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On “Mismatch Theory”

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You will be surprised that the argument that racial minorities should be kept out of selective colleges for their own benefit fails to withstand empirical scrutiny:

Yet, I find that the beneficiaries of race-based affirmative action at elite American institutions are better integrated academically and socially by the end of their first years in college, compared to their counterparts from socioeconomically underprivileged backgrounds who attended less selective schools, and are more likely to complete their bachelor’s studies.

The findings from both countries, when taken together, unequivocally establish that affirmative action, whether class- or race-based, does not harm admits’ success in college or labor market prospects.

To the contrary, the beneficiaries of preferential treatment in college admissions in Israel and the U.S. thrive at elite colleges. They would not be better off attending less selective colleges instead.

Experts predict that the Supreme Court may pressure schools to find race-neutral ways of achieving student diversity and American colleges and universities may decide to move from race to class in affirmative action, but the court should think twice before using the mismatch myth as a rationale for this move.

Well, in fairness, the constitutional arguments against affirmative action are no better than the policy ones (“Article I was originally understood in 1787 as forbidding all racial classifications! I am not a crackpot!), so here we are.

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  • This LARB review of Mismatch at the time it came out also does a thorough job of dismantling the book’s central thesis.

    In another article, Sander claimed that only 76 percent of the University of Michigan’s black graduates had passed the bar, but Lempert, using a more complete and accurate data set, conservatively estimated the black student bar passage was 91 percent. He shared his results with Sander long before Mismatch was set in print.

    • kayden

      Sadly, it’s no longer shocking when conservatives lie to push their arguments.

      • efgoldman

        it’s no longer shocking when conservatives lie

        In fact, if they ever tell the truth it is an astonishment.
        “The sky is blue.”
        “No shit? Did you really say that?”

        • Ahuitzotl

          it was an overcast day, I bet

  • Derelict

    I have to admit that I about fell out of my chair when I heard those racist arguments being articulated from a sitting Supreme Court justice.

    But what makes it all just so much extra special is Clarence Thomas sitting silently by as one of this colleagues basically states that Justice Thomas is intellectually inferior by virtue of his race. Thomas may not feel much solidarity with African Americans, but he should at least take a smidgeon of umbrage at being publicly dismissed as intellectually inferior.

    • Rob in CT

      I haven’t read his book(s?), but I thought the thing with Thomas is that he was almost assuredly helped by AA and he resents the living shit out of it, because he figures (correctly, I assume, in many cases) that others look at him and figure he’s “just an AA case” or somesuch. He blames this on liberals, apparently.

      He may well be fuming, but I can’t imagine this will result in him joining liberals in defense of AA.

    • Nah. As the WaPo article notes, it was Thomas who made the argument the first time The Precious Snowflake was unable to gain admission, even as a Legacy (which is, of course, not special treatment).

    • DrDick

      Self awareness, or at least self respect, are completely missing from Thomas’ character.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        I actually think this (and similar comments upthread) is a bit unfair to Thomas. As Corey Robin has argued, Thomas and his jurisprudence are quite race conscious. I think Thomas is profoundly wrong about the Constitution and about race in America, but he’s not wrong in a way that denies racism. In fact, Robin argues, “Thomas believes that racism is so profoundly inscribed in the white soul that you’ll never be able to remove it.” Any attempt to counteract racism is thus, at the very least, doomed to failure and likely deeply dishonest to boot.

        To quote Robin at length, according to Thomas…

        The goal is not, and never can be, color-blindness. The goal is racial candor or race sincerity, achieving a congruence between inner feeling and outward form.

        For black Americans, that means giving up on the idea of racial authenticity, that there’s an official way to be black: i.e., liberal, Democrat, etc. Hence, the black conservative who listens to Carole King. “How could a black man be truly free if he felt obliged to act in a certain way,” Thomas asks in his memoir, “and how was that any different from being forced to live under segregation?”

        Now that nod to segregation can sound pretty cheap. But I think it’s a sincere statement from Thomas of the psychological and moral terms in which he understands the harm of racism: that it imposes a false, outward self upon the true, inner self.

        For white Americans, race sincerity means owning up to the racism that lurks within. Particularly among white northern liberals, who find in programs like affirmative action a more palatable way to express their racist condescension toward blacks. So many of Thomas’s opinions about affirmative action have far less to do with any commitment to state neutrality or color-blindness — or even a formalistic comparison between the use of race under Jim Crow and today — than they do with a belief that affirmative action is really just the sneaky face of contemporary racism.

        • DrDick

          I do not think this really refutes my claims. There is an obvious disconnect between his presumed beliefs and the role affirmative action has played in his life and success. If he really believed that affirmative action is just polite racism, why did he accept his position and why has he not resigned it? There is some profound hypocrisy there.

          • Incontinentia Buttocks

            I don’t disagree that there’s a fair bit of hypocrisy in Thomas. But he’s not in any sense simply an “Uncle Tom” (as ThrottleJockey suggests upthread) nor does his attitude reflect a total lack of self awareness.

            • shah8

              We call all sorts of people (at least incidentally in our heads, as an expression of our internalized bigotry) Uncle Thomases. There isn’t any general consistency in the nature of what we describe as Uncle Thomas beyond the general paternal race-traiter nature. “Simply” an Uncle Tom, given that we’re discussing anyone as Uncle Tom, is a meaningless sentiment that assumes cardboard thin characterization.

              People who have consistent anti-black attitudes and expression from a position of self-assumed superiority (such as being an elder black man) have a diversity of justifications, history, awareness, hypocrisy, the like, according to his or her personal nature. In no way is Thomas even particularly interesting in his anti-black attitudes. Calling his perspective a right-wing variant of “pro-black” is absurd.

          • efgoldman

            “Thomas believes that racism is so profoundly inscribed in the white soul that you’ll never be able to remove it.”

            Damned good thing Earl Warren and Thurgood Marshall didn’t believe that, isn’t it.

      • Crusty

        Not just self awareness, but sometimes general awareness. I’ve read remarks from Thomas along the lines of “I never encountered any racism in my life until I got to the North for school.” Well, that’s because the racism where you grew up in Georgia was so pervasive that you never encountered any white people, by design.

        • so-in-so

          I remember reading that remark. I also recall he was singled out as “one of the good ones” while in the South, so I assume what he encountered was that his coping mechanisms for dealing with Southern racists didn’t work with the Northern variety; he was no longer the “special” one allowed greater latitude (within his place), therefore the sting of racism was more keenly felt.

          That, or it is beyond my comprehension and all the above lives only in my head.

    • kayden

      Thomas is a virulent opponent of affirmative action programs so I doubt anything said by Scalia would irk him. http://www.businessinsider.com/how-clarence-thomas-grew-to-hate-affirmative-action-2013-10

  • Murc

    And of course, even if mismatch theory were 100% true, that would be an indictment of all the institutions it is taking place at for being total shit at evaluating admission prospects, rather than in any way a flaw with affirmative action.

    • Rob in CT

      Is this sort of like the “CRA made the banks give out loans to [Those] people who couldn’t afford them” theory of academic admissions? For some reason I’m picking up the same vibe.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        Is this sort of like the “CRA made the banks give out loans to [Those] people who couldn’t afford them” theory of academic admissions? For some reason I’m picking up the same vibe.

        Probably coming from the invisible blue pixies that make the planets move in their orbits, they make that vibe. As Roberts apparently knows, him being SUCH an expert in physics.

      • Murc

        Is this sort of like the “CRA made the banks give out loans to [Those] people who couldn’t afford them” theory of academic admissions?

        This is exactly what it’s like.

        Because apparently eighteen-year-olds in search of a better future, much like low-income wage slaves who have dreamed for years of home ownership, are not only more qualified to preform this complicated analyses than the giant institutions that claim expertise in these matters, they are the only ones qualified, and thus everything is of course their own fault. ‘Murica! ‘sponsibility!

        • xq

          I don’t get who you are responding to. Who is blaming the students?

          • Murc

            By implication? Scalia.

            This assumes Scalia isn’t just an idiot and genuinely thinks that colleges are obligated to take any unqualified person who walks in the door just because they’re a minority.

        • Rob in CT

          Yeah, that’s the similarity I think I’m seeing.

  • Emily68

    Scalia entered Harvard Law School in 1957, way back when women were certainly not recruited and probably actively discriminated against in admissions. There were a lot more slots available to men just by virtue of their being men in those days than there are now. Does he not realize that he’s a “victim” of affirmative action, too?

    • Davis

      Self awareness from that guy? No, he’s unhappy about losing white privilege That extra competition from minorities is very unwelcome.

    • Peterr

      At the 50th anniversary of women being admitted to HLS, they held a forum where some of the alumna reminisced about their time there . . .

      Shortly thereafter, Bruce Bromley Professor of Law Arthur Miller welcomed all present to what he called a “bull session.” He invited the panel of famous female graduates before him to let fly with thoughts on their life experience as students and lawyers in a session titled “What I Wish I Had Known.”

      American Civil Liberties Union President Nadine Strossen ’75 led things off. When asked why she chose to come to Harvard Law School in 1972, Strossen gave both Miller and the audience a surprise answer.

      “It was actually financial,” she said with a chuckle. “Harvard Law School was the cheapest law school that I got into!”

      Strossen called her time at HLS “an unpleasant experience,” and said that she felt conspicuous to her male classmates and all too inconspicuous to her professors who were all male.

      “I did raise my hand a lot and not get called on,” she said. “I felt I wasn’t noticed as an individual.”

      Jane Lakes Harman ’69, a Democratic congresswoman from California, said that she came to Harvard in order to prepare for a career in politics, but quickly found that the curriculum at HLS gave little attention to public policy. She winced as she remembered “Ladies Day,” the one day during each term when certain Law School professors would call on female students during classes.

      Judith Richards Hope ’64, a partner in a Washington, D.C.-based law firm, said that she actually appreciated the ultra-competitive environment at Harvard. She said that she and her classmates regarded “Ladies Day,” as a mixed blessing. While it was stressful to be singled out, she said that she got support and coaching from classmates. She also said that some professors reached out to their female students.

      “We were such a small group that we were made to feel very special,” she said.

      But former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman ’65 responded that she and her female classmates were treated as “second-class citizens” at the Law School. She echoed Strossen’s complaint about being ignored by faculty and said that her frustration and resentment began to build up and affect her studies.

      “I rebelled,” she said. “It was humiliating. … Having a professor say ‘You will not be called on at all during the year. You’re not good enough to be treated in the same way as everybody else.’ ”

      Debra Lee ’80, the president and chief operating officer for Black Entertainment Television, said that classes in the late 1970s were larger and had more women and minorities. But Lee said that, as an African American, she was inspired to become a lawyer by former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, and that she came to Harvard wanting to change society. She got a rude awakening during her first year at the Law School.

      “The first thing I learned at Harvard Law School was that Harvard didn’t support that approach to the law,” she said.

      All these women came through after Scalia, and I can’t imagine it was better for the first women than for these.

  • Dr. Ronnie James, DO

    Roberts’ question (“What unique perspective does a minority student bring to a physics class?”) was maybe even more infuriating,
    1) it smacked of something he’d lovingly crafted and polished, practiced in front of the mirror at home, etc. and was just waiting for an opening to deploy
    2) it deserved a response along the lines of “substitute minority for female, Jewish, Irish, Catholic, and this question’s been asked and answered a thousand times, has it not?”
    3) or …”What unique perspective would one more white student (and an under qualified one at that) bring to a physics class?
    4) or …”it brings the unique perspective of the *next* minority applicant […you privileged chucklehead]”

    • Steve

      In other words, “how does it benefit white people for black people to learn physics?” …which, umm, is not the point of Affirmative Action.

      I mean I am in the social sciences and the “minority perspective” very substantially contributes to better research in my field because not surprisingly, middle class white people often miss out on important aspects of socioeconomic context when building their models. But even if that were not the case, everyone should have the same opportunity to pursue the career/profession/calling/whatever of their choice that a privileged white kid gets.

      • Crusty

        No, it isn’t the point of affirmative action, but unfortunately, at some point, the proponents began to argue that “diversity” was a legitimate interest that could justify AA-like policies and these arguments were accepted. See Grutter v. Bollinger. Now, this is stupid because 1) as you point out it is not the point of affirmative action, and 2) it is not the job of minority students to enhance the educational experience of non-minority students by being there, almost like zoo animals for the non-minority students to observe and have a one black friend for life.

        • xq

          “Diversity” seems to be the justification for affirmative action that universities actually believe in. Note the high rate of foreign-born (or second generation) black students admitted to elite universities.

          http://www.jbhe.com/news_views/56_race_sensitive_not_helping.html

          • Crusty

            That justification has always rubbed me the wrong way because it seems like the universities are saying that it would be good for their non-minority, sheltered, private high school grads to sit in class with some minorities during their four years for them- it builds character. It probably is good for them, but to me it always smacked of treating the minority students like objects or like accessories to adorn the non-minority students’ education.

            • Hogan

              It’s entirely unsurprising that the Burger etc. Supreme Court would hold that affirmative action is permissible only in a form that primarily benefits white people.

        • Scott Lemieux

          No, it isn’t the point of affirmative action, but unfortunately, at some point, the proponents began to argue that “diversity” was a legitimate interest that could justify AA-like policies and these arguments were accepted

          I may do a post on this, but phrasing it this way is highly misleading. What happened is that Lewis Powell decided that diversity was the only acceptable justification for affirmative action programs, so people defending them in federal court have no choice but to defend them solely in those terms, at least if they want to win.

          (Misses srlsy making the point below.)

          • Hogan

            Apparently Powell was the baby-splitter-in-chief before Kennedy’s appointment.

          • Crusty

            You are correct, and my characterization was misleading in that the proponents of AA were backed into/forced into arguing for diversity. Although, as Xq points out, it may also be a justification that universities actually believe in.

            • Srsly Dad Y

              believe in

              Having been tangentially involved in similar discussions at the primary and secondary school level, I’m sure the usual Upton Sinclair quote applies, and that admissions people sincerely believe in the diversity rationale that they have been taught as canonical.

    • Srsly Dad Y

      TBF this is the frame that universities are forced to argue in, thanks to the Bakke decision.

    • JL

      I mean to write about that silly line at some point. The university where I am a grad student has a STEM-specific Posse program, which doesn’t require its students to be underrepresented people of color, but in practice the very large majority of them are. Since the “Science Posse” was started, the number of racially underrepresented students who AREN’T part of the program majoring in science has gone up by quite a bit, and that increase is concentrated in the STEM majors where Science Posse students are concentrated. The presence of racially underrepresented students brought in through the Science Posse appears to have increased general-student-population Black and Latinx interest in pursuing those fields.

      In addition, given the history of scientific racism, and the fact that physicists were not exempt from contributions to it, I can easily imagine students of color having perspectives that I wish more of their white colleagues would emulate.

      To be clear, I don’t think it’s necessary for students to bring something “unique” in order to be worthy of pursuing physics or any other field, or that they only deserve to be there if they’re countering racism in the classroom. But the “physics” comment irritated me, as a science PhD candidate, because in addition to the racism that characterizes many of the arguments going on in this case, it buys into the stereotype of sciences, especially physical sciences, as being bastions of Objectivity and Rationality and Pure Knowledge that are above supposedly petty and corrupting social concerns.

      • AMK

        Sounds like a great program, but they really shouldn’t call it “Science Posse”….sounds like an SNL skit with a bunch of rappers in lab coats using the beakers for bongs.

    • pillsy

      I’m pretty sure that the number of physics classes that John Roberts has taught is between zero and zero, and it showed in his questions, when he questioned the need for any kind of diversity in a physics classroom.

    • kayden

      From the Guardian link: “And I must have missed Scalia condescendingly suggesting that Fisher would have been better off at a less-demanding school.”

      Certainly, there can be little argument that a mediocre (White) student like Fisher brought any unique perspective to U of T. That should be the issue.

    • Bill Murray

      what a poor student I was, thinking that there was more to college than just attending class. I guess the Chief Justice showed me.

  • waspuppet

    Gosh, it’s almost as if 1) the dirty hippies were right, and 2) the people who have spent decades crafting, implementing, administering and tweaking this policy have some idea what they’re doing.

    Naah – conservative policy is slapped together based on nothing but forwarded emails and Facebook comments, so liberal policy must be the same way. Because Both Sides Do It.

  • BGinCHI

    Scalia, Trump, Fiorina, and so on:

    Making shit up that confirms their bias.

    Or, Racism is Socially Produced, and you can actually witness this production whenever conservatives make judgments about social conditions, about which they have no data, no argument, and no soul.

  • BartletForGallifrey

    My sincere apologies for going off-topic, but would it be possible to get a side blog devoted solely to laughing at discussing H.A. Goodman?

    It could be called “You must be out of your goddamn mind!”

    • Murc

      There’s some stuff in there that isn’t totally crazy, but I don’t trust a guy who uses “skewed polls” unironically and has kind of a screwed up calculus.

      I mean… I’m trying to not to judge Goodman for sounding unhinged, because being angry enough to sound unhinged these days just means you’re engaged with the issues. And as a big Sanders believer I’d really love to buy what he’s selling; if Sanders really is on the cusp of pulling an Obama that’d be grand.

      But I don’t trust his numbers. Is there anyone who is less deeply personally invested in being right (as opposed to being correct) who is pushing this line? Because I’d very much like to see that.

      • BartletForGallifrey

        Aside from any other reasons he might sound unhinged, his constant, hysterical “I will only vote for Bernie!!!!!!!!!!!!11” shows an astonishing lack of, how should I put this, an astonishing lack of giving two shits about the people whose lives would be made absolutely miserable/would literally die under a Republican president.

        For me, as a person with a functioning uterus, I have very little respect for someone who would rather write in Bernie in order to magically push Democrats to the left sometime in the future than vote to keep the rabidly anti-choice (“choice” in this case extending to birth control, sex ed, any woman whose body doesn’t shut it down) fuckwads who currently comprise the Republican Party out of the White House.

        • alex284

          I was at an elections soiree last night in France. Someone made the argument that maybe it would be better for the far right to win so that the left would “wake up”.

          It’s an international sensation, is what I’m saying.

          • BartletForGallifrey

            Sure! Great! I’d love for the left to wake up! Maybe let’s find a way that doesn’t throw tens of millions of people under the bus though, idk.

            I would enjoy seeing a race/gender/sexual orientation/class breakdown on who has this view.

    • pillsy

      Shorter H. A. Goodman: “Bernie Sanders is winning the Tumblr vote, so he’s a shoo-in.”

      • BartletForGallifrey

        I heard he might have made a YouTube video or two? I’m not sure. He doesn’t mention it much.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Let us not forget the regional university straw poll vote.

      • Hogan

        And the polls agree with me, except for the ones that don’t, so just ignore those.

    • dmsilev

      “Also, I explain in this YouTube segment what poll numbers can’t, and why I will only vote for Sanders.”

      That’s a direct quote, not a parody. Sadly.

      • Murc

        That sentence, sadly, would be entirely unobjectionable were he talking about the primary.

        • rea

          As it is, he’s more pro-Bernie than Bernie.

          • Murc

            Which is okay in the abstract, I suppose, but Christ, the way he goes about it.

            (I’m aware I’m being awfully soft on Goodman here. His incandescent rage with the Democratic Party speaks to me on a personal level and I’m trying like hell to not be overly judgey. He makes this very difficult.)

            • jim, some guy in iowa

              “incandescent rage with the democratic party”

              trying to keep all the cats herded while making sure the Goodman cat is the happiest of all- which is basically what he’s demanding- seems like a fool’s errand for anyone, let alone a national political party

            • djw

              I very strongly suspect that for most Goodman types, the actual extent to which the institutional Democratic party has been ‘disappointing’ is pretty nearly completely irrelevant.

    • djw

      My first article on Bernie Sanders winning the presidency, titled It’s Official — Bernie Sanders Has Overtaken Hillary Clinton In the Hearts and Minds of Democrats is now at 695,000 Facebook Likes. Therefore, the question isn’t whether or not I’m the second coming of Walter Cronkite. The real question is this: Who else could propel a piece on the 2016 election to almost 700,000 Facebook likes, other than our future president?

      These are the words of a man who isn’t going to be outdone by some young upstart like Walker Bragman.

    • Hogan

      On Election Day, America will not elect a president whom the vast majority of voters say isn’t honest

      Was he literally born yesterday?

  • Manny Kant

    It doesn’t really make sense on its face. To the extent that affirmative action helps black students get into, say, Harvard, those are going to be students who would be getting into pretty elite schools without affirmative action. And Harvard doesn’t actually provide a particularly more challenging education than, say, the University of Michigan.

    Similarly, black students getting into Michigan with the help of affirmative action would still be getting into solid schools like Michigan State without affirmative action. And, again, Michigan is not really giving a different education from Michigan State.

    The difference between these places is smarter students, better networking, and professors who do more research. Only the former might affect student success rates, and even then only in disciplines which grade on a curve. But, really, a student who can graduate from Michigan State is also a student who can graduate from Harvard.

    • xq

      I suspect major sorting explains a fair amount. As someone who went to a much less selective grad school than undergrad, I can say that science classes at selective universities are a lot harder (note also the phenomenon of pre-med students at selective universities taking physics in the summer at lower-ranked state schools). But a top-level math class at Michigan state is probably more difficult than many classes at Harvard. Students sort to the appropriate level of challenge within each institution.

    • CJColucci

      The hypothetical AA black student’s class rank might be lower at Michigan than at Michigan State, though I’m not sure whether, in the job market, being in the top third at Michigan State is better or worse than being in the middle third at Michigan.
      If you’re capable of finishing in the middle of the class at a third-tier law school, you are capable of doing the work anywhere. It’s just a question of how many of your classmates do it better.

  • AMK

    I thought the Court already struck down “real” college affirmative action programs (that is, explicit racial quotas) years ago. So what exactly can they rule on or enforce now? The “affirmative action” going on is entirely subjective….admissions people consider all kinds of “diversity” among other vaguely-defined factors in choosing who to admit. Among reasonably qualified applicants, someone who’s admitted “because” they are black or hispanic might just as easily have been admitted “because” they come from a certain region of the country, or “because” they play an instrument that rounds out the school band, or “because” their parents play golf with a dean. There are endless factors a school can use to make decisions AND justify those decisions after the fact.

    If were’re really not comfortable with giving schools any kind of discretionary power, then what’s the alternative? Metrics alone, where every spot in the national pool of college seats is automatically assigned based on some kind of GPA/test score/class rank combination? I’m pretty sure the country is not ready to see every spot in the ivies filled by affluent Asian computer science majors.

    • Karate Bearfighter

      I think conservatives would like to see race (and maybe other protected classes under XIV) treated as the only impermissible subjective consideration, sort of like with peremptory challenges in jury selection.

    • Metrics for a threshold then random selection. That is, you put everyone who is above some (pretty low) threshold of whatever composite metric is your favorite (I wouldn’t use SAT scores alone because they have some strong biases). Then random.

      I don’t think that’s sufficient in current social situation, but it’d be a heck of a lot fairer and cheaper than what we have now (without AA).

      In general, I’m pretty pro giving up on expensive efforts to discern things we can’t really discern and are know to be horrible in discerning. Random is unbiases, transparent, hard to complain about, fair, and cheap. My guess is that for things like graduation rates, it would do as well. (Esp. if combined with a cheap threshold metric.)

      Grant proposals, paper acceptances, job decisions…a lot of things would work better if we just admit we can’t really get it “right” and replace the biased lottery with an unbiased one.

  • Dilan Esper

    There’s a whole bunch of ideology here. Not knowing a lot about education policy, I really don’t know who to believe, given:

    1. You would actually expect that the massive discrimination against blacks in K-12 education would produce some mismatch effect, because they don’t get the same college preparation as comparable white and Asian students do.

    2. I don’t really trust the opponents of affirmative action, which include some of the most racist elements of society, to get this right (although I don’t think Sander is a racist; he is clearly, however, being cheered on by them).

    3. I also don’t really trust the supporters of affirmative action, given this is a policy that they care deeply about and there is a lot of money and ideological muscle behind it– they are going to say that Sander’s thesis is wrong whether it is or it isn’t.

    I’d like to see what people who have no dog in this fight say. But I’m wondering whether there are any.

    • Malaclypse

      I’d like to see what people who have no dog in this fight say.

      When Bijan posts 20 links or so rebutting Dilan’s professed interest in expertise, can the mods pretty please let it go right through?

      • Dilan Esper

        I’m not even sure what this means.

        • Malaclypse

          That’s okay, everybody else does.

          • Dilan Esper

            Mala, if you think it’s funny to post coded insults about people and not explain them, you are a complete jerk.

            Explain yourself.

            (Seriously, I post here under my own name. And if I insult someone, I own the insult. I take responsibility for what I say.

            Hiding behind a psuedonym so you can post coded insults against me? That makes you a complete coward. Say it to my face, clearly, or don’t say it.)

            • sibusisodan

              if you think it’s funny to post coded insults about people and not explain them, you are a complete jerk.

              Given that you have a dog in this fight, I don’t find your statement convincing.

            • The Temporary Name

              How can you not be sure what Mal’s saying? Jeebus.

            • How is it even an insult? Much less a coded one? It is mocking you a bit, but ok.

              In any case, Mal posted one of the links that shows that your purported deference to expertise is complete nonsense (as I’ve pointed out a billion times before, hence Mal’s post).

              And, of course, it’s bunk because you have a get out of jail free card: If an expert says something you don’t like, then you dismiss them as biased. You’ve done this explicitly to me, Junker, and Scott (at least) and implicitly to Gregor Samsa. Indeed, the testimony of a *grad student in statistics* who was a *Nader supporter* and doesn’t regret it wasn’t enough to get you admit that your *completely mad* theory of statistics and causality was wrong.

              Also note that no one with expertise pulled an authority card per se (until you demanded it). We uses many examples and scenarios. Nothing shakes you from your silly position because you are heavily invested in your conclusion (and, indeed, with that argument for that conclusion!). This seems pretty typical of your arguments (cf. your odd theories about voting and leftism).

              Now, this is a fine example, because you just declare that all sides are ideologically tainted to the point of unreliability. I was particularly amused by:

              3. I also don’t really trust the supporters of affirmative action, given this is a policy that they care deeply about and there is a lot of money and ideological muscle behind it– they are going to say that Sander’s thesis is wrong whether it is or it isn’t.

              I do love that you just threw a bunch of random stuff at AAA supports: THEY CARE DEEPLY!! (Well, shouldn’t they care deeply about policies that rectify systematic injustice? Should we only listen to climate scientists that are blase about the topic and the consequences of global warming?!) THERE IS A LOT OF MONEY BEHIND AA. (Say what? Big AA doesn’t want you to know about this simple herbal remedy that will cure racial injustice?! Do you realised how bonkers this is?!) THERE’S A LOT OF IDEOLOGICAL MUSCLE BEHIND IT!!!! (Well, maybe? It’s not clear to me what this ideological “muscle” is. It’s not like a marxist theory of ownership…no one believes that AA is anything but *a* remedy rather than a fundamental arrangement.)

              Given your desperation in the exchange with xq below to find a way that AA must be bad for someone it helps so you…what…can be balanced? Tough minded? Face reality? I’ve no idea.

              But the problem here isn’t your lack of expertise. It’s your framing of the landscape in such a way that justifies your rejection of what anyone says. The snide superiority of tone that accompanies your characteristic intellectual malpractice is just the fun cherry on top.

              The chest thumping is amusing as well. “SAY IT TO MY FACE!!! ON THE INTERNETS!!!!!! CLEARLY CAUSE I DON’T UNDERSTAND TOO GOOD!!!” I mean, are you mocking *yourself*?

          • Malaclypse

            And in case they don’t, it was your cascading failure here, among other threads.

    • sibusisodan

      I’d like to see what people who have no dog in this fight say.

      I continue to find this criterion bemusing.

      Asking for someone who has enough relevant knowledge to form a judgement, yet is sufficiently disinterested in the subject of that knowledge to be ‘objective’, is pointless.

      Even if you found such a person, their disinterestedness is yet another kind of ideology: the kind that says that picking a side is somehow declasse.

      • sharculese

        This is one of the primary things I stress with students I’m working with for their college entrance exams. Authors you’re presented with in the reading comprehension section may be trying for objectivity, but they’re not disinterested, because people who are disinterested are unlikely to have useful things to say on the topic. It’s your job to evaluate their claims because those are the kind of adult level reasoning skills you’ll be expected to have in college.

        • Dilan Esper

          The problem is, when fights are ideological enough, oftentimes nobody’s reliable.

          To take an example I actually have some expertise in– there were a bunch of false statements, made by law professors left and right, about the law during the Clinton impeachment fight and Bush v. Gore. If you aren’t a lawyer and you are trying to figure out what the law actually is, those folks don’t help you. But it’s to be expected in ideological fights. People want to win, and that affects whether they tell the truth or not (or even know if they are telling the truth).

          This is a totally different point than the one you are rebutting. I don’t know about this area, so I would like to rely on experts, but there’s no way ANY supporter of affirmative action will ever say Sander has a point, and no way ANY opponent will ever say he is wrong. When you have something like that, it becomes hard to find the truth.

          • sibusisodan

            The problem is, when fights are ideological enough, oftentimes nobody’s reliable.

            Well, yeeees. But you don’t figure that out without actually digging into the details.

            Declaring, in advance of weighing the arguments, that because this is ideological, therefore neither side is reliable seems like a counsel of despair. As well as being somewhat less than logically rigorous.

            • Dilan Esper

              True. But i am not an education expert. I am not going to dig into them, and wouldn’t be able to interpret them if i did.

              So i have to rely on experts, and if the experts all have idelogical axes to grind, that is a problem.

              • DrDick

                As far as the rest of us can tell, you are not an expert on anything (except, perhaps, your own navel) and apparently do not know anyone who actually is.

                • Dilan Esper

                  I am an expert on several things– entertainment law, first amendment litigation, intellectual property law, some other areas of constitutional litigation, civil procedure, and aspects of tort law.

                  And then, if you want to count my hobby– limit hold ’em.

                  I freely admit I am not an expert on education policy, and that’s why I find these debates frustrating. Apparently, you want to make fun of me because I admit that. (And apparently, you also think I am a white supremacist because I think affirmative action is a complicated issue.)

                  Have you ever, Dr. Penis, admitted that YOU are not an expert at something? Or do you just hide behind your anonymous screenname like a coward insulting me?

                • The Temporary Name

                  I am an expert on several things– entertainment law, first amendment litigation, intellectual property law, some other areas of constitutional litigation, civil procedure, and aspects of tort law.

                  And then, if you want to count my hobby– limit hold ’em.

                  Release Roger!

                • DrDick

                  Have you ever, Dr. Penis, admitted that YOU are not an expert at something? Or do you just hide behind your anonymous screenname like a coward insulting me?

                  I do indeed and generally try to avoid commenting on them, or at least making the kinds of arguments you routinely do. I am, however, a college professor (that is Dr. Richard __, Ph.D. to you) and know something about admissions standards and student performance, though I would not call myself an expert. The problem is that you never listen to anyone else, especially if they might know something about the topic under discussion.

                • Crusty

                  No need for you to be gratuitously nasty, although that seems to be what you are an expert on.

                • Crusty

                  Dr. Dick wrote:
                  “I am, however, a college professor…”

                  If using a very, very liberal definition of college professor, I suppose you are.

                  Also, don’t hold back, just admit you’re an expert on everything. Just because you don’t use those words doesn’t make it not so.

                • Malaclypse

                  If using a very, very liberal definition of college professor, I suppose you are.

                  You understand there probably two dozen or more people on this site who know both where and what he teaches, which means that you are both wrong and, well, gratuitously nasty.

                • If using a very, very liberal definition of college professor, I suppose you are.

                  “Employed, with tenure, in an academic position at an accredited institution of higher education with the title ‘professor'”?

                  Doesn’t seem that liberal to me. Indeed, that excludes many people who are entitled to the title, e.g., adjuncts or even tenure track profs.

                  I know this was supposed to be some sort of put down, but I don’t know what you had in mind. That Dr. Dick is a bad prof? Or shouldn’t get to be called prof?

          • DrDick

            Dude, you are just digging deeper and deeper into the cesspit of your own elite privilege.

            • Dilan Esper

              What the flying [censored] does that mean, DrDick?

              • DrDick

                You are even denser than I thought. All of your comments reek of elite privilege and display a complete lack of self-awareness, along with absolutely no knowledge of the lives and experiences of those less privileged.

    • xq

      You would actually expect that the massive discrimination against blacks in K-12 education would produce some mismatch effect, because they don’t get the same college preparation as comparable white and Asian students do.

      Alon’s finding is that all groups benefit (or are at least not harmed) by going to more selective colleges, in terms of labor market outcomes, GPA, and graduation probability. It applies not just to blacks and Hispanics benefiting from affirmative action but also whites on the margin of being accepted to more selective universities. You would expect this result to be true even for individuals with less college preparation if the benefits outweigh the costs. What are the costs and benefits of going to a college where you are substantially below the level of college preparation of most of your peers, relative to going to a college at which that would not be the case? (not intended to be comprehensive)

      Cost:
      Classes are somewhat harder, which may make it more difficult to graduate (but as I said above, you can mitigate this by choosing an easier major)

      Benefits:
      1. More selective colleges may provide more support (including financial support)
      2. More selective colleges provide labor market benefits. This may even affect graduation rates, because if students see larger benefits to graduation that will motivate them to stay in school

      It’s not obvious whether benefits exceed costs–and I don’t think its racist to hypothesize that costs might exceed benefits–but if the empirical evidence mostly goes in the other direction, I don’t see a reason to reject that.

      • Dilan Esper

        Well, part of it is how heavily you weigh the dropouts, isn’t it?

        Because if this is right, we are basically trading off the lives of those who are forced to drop out of school against the others who benefit from the superior degree. Which is fine if you aren’t one of the ones forced to drop out.

        • xq

          Well, part of it is how heavily you weigh the dropouts, isn’t it?

          No. As I just said, controlling for all other factors, you are more likely to graduate if you go to a more selective school.

          • Dilan Esper

            So there are no minority students at all that fail to graduate due to mismatching?

            • DrDick

              Your reading comprehension is exactly what I would expect from someone with an elite education. The point is that fewer affirmative action students drop out of elite universities than they do from lesser institutions.

              • Dilan Esper

                Which is orthogonal to my question.

                • DrDick

                  Your question is orthogonal to reality.

            • xq

              You’re asking if the number is literally zero?

              The population of affirmative action beneficiaries sees their graduation rates improved when going to more selective colleges. Yes, this is consistent with a story where for some students, moving up a tier due to affirmative action causes them to not graduate, while for a larger group of students, moving up a tier causes them to graduate. But so what?

              • Dilan Esper

                I’m asking if the number is literally zero because that’s the actual trade-off, isn’t it?

                Sander is claiming that some students get put into an environment they are not prepared for and don’t graduate. You are saying that lots of other students get put into that environment, do graduate, and benefit.

                Isn’t that the cost-benefit trade-off?

                • Hogan

                  You’re assuming that those students wouldn’t drop out of a non-elite school. You’d really want to know why they drop out before you make that assumption.

                • xq

                  I’m asking if the number is literally zero because that’s the actual trade-off, isn’t it?

                  Not in any useful way.

                  Say an underrepresented minority applying to college comes to you for advice–they got accepted to a university despite having substantially lower SAT scores, GPA, etc. than the median student at that university, and wants to know if they should go or not. The research suggests you should always tell them to go. It doesn’t depend on how you or they weigh various outcomes–going to a more selective university seems to help on every outcome measured.

                  Sure, it’s possible for that particular individual this will turn out to be the wrong decision–that’s always possible. Life isn’t perfectly predictable. But what else can we do than rely on population averages? Some people who stop smoking because they are afraid of lung cancer get run over by trucks. Does this mean we should stop telling people to quit smoking if they care about their health?

                • so-in-so

                  The Trolley Problem; it is immoral to take any action which will cause harm, even if inaction causes more harm to different people. Is that what you are driving toward?

                • The Trolley Problem; it is immoral to take any action which will cause harm, even if inaction causes more harm to different people. Is that what you are driving toward?

                  That’s as good a hypothesis as anything, at this point.

                  Of course, all admission under an AA policy means is that a student has an opportunity to go to a more selective school. Nothing forces them to make that choice. So it’s really not like the trolley problem at all :)

                  (This putting aside Dilan’s amusing conversion to super strong causal determination in complex multifactor scenarios with highly tricky and contingent counterfactuals.)

                • Hogan

                  (This putting aside Dilan’s amusing conversion to super strong causal determination in complex multifactor scenarios with highly tricky and contingent counterfactuals.)

                  Ooh. That’s gonna raise a welt.

                • Sure, it’s possible for that particular individual this will turn out to be the wrong decision–that’s always possible. Life isn’t perfectly predictable. But what else can we do than rely on population averages? Some people who stop smoking because they are afraid of lung cancer get run over by trucks. Does this mean we should stop telling people to quit smoking if they care about their health?

                  Indeed. And Alon and Tienda address this:

                  The gain from attending a selective institution
                  is given by δi = Yi 1 – Yi 0. If Y1 and Y0 could be observed simultaneously for all students, there would be no evaluation problem because δ would be measured for everyone. The evaluation problem arises because ordinary observational data do not provide sample counterparts for the missing counterfactual, namely, Y0 values for students who attend a selective institution (D = 1). Because only one outcome is observed for each individual, it is not possible to calculate individual-level gains from attending a selective institution. The evaluation problem is therefore a missing data problem (Heckman et al. 1997).

                  This, of course, does not mean we cannot reject the mismatch hypothesis. If mismatching were a significant factor, then it should show up in the means. If the group (adjusted) mean is higher for those in selective schools, then the only way that some individual might be made worse off by AA is by *swapping*, that is, that someone would have been made worse off (wrt graduating) by *not* going to the more selective school.

                  But then, there’s no tradeoff strictly speaking. Under either regime, we have mismatching (under AA, some people are overchallenged, without AA some people are *under*challenged/supported). There’s no reason to prefer the harmed by AA over the harmed by non-AA students. (Ideally, we’d right match everyone, of course.) Given that the students themselves in the AA situation *get to make the choice* (which is *denied* them under then non-AA situation), I’d say that there’s a moral weight to the AA situation even absent the actual better outcomes.

                  Please note that as far as I’ve read, there is no evidence at all that “swapping” is happening, that is, that there is *any* mismatching effect.

                • Gregor Sansa

                  Thanks for explaining potential outcomes, Bijan. You have more patience than I.

                • You’re welcome! The paper was a fun skim. I really need to get a better understanding of various matching techniques.

                  The conclusion is worth reading because they do a pretty good job of explicating the limits. Refuting the mismatch theory does not explain what’s going on. In particular, it doesn’t explain the intra-institution performance gap. Or explain what support mechanisms are best (and given the mallability of outcome by institution choice, clearly there are support mechanism that work!)

                  Mismatch theory, however, is as dead as anything can be. (Note people do confuse mismatch effects with intra-institution performance gaps.) I feel pretty confident if mismatching were a problem then we’d see some papers showing some effects by now. It’s not like such a study wouldn’t get funding!!

                  (I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a fair number of post-facto explanations that such and such a student failed because of mismatching. I trust the reasons to be very very very skeptical of such reports is obvious.)

      • Jackov

        Alon’s finding is that all groups benefit (or are at least not harmed) by going to more selective colleges, in terms of labor market outcomes, GPA, and graduation probability. It applies not just to blacks and Hispanics benefiting from affirmative action but also whites on the margin of being accepted to more selective universities

        I think xq’s point is important – more selective schools do a better job at graduating poor students, first generation college students and URMs, yet critics are always raising ‘concerns’ about mismatching.

        I would also note, family income – not high school grades or academic rigor of the university – is the top predictor of completing a bachelor degree. (Only 11% of the low income, first generation students who enter college will complete a bachelor’s degree in six years.) When UT Austin designed a program to help low income students graduate, in addition to establishing a a support system, it created an additional scholarship fund that students could earn up to a $1K per semester from. Several of the of the first generation Latino and Vietnamese American students in the program reported using the money to help their parents pay bills.

        • Alon et al’s paper is quite emphatic and point out that their results are not new:

          The claims embedded in the mismatch hypothesis contrast with both common knowledge and empirical research with elementary and secondary school students, which has demonstrated that regardless of their prior achievements, students who attend higher tracks and/or better schools make greater scholastic gains (Entwisle, Alexander, and Olson 1997; Gamoran 1987; Gamoran and Berends 1987; Gamoran and Mare 1989; Hallinan 1996, 2001; Hoffer 1992). Empirical studies have repeatedly demonstrated the advantages of placing students in higher ability groups with better instruction, less distraction, more time spent on task, more academic role models, and more serious learning climates (Hallinan 2001). These findings indicate that the development of cognitive skills depends crucially on the opportunities for learning that schools afford (Gamoran 1987). Participation in higher academic tracks and more-demanding schools may have offsetting advantages for disadvantaged students (Hallinan 2001).

          Black students’ postsecondary experiences further support this idea. By demonstrating that for all intervals of the SAT distribution, the graduation rates of black students increase as institutional selectivity rises, Bowen and Bok (1998) challenged the core of the mismatch hypothesis. Not only did their findings dispute allegations that black students cannot succeed at selective colleges and universities, but they demonstrated a consistent positive association between institutional selectivity and several postgraduation outcomes, including the completion of advanced degrees, earnings, and overall satisfaction with college experiences (Dworkin 1998). Attending to the same question, Kane (1998) argued that affirmative action narrows, rather than widens, the gaps in college retention rates by race because the net relationship between college selectivity and college graduation rates is positive for all students.

          They explain some of the weaknesses of this literature (which they aim to address; it’s mostly in the areas of 1) proper modelling, 2) appropriate comparisons, and 3) sufficient data).

          In what follows, we elaborate on the testable implications of the mismatch hypothesis and formulate a strategy for evaluating them. After describing the three data sources that we used for empirical estimation, we report the statistical results. We found that conditional on admission, all groups of students who attended selective institutions
          were more likely to graduate within six years of enrollment than were their counterparts who attended less-selective colleges. We reject the mismatch hypothesis for students who enrolled at the most selective institutions during the late 1980s and early 1990s.

          The main problem with the typical mobilizations of the mismatch hypothesis (including Dilan’s) is that the plausibility stems from thinking about cases where the ability/challenges gap is extremely wide. Obviously, if you put someone who didn’t pass pre-calculus into a 3 semester multivariate calc class, they are going to struggle. Duh. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about people who are within a certain band of scores according to various fairly imprecise metrics where scores can be run up by certain forms of training and other advantages. The “mismatch” hypothesized is something rather strange and nebulous….and well likely wildly racist. That is, you really have to believe that students who are like a lot of people admitted are nevertheless so bad that they cannot succeed at selective institutions.

          It’s a very nice paper, fwiw. They seem rather careful. It’s pretty strongly against mismatch theory. I’m pretty comfortable saying that mismatch theory is total nonsense (in the context of standard AA practices in the US at highly selective institutions.)

  • Lord Jesus Perm

    Dilan’s just asking questions, guys.

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