By Guest Contributor Jenn, originally published at Reappropriate
This post is broken into two parts for the sake of length:
- Anti-Asian Bias in College Admissions?: Part 1 – An improper comparison
- Anti-Asian Bias in College Admissions?: Part 2 – In support of affirmative action
Searching for “anti-Asian bias”: evidence of its existence
Espenshade presents data showing that acceptance rates to public and private institutions are universally lower for Asian American applicants compared to White applicants. I have graphed the appropriate data from Table 3.3 of Espenshade’s study below:
These data are striking. Neither Whites nor Asians benefit from affirmative action, and Whites and Asians share similar class distributions. Yet, Asian applicants are roughly 10% less likely to be accepted to private colleges, and nearly 15% less likely to be accepted to public institutions, compared to their White counterparts. The decreased acceptance rate holds true despite the fact that Asians are far less likely than applicants of other races to apply to public institutions — yet, unlike with the Black and Latino populations where reduced applicant rates explains, at least in part, high acceptance rates, the same is not true for Asian/Asian American applicants.
By all rights, since neither White nor Asian applicants benefit from affirmative action, our acceptance rates should be about the same.
All else being equal the reduced applicant rates could be due to one or a combination of the following explanations:
- Asian applicants, on the whole, have poor “breadth” qualifications that reduce the quality of their applications, e.g. music, art, a second language, etc.
- Asian applicants tend to be first and second generation, whereas White and Black applicants tend to be third, fourth or higher generation Americans (see Table 3.6 on page 7), making Asian applicants less likely to benefit from high acceptance rates for legacy students (Table 3.1 on page 2).
- Asian applicants are more likely to be international, and do not benefit from higher ”in-state” or “domestic” acceptance rates.
- There is a currently unaddressed anti-Asian bias in the admissions process.
Most of these possibilities are not addressed (or debunked) by Espenshade’s study. Thus, at this time, it’s possible to conclude that there is anti-Asian bias in the admissions process, but it’s not the kind of anti-Asian bias that has been used to launch attacks against affirmative action. Instead, Espenshade’s data suggests that there Asian/Asian American applicants might face unequal treatment, compared to White applicants, when applying for institutions of higher education.