Affirmative Action, Major Choice, and Long-Run Impacts
40 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2019
Date Written: 2019
Estimation of the impact of race-based affirmative action (AA) on the medium- and long-run outcomes of underrepresented minority (URM) university applicants has been frustrated by limited data availability. This study presents a highly-detailed novel database of University of California (UC) applications in the years before and after the end of its AA admissions policy, linked to national educational records and a California employment database. Using a difference-in-difference design to compare URM and non-URM freshman applicants' outcomes two years before and after UC's affirmative action policies ended in 1998, I identify substantial and persistent educational and labor market deterioration after 1998 among URM applicants: each of UC's 10,000-per-year URM freshman applicants' likelihood of earning a Bachelor's degree within six years declined by 1.3 percentage points, their likelihood of earning any graduate degree declined 1.4 p.p., and their likelihood of earning at least $100,000 annual between ages 30 and 37 declined by about 1 p.p. per year. These results suggest that affirmative action's end decreased the number of age 30-to-34 URM Californians earning over $100,000 by at least 2.5 percent. Turning to targeted students' major choice, I link the application records to five universities' detailed course transcript data and find no evidence – despite considerable statistical power – that more-selective university enrollment under AA lowered URM students' performance or persistence in core physical, biological, or mathematical science courses. These findings suggest that state prohibitions on university affirmative action policies have modestly exacerbated American socioeconomic inequities.
Keywords: Higher Education; Affirmative Action; University Selectivity; Major Choice
JEL Classification: I24, J24, J31, H75
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation