Affirmative Action and Stereotypes in Higher Education Admissions

33 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2014

See all articles by Prasad Krishnamurthy

Prasad Krishnamurthy

U.C. Berkeley School of Law

Aaron S. Edlin

University of California at Berkeley; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 2014

Abstract

We analyze how admission policies affect stereotypes against students from disadvantaged groups. Many critics of affirmative action argue that lower admission standards cause such stereotypes and suggest group-blind admissions as a remedy. We show that when stereotypes result from social inequality, they can persist under group-blind admissions. In such cases, eliminating stereotypes perversely requires a higher admission standard for disadvantaged students. If a school seeks both to treat students equally and limit stereotypes, the optimal admission policy would still impose a higher standard on disadvantaged students. A third goal, such as equal representation, is required to justify group-blind admissions. Even when there is such a third goal, group-blind admissions are optimal only when the conflicting goals of equal representation and limiting stereotypes exactly balance. This is an implausible justification for group-blind admission because it implies that some schools desire higher standards for disadvantaged students. Schools that do not desire such higher standards will typically find some amount of affirmative action to be optimal.

Suggested Citation

Krishnamurthy, Prasad and Edlin, Aaron S., Affirmative Action and Stereotypes in Higher Education Admissions (October 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w20629. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2515207

Prasad Krishnamurthy (Contact Author)

U.C. Berkeley School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

HOME PAGE: https://www.law.berkeley.edu/our-faculty/faculty-profiles/prasad-krishnamurthy/

Aaron S. Edlin

University of California at Berkeley ( email )

Dept of Economics 549 Evans Hall #3880
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
510-642-4719 (Phone)
510-643-0413 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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