.

    The University of Southern California team in this competition in its finals section was made up of nothing but foreign Chinese students and a Chinese coach. The USC team won the Southern California competition to win a slot in the finals. Apparently they could not find a domestic student who could fill the bill. However the USC team was roundly beaten by teams from China and Asia,Russia and Eastern Europe. The last time a US team won this competition was in 1999 by Harvey Mudd, ever since the US had gone downhill in the competition with the competition being dominated by China and Asia and by countries from Eastern Europe and Russia. Well I guess USC’s strategy was trying to fight fire with fire (Chinese students studying in the US versus Chinese students from the Mainland ), and it failed.

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  89. Been there
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    Thank you Mr. Unz for scratching the surface of the various forms of corruption surrounding elite college admissions. I hope that your next article further discusses the Harvard Price (and Yale Price and Brown Price etc). The recent press surrounding the Hong Kong couple suing the person they had retained to pave their children’s way into Harvard indicates the extent of the problem. This Hong Kong couple just were not savvy enough to lay their money down where it would produce results.
    Additionally, a discussion of how at least some North Eastern private schools facilitate the corrupt process would be illuminating.
    Finally, a more thorough discussion of whether the Asian students being admitted are US residents or nationals or whether they are foreign citizens would also be worth while and reveal. I suspect, an even lower admit percentage for US resident citizens of Asian ethnicity.
    For these schools to state that their acceptances are need blind is patently untrue and further complicates the admissions process for students who are naive enough to believe that. These schools should come clean and just say that after the development admits and the wealthy legacy admits spots are purchased, the remaining few admits are handed out in a need blind fashion remembering that many of admit pools will already be filled by the development and wealthy legacy admits resulting in extraordinarily low rates for certain non-URM type candidates (I estimate in the 1% range).

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  90. “By contrast, a similarly overwhelming domination by a tiny segment of America’s current population, one which is completely misaligned in all these respects, seems far less inherently stable, especially when the institutional roots of such domination have continually increased despite the collapse of the supposedly meritocratic justification. This does not seem like a recipe for a healthy and successful society, nor one which will even long survive in anything like its current form.”

    I completely agree that it is not healthy for one tiny segment of our population to basically hold all the key positions in every major industry in this country. If Asians or Blacks (who look foreign) all of a sudden ran education, media, government, and finance in this country, there would be uproar and resistance. But because Jewish people look like the majority (whites), they’ve risen to the top without the masses noticing.

    But Jewish people consider themselves a minority just like blacks and Asians. They have a tribal mentality that causes stronger ethnic nepotism than most other minority groups. And they can get away with it because no one can say anything to them lest they be branded “jew-hunters” or “anti-semists.”

    The question is, “where do we go from here?” True race-blind meritocracy will never be instituted on a grand scale in this country both in education and in the work force. One group currently controls most industries and the only way this country will see more balance is if other groups take more control. But if one group already controls them all and controls succession plans, how will there ever be more balance?

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  91. Larry Long
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    If Jews become presidents or regents of universities, that’s a credit to their ability. Nothing sinister there.

    But when Jews (or anyone) buy into an institution to create the ‘Goldman School of Business’, or when they give large donations, that is not a credit to anyone’s ability and there may well be something sinister there.

    It is no secret that corporations and individuals look for influence, if not control, in return for cash. The same thinking can easily affect admissions policy.

    It’s always the same. In spite of all the jingoism about “democracy” and “freedoms” and the “free market capitalist system”, the trail of money obfuscates and corrupts. It is still very true that whoever pays the piper, calls the tune. And naive to believe otherwise.

    How recent was it that Princeton cancelled its anti-Semitism classes for lack of participation, and at least one Jewish organisation was screaming that Princeton would never get another penny from any Jew, ever.

    That is close to absolute control of a curriculum. I give you money, and you teach what I want you to teach.

    How far is that from I give you money and you admit whom I want you to admit? Or from I give you money and you hire whom I want?

    A university that is properly funded by the government – “the people” – doesn’t have these issues because there is nothing you can buy.

    Operating educational institutions as a business, just like charities and health care, will always produce this kind of corruption.

    Two other points:

    1. It occurred to me that the lowly-paid underachiever admissions officers might well have been mostly Jewish, and hired for that reason, and that in itself could skew the results in a desired manner.

    2. I think this is a serious criticism of the othewise excellent article:

    At the end, Ron Unz wants us to believe that a $30-billion institution, the finest of its kind in the world, the envy of the known universe and beyond, the prime educator of the world’s most prime elites, completely abandons its entire admissions procedures, without oversight or supervision, to a bunch of dim-witted losers of “poor human quality” who will now choose the entire next generation of the nation’s elites. And may even take cash payments to do so.

    Come on. Who are you kidding? Even McDonald’s is smarter than this.

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  92. Some of the comments suggest major problems with estimating who is Jewish. But the authors information is underpinned by data collected by Jewish pressure groups for the purpose of ensuring the gravy train keeps flowing. It’s either their numbers, or the numbers are consistent with their numbers.

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  93. This article, to me, is shocking and groundbreaking. I don’t think anyone has gone this in-depth into this biased and un-meritocratic system. This is real analysis based on real numbers.

    Why is this not getting more coverage in the media? Why are people so afraid to talk about this?

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  94. Achaean
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    There is an excellent analysis of this article at The Occidental Observer by Kevin MacDonald, “Ron Unz on the Illusory American Meritocracy”. The MSM is ignoring Unz’s article for obvious reasons.

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  95. tomo
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    I don’t know if there’s any truth behind the idea that Japanese Americans have become lazy relative to their Korean and Chinese counterparts. I’ve grew up in Southern California, a part of the country with a relatively high percentage of Japanese Americans, yet I’ve know very few other Japanese Americans in my life. I can recall one Japanese American classmate in jr. high, and one Japanese classmate in my high school (who returned to Japan upon graduating). Even at the UC school I attended for undergrad, I was always the only Japanese person in the every class, and the Japanese Student Association, already meager in numbers, was almost entirely made up of Japanese International students who were only here for school.

    If, in fact, 1% of California is made up of Japanese Americans, I suspect they are an aging population. I also think many 2nd and 3rd generation Japanese Americans are only partially Japanese, since, out of necessity, Japanese Americans have a very high rate of out marriage.

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  96. Andrew
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    This is a fantastic article. Thank you Mr. Unz, you have given me much to think about.

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  97. Carl Steefel
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    The carefully researched article makes a strong case that there is some discrimination against Asian-Americans at the Ivy League schools.

    On the other hand, I don’t see how a percentage of 40-60% Asian-Americans at the selective UC schools, even given the higher percentage of Asian-Americans in California, does not perhaps reflect reverse discrimation, or at least affirmative action on their behalf. To be sure one way or the other, we would have to see their test scores AND GPA, apparently the criteria that the UC schools use for admission, considered as well in the normalization of this statistical data.

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  98. Lynn
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    The replies to date make some good points but also reflect precisely the biases pointed out in the article as likely causing the discussed distortions.
    1) use of name data in achievement vs use of Hillel data for Ivy admits: definitely an issue but is this only one of the measures used in this study. Focusing only on this obscures the fact that Jewish enrollment as measured over time by Hillel numbers (apples to apples) increased significantly over the past decade while the percent of Jewish high school age students relative to other groups declined. One texplanation for this surge could be that Jewish students became even more academically successful than they have been in the past. The achievement data using Jewish surnames is used to assess this thesis in the absence of other better data. Rejecting the surname achievement data still leaves a huge enrollment surge over time in Jewish attendance at the Ivies relative to their percentage of the population.
    2) many comments accept that the numbers show disproportionate acceptance and enrollment growth but simply then go on to assert that Jewish students really are smarter (absolutely or in gaming the system) relying on anecdotal evidence that is not at all compelling. All definitions of “smarter” contain value judgments”. Back in the ’20s the argument was that the Ivies should rely more on objective testing to remove bias against the then high testing Jewish students; now the writers argue conveniently wthat the new subjective tests that are applied to disproportionately admit Jewish students over higher scoring Asians and non-Jewish Caucasians are better measures. In both cases, there is still an issue of using a set of factors that disproportionately favors one group. In all such cases of significant disproportionate admits, the choice of the factors used to definemmerit and their application should be carefully evaluated for bias. The burden of proof should shift to those defending the status quo in this situation. In any event, it is clear that given the large applicant pool, there is no shortage of non-Jewish caucasians and Asians who are fully qualified, so if the desire was there for a balanced entering class, the students are available to make it happen
    3) the numbers don’t break down admissions between men and women. When my child was an athletic recruit to Harvard, we received an ethnic breakdown of the prior year’s entering class. I was surprised to discover that the Caucasian population skewed heavily male and the non-white/Asian population skewed heavily female. It seemed that Harvard achieved most of its ethnic diversity that year by admitting female URMs, which made being a Caucasian female the single most underrepresented group relative to its percentage in the school age population. I’m curious if this was an anomaly or another element of bias in the admissions process.

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  99. I will note that there is one flaw in this whole argument, and that flaw is thus:

    Harvard and Yale aren’t the best universities in the country.

    As someone who went to Vanderbilt, I knew people who had been to those universities, and their evaluation was that they were no better – and perhaps actually worse – than Vanderbilt, which is “merely” a top 25 university.

    While there is a great deal of, shall we say, “insider trading” amongst graduates of those universities, in actuality they aren’t actually the best universities in the country today. That honor probably goes to MIT and Caltech, which you note are far more meritocratic. But most of the other best universities are probably very close in overall level, and some of them might have a lot of advantages over those top flight universities.

    Or to put it simply, the Ivy League ain’t what it used to be. Yeah, it includes some of the best universities in the country, but there are numerous non-Ivy League universities that are probably on par with them. This may indeed be in part a consequence of some of what you have described in the article, as well as a sense of complacency.

    I suspect that in twenty or thirty years a lot of Ivy League graduates are going to feel a lot less entitled simply because there has been an expansion of the top while they weren’t paying attention.

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  100. William
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    not fair, period

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  101. I’m against the Ivies going up to 30-50% Asian but I’m also against the over-representation of a tiny minority group. This country is going to go downhill if we continue to let one group skirt a fair application process just because they possess money and influence. Who will stand up for fairness and equality?

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  102. JP Thos.
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    Many of those commenting above don’t seem to be picking up on Unz’s evidence of bias against white Gentiles, which by meritocratic measures is far worse than the bias against Asian Americans. A drop of 70 PERCENT??? What’s going on? Why is so much of the discussion that this article has spawned focused only on Asian Americans and (secondarily) Jews?

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  103. National Merit Scholarship semifinalists are chosen based on per-state percentiles.

    What this means is that NMS semifinalist numbers would be skewed _against_ a high-performing demographic group to the extent that group’s demographics concentrate geographically. Mr. Unz acknowledges that geographical skewing of Jewish populations is huge. However, he ignores its effect on the NMS semifinalist numbers he uses as a proxy for academic performance on a _national_ level to predict equitable distributions at _national_ universities.

    Please somebody explain to me how this oversight isn’t fatal to his arguments …

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  104. Surely the author must be aware that approximately half the children with “Jewish” names are not fully Jewish. Over half of the marriages west of the Mississippi are reportedly mixed. Many non-Jews have last names that start with “Gold”. Just these two facts make the entire analysis ridiculous. Hillel does not keep statistics on how Jewish a student is, while many of Levys and Cohens are not actually Jewish. What would we call Amy Chua’s daughters? Jewish or Asian? It is therefore impossible to tease out in a multi-racial society who is who.

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  105. Shelly Moore
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    Mr. Unz,
    I am an elementary school teacher at a Title One school in northern California. I supported your “English for the Children” initiative when it was introduced.
    However, the law of unintended consequences has kicked in, and what exists now is not at all what you (or anyone else, for that matter) had intended.
    The school day was not lengthened to create a time slot for English language instruction. Instead, history and science classes were elbowed aside to make way for mediocre English language instruction. These usually worthless classes have crowded out valuable core academic instruction for English language learners.
    To make matters worse, while English language learners are in ESL classes, no academic instruction in science or history can be given to “regular” students because that would lead to issues of “academic inequity.” In other words, if the Hispanic kids are missing out on history, the black kids have to miss out on it, too.
    As a teacher, I hope you will once again consider bringing your considerable talents to focus on the education of low-income minority children in California.

    Sincerely,
    Shelly Moore

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  106. jcricket
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    What would differentiation by sex do to the results?

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  107. Chris Mears
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    Mr. Unz,
    A excellent essay. Thank you very much. In particular I like that you have proposed a solution for the problem. Too many articles focus on the problem. Coming to the end of my first college admission process as a parent I can appreciate the benefits your solution would bring.

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  108. Rainashine
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    Fascinating and disturbing article.
    Could it be that the goal of financial, rather than academic, achievement, makes many young people uninterested in competing in the science and math competitions sought out by the Asian students? I wonder about the different percentages of applicants to medical school versus law or business.
    I must also add that I am surprised that the author used the word “data” as singular, rather than plural. Shouldn’t he be stating that the data ARE, not IS; or SHOW, not SHOWS.

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  109. The author perhaps pays an incredible amount of attention to those with strengths in STEM fields (Science, technology, engineering, and math), even though the proportion of all native-born white students majoring in these fields has plummetted in recent decades. That means that he overlooks a shift in what kinds of training is considered “prestigious,” and that this might be reflected in the pursuits of students in high school. Perhaps there is a movement away from Jewish students’ focus on Math Olympiad because they are in no way interested in majoring in math or engineering fields, instead preferring economics or business. Is that the fault of the students, or of the rewards system that corporate America has set up?

    Jobs in STEM fields pay considerably less than do jobs in numerous professions — investment banking and law. So that is why ~ 40% of the Harvard graduating class — including many of its Jewish students — pursue that route. But to rely on various assessments of math/science/computing as the measure of intelligence fails to incorporate how the rewards structure in our society has changed over time.

    I teach at an Ivy League university, and believe that many of the authors’ arguments have merit, but there are also many weaknesses in his argument. He sneers at Steinberg and the other sociologists he cites for not quite getting how society has changed — but he clearly doesn’ tunderstand how other aspects of our society have changed. Many of our most talented undergrads have no desire to pursue careers in STEM fields. Entrance into STEM jobs even among those who majored in those fields is low, and there is very high attrition from those fields, among both men and women. Young adults and young professionals are voting with their feet. While our society might be better off with more Caltech grads and students interested in creating our way to a better future rather than pursuing riches on wall street, one cannot fault students for seeking to maximize their returns on their expensive education. That’s the system we have presented them with, at considerable cost to the students and their families.

    Personally, what I found profoundly disturbing is not the overrepresentation of Jewish students or the large presence of Asians who feel they are discriminated against, but the fact that Ivy League schools have not managed to increase their representation of Blacks for the last 3 decades. We all compete for the same talent pool. And until the K-12 system is improved, Black representation won’t increase without others screaming favoritism. The other groups — high performing Asians, middle class Jews — will do fine, even if they don’t get into Ivy League schools but have to “settle” for elite private schools. But if the Ivy Leagues are the pathway to prestige and power, than we’re not broadening our power base enough to adequately reprewsent the demographic shifts reshaping our nation. more focus on that, please.

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  110. chris rowe
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    I’ve been an SAT tutor for a long time in West Los Angeles (a heavily Asian city), and I feel that at least some of Asians’ over-representation in SAT scores and NMS finalists is due to Asian parents putting massive time and money into driving their children’s success in those very statistics.

    In my experience, Asian parents are more likely than other parents to attempt to ramrod their kids through test prep in order to increase their scores. For example, the few students I’ve ever had preparing for the PSAT — most students prepare only for the SAT — were all Asian.

    Naturally, because it’s so strange to be preparing for what is supposed to be a practice test, I asked these parents why their 9th or 10th grade child was in this class, and the answer was that they wanted to do well on the PSAT because of its use in the NMS! Similarly, many Asian immigrants send their children to “cram school” every day after regular school lets out (and I myself have taught SAT at one of these institutions), essentially having their students tutored in every academic subject year-round from early in elementary school.

    Because whites are unlikely to do this, it would seem to me that the resulting Asian academic achievement is analogous to baseball players who use steroids having better stats than baseball players who do not.

    It seems reasonable that the “merit” in “meritocracy” need not be based solely on test scores and grades, and that therefore a race-based quota system is not the only conclusion that one can draw from a decrease in the attendance rate of hard-driving test-preppers. Maybe the university didn’t want to fill its dorms with grade-grubbers who are never seen because they’re holed up in the library 20 hours a day, and grade-grubbers just happen to be over-represented in the Asian population?

    Unz’s piece analyzes only the data that lead up to college — when the Asian parents’ academic influence over their children is absolute — whereas the Ivy League schools he criticizes are most concerned with what their students do during and after college. Is the kid who went to cram school his entire life as likely to join student organizations? To continue practicing his four instruments once his mom isn’t forcing him to take lessons 4 days a week? To start companies and give money to his university? Or did he just peak early because his parents were working him so hard in order to get him into that college?

    That’s an article I’d like to read.

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  111. Dismalist
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    The analysis is a tour de force!

    However, the remedies considered are not. It is silly to believe that all abilities can be distilled into a small set of numbers, and anyway, no one knows what abilities will succeed in marketplaces. The source of the problem is the lack of competition in education, including higher education, a situation written in stone by current accreditation procedures. The solution to the problem is entry. Remember Brandeis U? With sufficient competition, colleges could take whomever they pleased, on whatever grounds, and everyone would get a chance.

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  112. Concerning the drop in non-Jewish white enrollment:

    I am a recent graduate of a top public high school, where I was a NMS, individual state champion in Academic Decathlon, perfect ACT score, National AP Scholar, etc. etc. Many of my friends – almost exclusively white and Asian – had similar backgrounds and were eminently qualified for Ivy. None of us even applied Ivy, let alone considered going there. Why? At $60,000/yr, the cost is simply not worth it, since none of us would have been offered anything close to substantial financial aid and our parents were unable/unwilling to fully fund our educations. Meanwhile, my Asian friends applied to as many Ivies as they could because it was understood that (a) their parents would foot the bill if they got in or (b) they would take on a large debt load in order to do it.

    This article discounts financial self-selection, which (at least based on my own, anecdotal evidence) is more prevalent than we tend to think.

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  113. Michael M
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    Three points:

    1. The author ignores the role that class plays in setting kids up for success. At one point he notes, “Given that Asians accounted for just 1.5 percent of the population in 1980 and often lived in relatively impoverished immigrant families. . .” When I was at Harvard in the mid-1980s, there were two distinct groups of Asian students: children of doctors, academics, scientists and businesspeople who came from educated families in China, Korea and Vietnam, and therefore grew up with both strong educational values and parental resources to push them; and a much smaller group of kids from Chinatown and Southeast Asian communities, whose parents were usually working class and uneducated. The second group were at a severe disadvantage to the first, who were able to claim “diversity” without really having to suffer for it.

    I would expect you’d see the same difference among higher-caste educated South Asian Brahmins and Indians from middle and lower castes or from places like Guyana.

    2. It is ridiculous to put South Asians and East Asians in the same category as “Asian.” They have different cultural traditions and immigration histories. Ask any Indian parent what race they are and they’ll answer “Caucasian.” Grouping them without any kind of assessment of how they might be different undermines the credibility of the author.

    3. The takeaway is not that affirmative action is damaging opportunities for whites, but that whites are losing against Asians. The percentage of Hispanic and Black students at leading schools is still tiny. Hence, if invisible quotas for Asians are lifted, there will be far fewer white students at these schools. This isn’t because of any conspiracy, but because white students are scoring lower than the competition on the relevant entry requirements. I would love to see an article in this publication titled, “Why White Students Are Deficient.” How about some more writing about “The White Student Achievement Gap?”

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  114. Simon
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    As parents of 2 HYP grads, We can tell you from experience that Asian students are not under represented in the Ivies today. (In fact, I think they are slightly over represented, for the same reasons and stats the author cited). True, if one looks at stats, such as SAT, scientific competition awards etc, it seems to imply that a +35% enrollment of Asian students is warranted. However, these indicators are just a small part of a “holistc” approach in predicting the success of a candidate not only in the next 4 years, but the individual’s success in life and be able to impact and contribute to society later. I have seen candidates of Asian background, who score almost full mark in SAT but was less than satisfactory in all other aspects of being a potential achiever in life. Granted, if one wants to be an achiever in science and technology, by all means go with Caltech and MIT. But if one wants an real “education” and be a leader later on in life, one has to have other qualities as well (skin color is NOT one of them). Of course, history, and current cultural and political climate may influence the assessment of such qualities because it is highly subjective. (Is is unfair to pick a pleasant looking candidate over a lesser one, if the rest are the same?)
    That is why an interview with the candidates is a good way to assess a potential applicant. I always encourage my children to conduct interviews locally for their alma mater.
    I just hope that the Ivies do not use this holistic approach to practice quota policies.

    Oh btw I am Asian.

    S

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  115. P Brandt
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    Here’s a quote from a friend just today about this related topic: “Just like the Catholic church in the middle ages recruited the smartest peasants in order to forestall revolutionary potential, and to learn mind bending religious dogma to befuddle the remaining peasants, current practice is much the same. To twist Billy Clinton’s mantra, “its the economy stupid”, No ,”its the co opted brains”! ”

    We can substitute economics dogma to the befuddlement mix. The bottom line is every ruling elite has co-opted the top 1%-5% of high wage earners, to make the pyramid work. Sociology writing is all over this. Veblen, Weber, etc. We can see this little group created everywhere minerals or natural resources are coveted by private empires.

    The universities are doing exactly what they are supposed to do to protect the interests of the Trustees and Donors who run them for a reason. They are a tool of, not a cause of, the inequality and over-concentration. It is interesting how the story goes into hairsplitting and comparing Asians to others, etc. But, the real story is a well understood sociology story. This article explains why Napoleon established free public education after the French Revolution.

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  116. caplane
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    This is a fascinating article. So much data. So many inferences. It’s hardly surprising to any parent of high school students that college admissions are only marginally meritocratic. Whether that’s a good a thing or a bad thing is an open question. I think meritocracy has a place in college admissions. But not the only place. Consider athletics, which are themselves almost exclusively meritocratic. Only the best among the best are offered Division I scholarships. The same, I think, applies to engineering schools, the physical sciences, and (to a lesser degree), elite law schools. It also applies to auto-mechanics, plumbers, and electricians. Regarding the humanities (a field in which I hold a PhD), not so much. I think Unz’s beef is less with admissions policies per se (which I agree are mind-bogglingly opaque) than with the status of elite institutions. I also think, and I may be wrong, that Unz appears heading down the Bobby Fisher highway, intimating that those pesky Jews are …

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  117. Arran Webb
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    America never promised success through merit or equality. That is the American “dream.” America promises freedom of religious belief and the right to carry a gun.

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  118. David Kaiser
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    This is a fascinating and extremely important article which I am very eager to discuss privately with the author, having spent my whole life in higher education, albeit with a unique perspective. I was flabbergasted the findings about Jewish and non-Jewish white representation, and intrigued, all the more so since my own ancestry is evenly divided between those two groups. I do want to make one criticism, however of something the author said about the 1950s which I do not think is correct.

    At one point in the article the author makes the claim that the breakdown of Ivy League Jewish quotas in the 1950s reflected the power of Jews in the media and Hollywood. The statistics he gives about their representation there may be correct, but the inference, I believe, is unsustainable. The Proquest historical database includes the Washington Post, New York Times, and many other major newspapers. I did a search for “Harvard AND Jewish AND quota” for the whole period 1945-65 and it turned up only 20 articles, not one of which specifically addressed the issue of Jewish quotas at Harvard and other Ivy League schools. The powerful Jews of that era had reached their positions by downplaying their origins–often including changes in their last names–and they were not about to use their positions overtly on behalf of their ethnic group. (This could be, incidentally, another parallel with today’s Asians.) Those quotas were broken down, in my opinion, because of a general emphasis on real equality among Americans in those decades, which also produced the civil rights movement. The Second World War had been fought on those principles.
    I could not agree more that the admissions policies of the last 30 years have produced a pathetic and self-centered elite that has done little if any good for the country as a whole.

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  119. It is really refreshing to see in print what we all know by experience, but I have to wonder out loud, what is our higher purpose? Surely, you have a largely goal than merely exposing corruption in the academy. Lastly, I have to wonder out loud, how would the predicament of the working class fit into your analysis? I thank you for this scathing indictment of higher ed that has the potential to offer us a chillingly sobering assessment.

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  120. Jordan
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    This is why we need to reinstate a robust estate tax or “death tax” as conservatives derisively call it. To break the aristocracy described in this article. No less than Alexis de Tocqueville said that the estate tax is what made America great and created a meritocracy (which now is weaker and riddled with loopholes, thus the decline of America). Aristocracies dominated Europe for centuries because they did not tax the inheritance.

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  121. anotherasian
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    The day when I learned so many Chinese ruling class’ offspring are either alumni or current students of Harvard (the latest example being Bo GuaGua), it was clear to me Harvard’s admission process is corrupt. How would any ivy college determine “leadership” quality? Does growing up in a leader’s family give you more innate leadership skills? Harvard obviously thinks so.

    Therefore, it’s not surprising that Ron said the following on this subject. “…… so many sons and daughters of top Chinese leaders attend college in the West…..while our own corrupt admissions practices get them an easy spot at Harvard or Stanford, sitting side by side with the children of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and George W. Bush.” I hope world peace will be obtained within reach in this approach.

    The chilling factor is a hardworking Chinese immigrant’s child in the U.S. would have less chance of getting into ivies than these children of privileged.

    It was also very disappointing to see another Asian parent whose children are HYP alumni saying too many Asians in ivies, despite the overwhelming evidence showing otherwise.

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  122. Peter
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    Perhaps it’s to be expected given the length of the article (over 22,000 words), but so many of the objections and “oversights” raised in the comments are in fact dealt with – in detail and with a great deal of respect – by Unz in the article itself.

    For example, this:

    National Merit Scholarship semifinalists are chosen based on per-state percentiles.

    What this means is that NMS semifinalist numbers would be skewed _against_ a high-performing demographic group to the extent that group’s demographics concentrate geographically. Mr. Unz acknowledges that geographical skewing of Jewish populations is huge. However, he ignores its effect on the NMS semifinalist numbers he uses as a proxy for academic performance on a _national_ level to predict equitable distributions at _national_ universities.

    Please somebody explain to me how this oversight isn’t fatal to his argument …

    … because geographical skewing of Asian populations is also huge, yet we don’t witness the same patterning in admissions data pertaining to Asian students. As the article states: “Geographical diversity would certainly hurt Asian chances since nearly half their population lives in just the three states of California, New York, and Texas.”

    Unz goes on to note: “Both groups [Jews and Asians] are highly urbanized, generally affluent, and geographically concentrated within a few states, so the ‘diversity’ factors considered above would hardly seem to apply; yet Jews seem to fare much better at the admissions office.”

    So there’s your answer.

    And aside from the fact that your “basic question” has a very simple answer, it’s just ludicrous in any case to suggest that the validity of the entire article rests on a single data point.

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  123. Rajesh
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    There is no doubt this is more of a political issue than the academic one. If only merit is considered then asian american would constitute as much as 50% of the student population in elite universities. Politically and socially this is not a desired outcome. Rationale for affirmative action for the african americans and hispanics is same – leaving a large population is in elite institution is not desired, it smacks of segregation.

    But the core issue remains unsolved. Affirmative action resulted in higher representation but not the competitiveness of the blacks. I am afraid whites are going the similar path.

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  124. paulmadden
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    Anyone famliar with sociology and the research on social stratification knows that meritocracy is a myth; for example, if one’s parents are in the bottom decile of the the income scale, the child has only a 3% chance to reach the top decile in his or her lifetime. In fact, in contrast to the Horatio Alger ideology, the U.S. has lower rates of upward mobility than almost any other developed country. Social classses exist and they tend to reproduce themselves.

    The rigid class structure of the the U.S. is one of the reasons I support progressive taxation; wealth may not always be inherited, but life outcomes are largely determined by the class position of one’s parents. In this manner, it is also a myth to believe that wealth is an individual creation;most financially successful individuals have enjoyed the benefits of class privilege: good and safe schools, two-parent families, tutors, and perhaps most important of all, high expecatations and positive peer socialization (Unz never mentions the importants of peeer groups, which data show exert a strong causal unfluence on academic performance).

    And I would challenge Unz’s assertion that many high-performing Asians come from impovershed backgrounds: many of them may undereport their income as small business owners. I believe that Asian success derives not only from their class background but their culture in which the parents have authority and the success of the child is crucual to the honor of the family. As they assimilate to the more individualist American ethos, I predict that their academic success will level off just as it has with Jews.

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  125. OldNassau
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    1. HYP are private universities: the success of their alumni verifies the astuteness of their admissions policies.
    2. Mr. Unz equates “merit” with “academic”. I wonder how many CalTech undergrads would be, or were, admitted, to HYP (and vice-versa).
    3. I would like ethnic or racial stats on, for several examples, class officers, first chair musicians*, job holders, actors^, team captains, and other equally valuable (in the sense of contributing to an entering freshman class) high-school pursuits.*By 17, I had been a union trombonist for three years; at Princeton, I played in the concert band, the marching band, the concert orchestra, several jazz ensembles, and the Triangle Club orchestra.^A high school classmate was John Lithgow, the superb Hollywood character actor. Harvard gave him a full scholarship – and they should have.

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  126. Rosell
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    What if we were one homogeneous ethnic group? What dynamic would we set up then?

    I suggest taking the top 20% on straight merit, based on SAT scores, whether they crammed for them or not, and take the next 50% from the economically poorest of the qualified applicants (1500 – 1600 on the SAT?) by straight ethnicity percentages to directly reflect population diversity, and 30% at random to promote some humility, and try that for 20 years and see what effects are produced in the quality of our economic and political leadership. And of course, keep them all in the dark as to how they actually got admitted.

    Maybe one effect is that more non-ivy league schools will be tapped by the top recruiters.

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  127. Jewish wrote:

    “Surely the author must be aware that approximately half the children with “Jewish” names are not fully Jewish. Over half of the marriages west of the Mississippi are reportedly mixed. Many non-Jews have last names that start with “Gold”. Just these two facts make the entire analysis ridiculous. Hillel does not keep statistics on how Jewish a student is, while many of Levys and Cohens are not actually Jewish. What would we call Amy Chua’s daughters? Jewish or Asian? It is therefore impossible to tease out in a multi-racial society who is who.”

    Well, there are several arguments to be made.
    First, unless you are advocating that there has been a mass adoption of words like “Gold” in non-Jewish last names these past 10, 15 years, that argument sinks like a stone.

    Second, by selecting for specifically Jewish last names, intermarriage can be minimized but not eliminated. How many kids with the lastname “Goldstein” was a non-Jew in the last NMS? Not likely a lot of them.

    Intermarriage can account for some fog, but not all, not by a longshot. Your entire argument reeks of bitter defensiveness. You have to come to grips that Jews have become like the old WASPs, rich, not too clever anymore, and blocking the path forward for brighter, underrepresented groups.

    Sucks to be you.

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  128. With all due respect, I was worried that I would get an answer that lazily points to the part of the essay that glosses over this point (which mind you I had combed through carefully before posting my question). However, I was hoping that in response someone might respond who had thought a little more carefully about the statistical fallacy in Unz’s essay: that far-reaching statements about nation-wide academic performance can be drawn directly from per-state-percentiles.

    Yes, Asian Americans, like Jews, have concentrations. But their geographical distributions differ. Yes, it might be possible that upon careful analysis of relative distributions of populations and NMS semifinalists in each state Unz might be able to draw a robust comparison: he might even come up with the same answer. The point that I made is that he doesn’t even try.

    Given the lengths Unz goes to calculate and re-calculate figures _based_on_ the assumption of _equal_ geographic distributions among Asians and Jews, it is — and I stand by this — a disservice to the reader that no effort (beyond hand-waving) is made to quantitatively show the assumption is at all justified.

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  129. Jewess
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    The statistical analysis used in this article is flawed. The author uses last names to identify the religion (or birth heritage) of NMS semifinalists? Are you serious? My son was a (recent) National Merit Finalist and graduated from an ivy league university. His mother is Jewish; his father is not, thus he has a decidedly WASP surname and according to the author’s methods he would have been classified as WASP. With the growing numbers of interfaith and mixed-race children how can anyone draw conclusions about race and religion in the meritocracy or even “IQ” argument? Anecdotally, my son reported that nearly half his classmates at his ivy league were at least one-quarter Jewish (one or more parents or one grandparent). To use last names (in lieu of actual demographic data) to make the conclusion that Jews are being admitted to ivies at higher rates than similarly qualified Asians is irresponsible.

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  130. josephc
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    Essentially, the leftist forces in this country are trying to put the squeeze on white gentiles from both directions.

    Affirmative action for underachieving minorities to take the place of white applicants.

    Meritocracy for highly achieving Asians to push down white applicants, while never mentioning that full meritocracy would push out other minorities as well (that’s not politically correct).

    The whole thing has become more about political narrative than actual concern for justice. I want you to know that as an Asian man who graduated from Brown, I sympathize with you.

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  131. ESM
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    Very interesting article. The case that East Asian students are significantly underrepresented and Jewish students overrepresented at Ivy League schools is persuasive, although not dispositive. The most glaring flaw in the analysis is the heavy reliance on performance on the PSAT (the discussion of the winners of the various Olympiad and Putnam contests has little informational value relevant to admissions, since those winners are the outliers on the tail of the distribution), which is a test that can be prepped for quite easily. Another flaw is the reliance on last names to determine ethnicity, which I doubt works well for Jews, although it probably works reasonably well for East Asians.

    Unfortunately, the article is also peppered with (very) thinly supported (and implausible) claims like Asians are better at visuospatial skills, worse at verbal skills, and that the situation is reversed for Jews. This kind of claim strikes me as racial gobbledygook, and at least anecdotally belied if one considers the overrepresentation of Jews among elite chess players, both in the US and worldwide.

    In any event, the fundamental point is that the PSAT (as is the case with all standardized tests) is a fixed target that can be studied for. Whether one chooses to put in 100s of hours studying for the PSAT is not, and should not be, the only criterion used for admissions.

    I find the relative percentage of East Asians and Jews at schools like MIT (and also Caltech and Berkeley, although obviously those are in part distorted by the heavy concentration of East Asians in California) as compared to HYP as strong evidence that the admissions process at HYP advantages Jews and disadvantages East Asians.

    I suspect, though, that the advantages Jews enjoy in the admissions process are unconscious and unintentional, whereas the disadvantages suffered by East Asians are quite conscious and intentional.

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  132. Beida101
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    The graph entitled “Asians Age 18-21 and Elite College Enrollment Trends, 1990-2011″ is misleading. It contrasts percentage of enrolled Asian students vs. the total number of the eligible Asian applicants. Therefore, it led to a flawed argument when comfusing number vs. percentage. For proof, if a similar graph of Hispanic student percentage vs. eligible applicants were drawn, it would appear that they were discriminated against as well. So would be the Black!

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  133. milind sohoni
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    Hi

    well, even a fair and objective admission criteria can have devastating consequences. here at IIT, we admit about 1 in 100. this has the same effect on student ethics, career options and so on. in fact, even worse, since IIT is an engineering college, the very definition of engineering in India has now distorted as serving international finance or distant masters in a globalized world. our own development problems remain unattended.

    see http://www.cse.iitb.ac.in/~sohoni/RD.pdf

    also, the above is a part of the current trend of knowledge concentration, i.e., a belief that only a few universities can impart us “true” knowledge or conduct “true” research.
    see http://www.cse.iitb.ac.in/~sohoni/kpidc.pdf

    regs, milind.

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  134. LMM
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    This is a very valuable article. It deals with a subject that has received too little attention. I believe that cultural bias in many cases outweighs the racial bias in the selection program. Time and again, I have seen young people with great potential being selected against because they are culturally different from what the selectors are looking for (often people who are like them culturally). The article’s mentioning that students who participated in R.O.T.C., F.F.A. and/or 4H are often passed over is a good illustration.

    It was interesting to note that the girl who wrote an essay on how she dealt with being caught in a drug violation found acceptance. I suspect that a student with similar academic qualifications who wrote an essay on the negative aspects of drug use would not be so lucky.

    LMM

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  135. Eli Otis
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    … comes news that Yale President Levin’s successor will be Peter Salovey, tending to confirm Unz’s observations regarding the grossly disproportionate number of Jewish presidents at Ivy League schools.

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  136. JF
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    All very interesting but I am among the National Merit Scholars from California who has a not obviously Jewish name despite having two Jewish parents. It was changed in the 1950s due to anti-Semitism and an urge to assimilate. A lot of other names can be German or Jewish for example. I suspect in light of that and intermarriage cases where the mom is Jewish and the dad is not, not to mention a lot of Russian names, you may be undercounting Jews among other things. Although to be fair, you are probably also undercounting some half-Asians given most of those marriages have a white husband and Asian wife.

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  137. Raymond
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    I’m an Asian HYP grad. I applaud this article for being so extremely well researched and insightful. It’s an excellent indictment of the arbitrariness and cultural favoritism concentrated in the hands of a very small group of unqualified and ideologically driven admissions officers. And I hasten to add that I am a liberal Democratic, an avid Obama supporter, and a strong proponent of correcting income inequality and combating discrimination in the workplace.

    To me, the most compelling exhibit was the one towards the end which showed the % relative representation of enrolled students to highly-qualified students (I wish the article labeled the exhibits). This chart shows that in the Ivies, which administer highly subjective admission criteria, Jews are overrepresented by 3-4x, but in the California schools and MIT, which administer more objective criteria, Jews are overrepresented by only 0-50%, a range that can easily be explained by methodology or randomness.

    This single exhibit is unequivocal evidence to me of systematic bias in the Ivy League selection process, with Jews as the primary beneficiary. I tend to agree with the author this this bias is unlikely to be explicit, but likely the result of cultural favoritism, with a decision-making body that is heavily Jewish tending to favor the activities, accomplishments, personalities, etc. of Jewish applicants.

    The author has effectively endorsed one of the core tenets of modern liberalism – that human beings tend to favor people who look and act like themselves. It’s why institutions dominated by white males tend to have pro-white male biases. The only twist here is that the decision-making body in this instance (Ivy League admissions committees) is white-Jewish, not white-Gentile.

    So if you’re a liberal like me, let’s acknowledge that everyone is racist and sexist toward their own group, and what we have here is Jews favoring Jews. We can say that without being anti-semitic, just like we can say that men favor men without being anti-male, or whites favor whites without being anti-white.

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  138. KP Lam
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    Just some puzzling statistics: In p. 32, second paragraph, it is mentioned “The Asian ratio is 63% slightly above the white ratio of 61 percent”, then in the third paragraph “However, if we separate out the Jewish students, their
    ratio turns out to be 435 percent, while the residual ratio for non-Jewish whites drops to just 28 percent, less than half of even the Asian figure”, leading to the conclusion that “As a consequence, Asians appear under-represented relative to Jews by a factor of seven, while non-Jewish whites are by far the most under-represented group of all”. Not very clear on the analysis!

    Let me try to make a guess on the calculation of this statistics ratio: Assume that all groups in NMS will apply, with mA=Asians, mJ=Jews, mW=Whites be the respective numbers in NMS. Suppose that nA, nJ, and nW are those Asians, Jews, and Whites finally admitted. Then if the statistics ratio for G means ((nG)/(mG))/(mG/mNMS), where mNMS is the total number in the NMS, then the ratio will amplify the admission rate (nG/mG) by (mNMS/mG) times and becomes very large or very small for small group size. For example, for a single person group, being admitted will give a ratio as large as mNMS, and a zero for not being admitted. Why can this ratio be used for comparing under-representation between different groups?

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  139. nanlung
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    Very well. Loved the fact that the author put a lot into reseaching this piece. But i would like to know how many asians who manage to attend this ivy schools end up as nobel leaurets and professors?? This demonstrates the driving force behind the testscore prowess of the asians-financial motivation. The author talks about asians being under-represented in the ivies but even though they manage to attend then what?? do they eventually become eintiens and great nobel leurets or great cheese players. Also what is the stats like for asian poets, novelist, actors.etc Pls focus should be given on improving other non-ivy schools since we have a lots of high SAT test scores than high running universities.

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  140. Al
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    Look at Nobel prizes, field medals and all kind of prizes and awards that recognize lifetime original academic contributions. Not many asians there yet. Perfect grades or SAT scores does not guarantee creativity, original thinking, intelectual curiosity or leadership. The problem is that those things are hard to measure and very easy to fake in an application.

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  141. Fred
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    Loved all the research in the article and I am on board with the idea that moving in the tiger mother direction will kill creativity in young people. And I agree with the observation that our country’s top leadership since 1970 or so has been underwhelming and dishonest especially in the financial services industry which draws almost entirely from the Ivies.

    However, I am not so convinced that the over representation of Jewish students in the Ivy league is created by intentional bias on the part of Jewish professors or administrators at these institutions. Is it possible that admissions officers select Jewish applicants at such a high rate because they are more likely to actually attend? Once a family of four’s income exceeds $160k the net price calculation for a year at Harvard jumps up pretty quickly. By the time you hit annual income of $200k you are looking at $43k/yr or $172k for 4 years. And at the lower income levels, even if a family has to pay just $15k a year, how will they do that if they are struggling to make it as it is? Do they want/does their student want to graduate with $60k worth of debt? Why not choose a great scholarship offer from a state university to pay nothing at all or go to community college for 2 years and then on to the state public institution?

    There are many options for top students who can compete at the Ivy level. If I am an admissions officer looking to fill slots left over after minority admissions (ones poor enough to get the education for free and thus to say yes), legacies, athletic recruits, and the few super special candidates, wouldn’t I choose those most likely to take me up on the admissions offer and protect my yield number? Might an easy way to get this done be to consult a demographic tool showing net worth by zip code? And to stack the yield odds a little more in my favor might I also choose families with Jewish appearing last names knowing they would be extremely likely to accept my offer since I obviously have recent history to show me that these families say yes to our prices? I think this is a much more plausible explanation then assuming some secret quota in force at these schools.

    I am a conservative but I cannot believe Jewish liberals would go that far just to ensure more Jewish liberals attend their institutions or to keep conservative white non Jewish middle income students out. Dollars and cents and the perception a yield number conveys about the desirability of a school are what is at work here in my humble opinion.

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  142. There is a very simple solution. There is no legal definition of race. Simply check the “Negro” (or “African-American” or whatever it is called today) box on the application form. You don’t look it? Neither do many others, because your ancestry is really mixed. This may get you in. It won’t hurt your chances, which are essentially zero before you check that box. At the very least, it will make it harder for the bigots in the admissions office to exercise their bigotry.

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  143. dong min son
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    “Look at Nobel prizes, field medals and all kind of prizes and awards that recognize lifetime original academic contributions. Not many asians there yet. Perfect grades or SAT scores does not guarantee creativity, original thinking, intelectual curiosity or leadership. The problem is that those things are hard to measure and very easy to fake in an application.”

    Last year, 75% of Ph.D candidates where foreign born, most of which were either Indian or Chinese. You should rely on statistics that are more current and relevant.

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  144. Doom
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    Wow, another article on how corrupt higher eduation is.

    Folks, open your eyes a bit. Online education is growing massively; sharing this growth are websites that write academic papers (even Ph.D. theses) on demands….these websites in toto have nearly as many customers as there are online students.

    Harvard is unusual in that they actually banned students for cheating. Every investigation of cheating on campus shows it exists on a massive scale, and reports of half or more of a class cheating are quite common in the news.

    The reason for this is simple: administrators care about retention, nothing else. Faculty have long since gotten the message. I’ve taught in higher education for nearly 25 years now, and I’ve seen many faculty punished for catching cheaters; not once has there been any reward.

    Over 90% of remedial students fail to get a 2-year degree in three years, yet administration sees no issue with talking them into loans that will keep them in debt forever. Admin sees no issue with exploiting the vulnerable for personal gain, of course.

    Here’s what higher education is today: desperate people take out loans to go to college. They use the money to pay the tuition, and they use the money to buy academic papers because they really aren’t there for college, they’re there for the checks. Their courses are graded by poorly paid faculty (mostly adjuncts), again paid by those checks. The facutly are watched over by administrators to make sure there is no integrity to the system…and again, admin is paid by those checks (in fact, most of the tuition money goes to administrators).

    Hmm, what part of this could be changed that would put integrity back into the system?

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  145. Aaron D.
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    I think your sources who claim to be familiar with China are very wrong concerning entrance into Chinese universities, especially those so-called upper tier unis. It is well known amongst most Chinese students who take the gaokao, the all-or-nothing university entrance examination, bribes, guanxi (connections) and just being local, are often better indicators of who will be accepted.

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  146. Bobby
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    Ron Unz is a brilliant man. He created software that made him rich, and has written articles on all kinds of subjects. But apparently, Ron shares a problem with a very tiny number of humanity. Ron is one of those oddball characters, that, no matter where the truth leads him, he simply has to express it, regardless of political correctness. He did this in California with the debate on English,etc.

    Compared to the administrators of these Ivy League Institutions, Ron is a mental giant, not even near being in the same class as these supposedly important but in reality, worthless beurocrats.

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  147. Thom
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    If ten million Gentile whites and Asians changed their surname to Kaplan, Levy, Golden, Goldstein, Goldman, it obviously would throw a monkey wrench into the process of ethnic favoritism.

    To paraphrase Unz — the “shared group biases” of Ivy League college admission officers that have “extreme flexibility and subjectivity”, does harm white Gentiles and Asians, but only because the process lacks objective, meritocratic decision making, and in its place is a vile form of corrupt cronyism and favoritism.

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  148. Vishal
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    An Asian speaking here, I agree that America isn’t a meritocracy, but has it ever been? It seems like this article’s falling for the oldest trick in the book — looking back at the “good old days”. I’d argue that now more than ever, the barrier to entry is lower than ever, and that every individual can rise to the occasion and innovate for the better. Places like Exeter (my alma mater) aren’t just playgrounds for the rich — I’m not extremely wealthy, and neither were my classmates. Most of us were even on financial aid. Don’t just point fingers at institutions to account for shortcomings — if you had the stroke of fortune to be born in a nation with such opportunity, with hard work and CREATIVITY and INNOVATION, anything is possible.

    Has anyone thought about why the test-prep business has expanded so much? It’s to feed into the very same system that you’re complaining about. Be the change you wish to see in the world, not a victim of it. To many of the Asians out there, I’d say get over your 4.0 GPA and 2400 SAT score and be unique for once.

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  149. To put Unz’s findings in social and historical perspective, it is important to understand where Jewish academics come from. The Eastern European Jews who immigrated to Northeast US in the Twentieth Century ran into an immigrant world dominated by Catholics and particularly Irish Catholics. The Irish, who were as “hungry” as the Jews got control over government and its ancillary economic benefits. I wasn’t there at the time, but I imagine we Irish did not do much to help Jewish immigrants compared with Catholic immigrants.

    Th one area abandoned by the Catholic Church was public and secular education. The Church formed its own educational Catholic ghetto. Jewish immigrants adopted the public-secular educational world as their own and became strong adherents of education as the key to Americanization. Education became their small piece of turf. The only memorable political conflict between Jews and AfricanAmericans in New York City was over control of the public schools.

    Just as the Irish react against affirmative action for non-Irish in government jobs, the descendants of these Jewish immigrants react to the plagiarism of their assimilation plan by the Chinese/Koreans. When you have de facto Irish affirmative action you don’t want de jure African American affirmative action. When you have Jewish “meritocracy” you don’t want Asian meritocracy.

    The result is what you see today. The Irish still have a stranglehold on government related jobs in the Northeast with a smattering of minorities (“New Irish”) and the Jews try to protect their secular education turf from the “New Jews”. It’s just business. Don’t take it personally.

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  150. marc
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    All I can say is see a book: “Ivy League Fools and Felons”‘ by Mack Roth. Lots of them are kids of corrupt people in all fields.
    But I disagree that opportunity is being closed off to most Americans. Here in North Dakota I work for a high school graduate, self made trucking millionaire. Five years ago she was a secretary in Iowa. But she got off her butt and went to where the money is circulating.
    Just my 2 cents…

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  151. MIT Student
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    Sorry, but quick correction regarding rankings (and I only have to say this because I go to MIT). Technically, MIT and Caltech are *both* ranked the same. The only reason why Caltech appears on the list before MIT is because it come before it alphabetically…to suggest otherwise would be untrue. When you look at individual departments, you’ll find that MIT consistently ranks higher than that of Caltech in all engineering disciplines and most scientific disciplines. Also, personally speaking, MIT has a far better humanities program that Caltech (especially in the fields of economics, political science, philosophy, and linguisitics). We do have a number of Pulitizer Prize winners who teach here.

    Also generally, in academic circle, MIT is usually viewed with higher regard than Caltech, although that isn’t to say Caltech isn’t a fantastic school (it really and truly is–I loved it there and I wish more people knew more about it)

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  152. Rand
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    One observation about methodology that struck me while reading this:

    The Jewish population of universities is being evaluated based on Hillel statistics, with the “Non-Jewish white” population being based on the white population minus the Jewish population.

    This can be problematic when you consider that these population are merging at a pretty high rate. (I don’t have much information here, but this is from the header of the wikipedia article: “The 1990 National Jewish Population Survey reported an intermarriage rate of 52 percent among American Jews.”)

    What percentage of partially Jewish students identify as “Jewish” or does Hillel identify as Jewish? If you’re taking a population that would have once identified as “white” and now identifying them as Jewish, obviously you’ll see some Jewish inflation, and white deflation. And when a large percentage of this population bears the names “Smith”, “Jones”, “Roberts” etc., you’re obviously not going to see a corresponding increase in NMS scores evaluated on the basis of last names.

    Of course, I have no idea what methodology Hillel is using, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it’s an inflated one.

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  153. NotAmerican
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    Thank you Mr. Unz for this provocative article. It isn’t the author’s first one on Jewish & Asian enrollment at Ivy League colleges. I remember another one, in the 1990s I believe.

    According to what I read, less and less American Jews apply for medical school nationwide, and Jewish women are very educated, but it comes also with a low birthrate and high median age. It makes the recent spike in Jewish admissions at Harvard College all the more curious, intriguing.

    This month, the NY Times published a list of the highest earners in the hedge fund industry in 2012, and 8 out of 10 were Jewish. Are certain universities aggressively seeking donations from this super rich demographic since the 2000s?

    History has a way of repeating itself.

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  154. NotAmerican
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    I’m referring to HYP(Harvard-Yale-Princeton)’s history, during the Gilded Age for example.

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  155. Ira
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    The young American Jew is not like his grandparents. They are just as fun loving and lazy as any other. This is the result of a lack of perceived persecution that use to keep the group together. In the major cities, half of the young people leave the tribe through intermarriage. This is human nature. The Rabbis changed the rules some time ago to define a Jew as coming from the mother, so the Jewish man would marry a Jewish woman, instead of a woman outside of the tribe. Read the Bible. In David’s time, the men had an eye for good looking women outside of the tribe(like all men). Now days, the young people just laugh at the Rabbi’s words.

    Instead of the old folks liberal ideas of race and ethnic divisions, let us change it to go by economic class. According to liberal thought, intelligence is equally distributed throughout all economic classes, so higher education admissions should be by economic class, and not the old divisive ideas of race and ethnic background. After all, affirmative action programs are institutionalized racism and racial profiling.

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  156. These and many other ills would be alleviated if government would stop: (a) banning aptitude tests or even outright discrimination as determinants of employment; (b) subsidizing private institutions such as Harvard; and (c) close down all government schools, starting with state institutions of “higher learning.”

    I know, pie in the sky. But the author’s suggestions by comparison are mere Band-Aids.

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  157. Great analysis, but pie-in-the-sky prescription, which was presumably just intended to be thought provoking. If you want to know why Harvard would never adopt the author’s recommendation, just read what he wrote:

    “But if it were explicitly known that the vast majority of Harvard students had merely been winners in the application lottery, top businesses would begin to cast a much wider net in their employment outreach, and while the average Harvard student would probably be academically stronger than the average graduate of a state college, the gap would no longer be seen as so enormous, with individuals being judged more on their own merits and actual achievements. A Harvard student who graduated magna cum laude would surely have many doors open before him, but not one who graduated in the bottom half of his class.”

    I wonder why Harvard officials would desire this outcome?

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  158. Benj Pollock
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    So a lot of ivy league presidents with Jewish-sounding names somehow influence admissions staff who may not have Jewish-sounding names to favor undeserving applicants because they also have Jewish-sounding names? And this is because of some secret ethnic pride thing going on? And nobody’s leaked this conspiracy to the outside world until our whistle blowing author? The guy’s a nut job.

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  159. foo
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    Benj Pollock says: [...stuf...]

    What a weird ad-hominem attack! One of the weakest I have seen..you should really be calling the author an “anti-semite” shouldn’t you ?

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  160. YehuditLeah
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    All of your statistics are highly suspect due to the enormous, and rapid annual increase in Jewish intermarriage. I do not have the statistics, but over many years, it certainly appears that Jewish men are far more likely to intermarry than Jewish women (the lure of the antithesis to their Jewish mother??) and to complicate matters further, Jewish men seem to have a predilection for Asian women, at least in the greater NY Metro Area. But that still does not represent the majority of Jewish men marrying Christians. QED. More Jewish last names, for children who are DNA wise only half Jewish than non Jewish names for the intermarried. And if one wanted to get really specific, the rapidly rising intermarriage is diluting the “Jewish” genetic pool’s previously demonstrable intelligence superiority., strengthened by the fact that most couples use the Jewish fathers last name.
    These observations are in no way associated with how the various Jewish denominations define ‘Jewish”…

    Methinks the statistics are highly flawed.

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  161. NB
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    I have posted a critique of Unz’s article here:

    http://alum.mit.edu/www/nurit

    Columbia statistician Andrew Gelman discusses it here:

    http://andrewgelman.com/2013/10/22/ivy-jew-update/

    In short: Unz substantially overestimated the percentage of Jews at Harvard while grossly underestimating the percentage of Jews among high academic achievers, when, in fact, there is no discrepancy. In addition, Unz’s arguments have proven to be untenable in light of a recent survey of incoming Harvard freshmen conducted by The Harvard Crimson, which found that students who identified as Jewish reported a mean SAT score of 2289, 56 points higher than the average SAT score of white respondents.

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  162. I have a couple of thoughts about this article:

    First. I was thrilled to see your advocacy of admissions by lottery. I have advocated such a plan on various websites that I participate in, but you have written the first major article advocating it that I have seen. Congratulations.

    Just a small quibble with your plan, I would not allow the schools any running room for any alternatives to the lottery. They have not demonstrated any willingness to administer such a system fairly. After a few years of pure lottery it would be time to evaluate it and see if they should be allowed any leeway, but I wouldn’t allow any variation before that.

    I would hypothesize that one effect of a lottery admissions plan would be a return to more stringent grading in the class rooms. It would be useful to the faculty to weed out the poor performers more quickly, and the students might have less of an attitude of entitlement.

    Second, I am glad that you raised the issue of corruption of the admissions staffs. It would be a new chapter in human history if there was no straight out bribe taking of by functionaries in their positions. My guess is that the bag men are the “high priced consultants”. Pay them a years worth of tuition money and a sufficient amount will flow to the right places to get your kid in to wherever you want him to go.

    Third, three observations about Jewish Students.

    First, Jews are subject to mean reversion just like everybody else.

    Second, the kids in the millennial generation were, for the most part, born into comfortable middle class and upper class homes. The simply do not have the drive that their immigrant grandparents and great-grandparents had. I see this in my own family. My wife and I had immigrant parents, and we were pretty driven academically (6 degrees between us). Our kids, who are just as bright as we were, did not show that same edge, and it was quite frustrating to us. None of them have gone to a graduate or professional school. They are all working and are happy, but driven they aren’t.

    Third, Hillel’s numbers of Jewish students on their website should be taken cum grano salis. All three of our kids went to Northwestern U. (Evanston, IL) which Hillel claimed was 20% Jewish. Based on our personal observations of kids in their dorms and among their friends, I think the number is probably 10% or less.

    Finally, the side bar on Paying Tuition to a Hedge Fund. I too am frustrated with the current situation among the wealthy institutions. I think that it deserves a lot more attention from policy makers than it has received. The Universities have received massive benefits from the government (Federal and state) — not just tax exemptions, but grants for research and to students, subsidized loans, tax deductions for contributions, and on, and on. They have responded to this largess by raising salaries, hiring more administrators, spending billions on construction, and continually raising tuitions far faster than the rate of inflation. I really do not think the tax payers should be carrying this much of a burden at a time when deficits are mounting without limit.

    Henry VIII solved a similar problem by confiscating assets. We have constitutional limits on that sort of activity, but I think there a lot of constitutional steps that should be considered. Here a few:

    1. There is ample reason to tax the the investment gains of the endowments as “unrelated business taxable income” (UBTI, see IRS Pub 598 and IRC §§ 511-515) defined as income from a business conducted by an exempt organization that is not substantially related to the performance of its exempt purpose. If they do not want to pay tax on their investments, they should purchase treasuries and municipals, and hold them to maturity.

    2. The definition of an exempt organization could be narrowed to exclude schools that charge tuition. Charging $50,000/yr and sitting on 30G$ of assets looks a lot more like a business than a charity.

    3. Donations to overly rich institutions should be non deductible to the donors. Overly rich should be defined in terms of working capital needs and reserves for depreciation of physical assets.

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  163. tantalum et les viscères de nos gadgets | parloprofde
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    […] http://www.unz.com/article/the-myth-of-american-meritocracy/ […]

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  164. The Mind-Body Politic Are Jews the new WASPs? | The Mind-Body Politic
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    […] this powerful piece, The Myth of American Meritocracy, Ron Unz demolishes the notion that American universities are meritocratic […]

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  165. jholloway
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    Ron,

    Is the proposed mechanism that Jewish university presidents create a bias in the admissions department?

    That could be tested by comparing Jewish student percentages between schools with Christian and Jewish presidents. If Christian presidents produce student bodies with a high proportion of Jews, then Jewish ethnocentrism is not the cause. (We’d have to find a way to control for presidents’ politics.)

    If admissions departments are discriminating in favor of liberals, that will boost the proportion of all liberals, including many Jews, but it will be political discrimination, not ethnic discrimination. (Both are bad, but we should be accurate.)

    Liberals see a discrepancy in ethnic outcomes and consider it proof of ethnic discrimination. Are we doing the same thing?

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  166. The Myth of American Meritocracy College University Admissions | Mpkb's Blog
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    […] http://www.unz.com/article/the-myth-of-american-meritocracy/ […]

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  167. KA
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    After Russian emancipation , the Jews from Pale settlement spread out and took up jobs in government services, secured admissions in technical and medical schools,and established positions in trade in just two decades . Thn they started interconnecting and networking more aggressively to eliminate competition and deny the non Jews the opportunities that the non Jews rightfully claimed . This pattern was also evident in Germany after 1880 and in Poland between interwars .
    The anti Jewish sentiment seen in pre revolutionary Russia was the product of this ethnic exclusivisity and of the tremendous in – group behaviors .

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  168. KA
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    Yes . You have points . This is one of the fears that drove the Zionist to plan of Israel in 1880 . It was the fear of secular life free from religious persecution and freedom to enjoy life to its fullest in the post industrial non religious Europe guided by enlightenment that drove them embrace the religious ethnic mix concept of statehood.


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  169. KA
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    Same and some more in India.
    In India it is politics of the gutter. Someone can get to medical school and engineering school even if he or she did not qualify,if scored say 3 points out of 1000 points as long as he or she belonged to lower caste of Hindu. The minimum requirements they have to fulfill is to pass the school leaving examinations with science subjects .A passing level is all that matters . The process then continues (in further education -master , training, post doctoral, and in job and in promotion)
    While upper caste Hindu or Christian or Muslim may not be allowed despite scoring 999 out of 1000. It is possible and has happened.
    Unfortunately the lower caste has not progressed much. Upper caste Hindus have misused this on many occasions and continue to do do by selling themselves as lower caste with legal loopholes .Muslim or Christians can’t do that for they can’t claim to be Hindu


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  170. Ivy
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    Takeaways:
    Jews are really good at networking and in-group activity. They have centuries of practice, and lived a meritocratic existence of self-sorting in the Pale and elsewhere.
    That is evident to all who look.

    Other groups have different approaches, and different organizational or affiliation bonds, based on their history, culture and other factors.

    NE Asians share some traits, and both value education as a way to improve themselves and to some extent their groups.
    S Asians will demonstrate their own approach, focusing heavily on STEM.

    Expect demographics to win out, given 2.5B Asians versus a smaller NAM or NE European-base populace.

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  171. EC
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    Thanks for the informative article. Your proposal sounds reasonable. Another option would be to attempt to vastly decrease the significance of these elite private schools. Why should we allow undemocratic little fiefdoms to largely control entry into our country’s ruling class? It would probably be considerably more fair, more transparent and more efficient to pour a lot of resources into our public universities. If Berkeley, Michigan, UVA, UMass, etc. were completely free, for instance–or if they provided students with living expenses as well as free tuition, the quality of their students would conceivably surpass that of the Ivy League’s, and over time the importance and prestige of Harvard, Stanford, etc. would diminish. Instead, we are subsidizing students at elite private colleges more than those at public colleges–an absurd state of affairs (see this article, whose author is a bit of an ideologue but who is right on this issue: http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Robert-Reich/2014/1014/How-the-government-spends-more-per-student-at-elite-private-universities-than-public).

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  172. Truth
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    Mr. Unz; thank you for the long, informational and scholarly article. I read the whole thing, and from Sailer I am familiar with your reputation as a certified genius. I must admit however, after the 5-10,000 words you had written, I was a bit shocked that your answer to how to improve elite University enrollment, was to FLIP A FIGURATIVE COIN.

    I expected some chart with differential equations that I would have to consult my much more intelligent brother, the electrical engineer to explain to me. Not that it does not make a lot of sense.

    The issue with your solution is that you go from a three class university:
    1) Legacy Admits
    2) Non athletic, black admits
    3) everyone else

    …to a much-more rigid, two class university:

    1) academic admits
    2) coin-flip admits

    One tier being one of the smartest 15-18 year olds in the world, the other being “somewhat better than good student at Kansas State.”

    Talk about a hierarchy!

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