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Race, Income and College in 25 Years: The Continuing Legacy of Segregation and Discrimination

  • Alan Krueger

    (Princeton University and NBER)

  • Jesse Rothstein

    (Princeton University and NBER)

  • Sarah Turner

    (University of Virginia and NBER)

The rate at which racial gaps in pre-collegiate academic achievement can plausibly be expected to erode is a matter of great interest and much uncertainty. In her opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger, Supreme Court Justice O’Connor took a firm stand: “We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary . . .” We evaluate the plausibility of Justice O’Connor’s forecast, by projecting the racial composition and SAT distribution of the elite college applicant pool 25 years from now. We focus on two important margins: First, changes in the black-white relative distribution of income, and second, narrowing of the test score gap between black and white students within family income groups. Other things equal, progress on each margin can be expected to reduce the racial gap in qualifications among students pursuing admission to the most selective colleges. Under plausible assumptions, however, projected economic progress will not yield nearly as much racial diversity as is currently obtained with race-sensitive admissions. Simulations that assume additional increases in black students’ test scores, beyond those deriving from changes in family income, yield more optimistic estimates. In this scenario, race-blind rules approach the black representation among admitted students seen today at moderately selective institutions, but continue to fall short at the most selective schools. Maintaining a critical mass of African American students at the most selective institutions would require policies at the elementary and secondary levels or changes in parenting practices that deliver unprecedented success in narrowing the test score gap in the next quarter century.

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Paper provided by Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies. in its series Working Papers with number 94.

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Date of creation: May 2005
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Handle: RePEc:pri:cepsud:108krueger
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  1. David Card & Alan B. Krueger, 2004. "Would the Elimination of Affirmative Action Affect Highly Qualified Minority Applicants? Evidence from California and Texas," NBER Working Papers 10366, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Solon, Gary, 1999. "Intergenerational mobility in the labor market," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 29, pages 1761-1800 Elsevier.
  3. Laura Chadwick & Gary Solon, 2002. "Intergenerational Income Mobility Among Daughters," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(1), pages 335-344, March.
  4. George J. Borjas, 1991. "Ethnic Capital and Intergenerational Mobility," NBER Working Papers 3788, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Gary Solon, 2002. "Cross-Country Differences in Intergenerational Earnings Mobility," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 59-66, Summer.
  6. Card, David & Rothstein, Jesse, 2007. "Racial segregation and the black-white test score gap," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(11-12), pages 2158-2184, December.
  7. John J. Donohue III & James Heckman, 1991. "Continuous Versus Episodic Change: The Impact of Civil Rights Policy on the Economic Status of Blacks," NBER Working Papers 3894, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Richard B. Freeman, 1973. "Changes in the Labor Market for Black Americans, 1948-72," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 4(1), pages 67-132.
  9. Card, David & Krueger, Alan B, 1993. "Trends in Relative Black-White Earnings Revisited," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 85-91, May.
  10. Jesse M. Rothstein, 2006. "Good Principals or Good Peers? Parental Valuation of School Characteristics, Tiebout Equilibrium, and the Incentive Effects of Competition among Jurisdictions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1333-1350, September.
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