Representation versus assimilation: How do preferences in college admissions affect social interactions?
Given the existence of non-selective universities, the question of whether to employ racial preferences in college admissions reduces to one of optimal allocation of a finite resource: students who are members of under-represented racial or ethnic groups. In this paper, we assess recent legal arguments that racial preferences at selective colleges promote meaningful on-campus interracial interaction. As such, we model such interaction as a function of minority representation and, in some cases, perceived social similarity between students of different races. We estimate a structural model to capture these effects and use the results to trace out the net effects of racial preferences on population rates of interracial contact. The results suggest that the interaction-maximizing degree of racial preference, while positive, is significantly weaker than that observed in practice.
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