Legacy and Athlete Preferences at Harvard

72 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2019 Last revised: 28 Nov 2021

See all articles by Peter Arcidiacono

Peter Arcidiacono

Duke University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Josh Kinsler

University of Georgia

Tyler Ransom

University of Oklahoma; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

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Date Written: September 2019


The lawsuit Students For Fair Admissions v. Harvard University provided an unprecedented look at how an elite school makes admissions decisions. Using publicly released reports, we examine the preferences Harvard gives for recruited athletes, legacies, those on the dean’s interest list, and children of faculty and staff (ALDCs). Among white admits, over 43% are ALDC. Among admits who are African American, Asian American, and Hispanic, the share is less than 16% each. Our model of admissions shows that roughly three quarters of white ALDC admits would have been rejected if they had been treated as white non-ALDCs. Removing preferences for athletes and legacies would significantly alter the racial distribution of admitted students, with the share of white admits falling and all other groups rising or remaining unchanged.

Suggested Citation

Arcidiacono, Peter and Kinsler, Josh and Ransom, Tyler, Legacy and Athlete Preferences at Harvard (September 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3461484

Peter Arcidiacono (Contact Author)

Duke University - Department of Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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Josh Kinsler

University of Georgia ( email )

Tyler Ransom

University of Oklahoma ( email )

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United States

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) ( email )

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