Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Why Rich White Parents Pay Bribes To Get Their Children Admitted To Elite Universities

Elite universities have gone overboard in reducing White admissions to expand those of People of Color and international applicants.

When the data for the top 20 national universities and top 10 liberal arts colleges become available at the end of March, I’ll post the percentages of admissions by race and ethnicity and compare them with the national percentages of the United States.  Some schools provide only partial or no information on the racial/ethnic composition of their admissions.

In this post I’ll describe the transformation of my alma mater, Washington University in St. Louis (WUSTL).  The story is similar for about half of the top 20 universities. 

I attended WUSTL during 1958-1962.  In 1958, the school was a “streetcar college.”  Only about 10% of the students were campus residents; the other 90% commuted to class.  People of Color were few and far between.  I do not recall seeing a single Black or Hispanic in my three years in Engineering school.

During my undergraduate years, WUSTL embarked on a dorm building program to broaden its student body.  Within several decades, it developed into a regional university for the Midwest, with students coming from states between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains.  Several decades later, it became a national university, competing for a national ranking in the teens, right after the Ivies, MIT, and Stanford.  It also established cooperative agreements with universities around the world in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

During 1960-2020, the United States underwent a steady demographic change.  White residents declined in successive decades from 85% of the U.S. population in 1960, to 84%, 80%, 76%, 69%, 64%, to an estimated 60% in 2020.

Let’s compare national racial/ethnic percentages with WUSTL admissions for the class of 2023.

                  White      Asian    Black   Hispanic    Misc     Intern’l

USA              60%          6          13          19           3

WUSTL         39%         20          15          13           5            8

Two numbers stand out.  One is the huge under-admission of Whites relative to their share of the national population.  The other is the over-admission of Asians.

There may be several reasons for these disparities.  First, WUSTL may be trying to avoid getting caught in the Harvard problem, which is being sued for a purported quota on Asian applicants.  Second, Asians are counted as “People of Color,” which dramatically enhances Diversity among admitted undergraduate students.

Two other factors reduce available slots for middle- and upper-middle-income White applicants.  Every elite university has embarked on a campaign to enroll first-generation low-income (FLI) students, some of whom are White.  Also, filling out athletic teams (swimming and diving, tennis, water polo, etc.) consumes White slots.  Some athletes may be top students, but some are not.  Although WUSTL is a Division III school, it still needs to fill out its intercollegiate sports teams with good athletes to be competitive in its conference.

These factors leave fewer slots for non-athletic upper-middle-class Whites.  No wonder some White parents take desperate measures to get a slot.

To present an image of greater fairness in admissions, six of the top 10 universities have announced that they will no longer give preference to legacies (family members who attended the specific university) and some have declared that donors will no longer receive preference for their children.

N’est-ce pas?  Maybe so, maybe not.  University officials will doubtless claim that privacy precludes disclosing the names of donors whose children have been accepted or rejected for admission.  Universities are all for accountability and transparency, but not when their gifts are at stake.  University faculty are quick to denounce inequality, except when it refers to their own top-ranked school.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

North America Is Much Richer Than Latin America. Is This Fact Relevant For Immigration Policy?

Economists measure gross domestic product per capita (at purchasing power parity, PPP) as the value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given year divided by the average (or mid-year) population for the same year.

The International Monetary Fund (with similar results from the World Bank) calculates the PPP per capita income in international dollars of all the countries in the world.  Below are the 2017 numbers for the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and South America, along with the ratio, in percent, of each country’s per capita PPP GDP to the United States.

Country                                    Percent

United States        59,495
Canada                 48,141           80.9%

Mexico                 19,480           32.7%

Panama                24,262           40.8%
Costa Rica            17,149           28.8%
El Salvador            8,934            15.0%
Guatemala            8,173            13.7%
Nicaragua             5,823              9.8%
Honduras              5,499              9.2%

Chile                    24,588           41.3%
Uruguay               22,445           37.7%
Argentina             20,677           34.8%
Brazil                   15,500           26.1%
Colombia             14,455            24.3%
Peru                    13,342            22.4%
Venezuela            12,388           20.8%
Ecuador               11,234            18.9%
Paraguay               9,785            16.4%
Bolivia                  7,543            12.7%

These numbers meet the intra-ocular impact test—they hit you squarely between the eyes.

Scholars have examined numerous factors that have held down growth and income in Latin America.  These include, among others, different colonial institutions and practices of Portugal and Spain compared with Great Britain, patterns of immigration and settlement, property rights, land ownership, resources, and political stability.

Latin America’s political culture, built on its Southern European colonization,  differs from the U.S. (and Canada), which were  colonized by Britain.  The U.S. drew in most of its 17th, 18th, 19th, and early 20th century immigrants from Northern Europe, who readily assimilated into the dominant Anglo-American culture.

Daniel McCarthy, editor-in-chief of Modern Age, has written a very thoughtful commentary on the dominant civilizations of the world.  Here is an except on Latin America.

“Latin America…may over time be open to Westernization—yet there is also the risk that the West will become more like Latin America….Latin America is what Western civilization looks like when it doesn’t work, when economic disparities are too wide and political and civil institutions fail….Mexico, Central America, and South America have great potentialities, yet their institutions have not been able to fulfill them.  Western institutions have been highly successful—but there is no guarantee that such will always be the case.”

The failure of institutions in Latin America has produced a political culture with a lower standard of living and political instability.

A political transformation is gradually taking place in the United States.  In 1940, Hispanics constituted a miniscule 1.5% of the American population.  Whites, at 88.3% defined America’s political culture.  By 2019, Hispanics have increased almost thirteen-fold to 19% of the U.S. population (surpassing Blacks at 13.5%), with Whites falling to just under 60%.

Projections for the U.S. population in 2060 put Whites at 42.6%, Hispanics at 30.6%, Blacks at 14.7%, Asians at 8.5%, and mixed race at 6.4%.  These projections will vary with different assumptions about fertility rates and immigration trends.  But it’s clear that Hispanics will
emerge as a powerful ethnic force in American politics.

There are signs that this large increase in Spanish-speaking immigrants may not assimilate into the dominant culture as did previous generations from Europe.  As Hispanics grow in number and are perceived in group terms, the quest for the “ethnic vote” could play a larger role in American politics.  This would generate  greater degree of nationwide ethnicization of American politics than in previous generations, when ethnic differences tended to be localized to individual regions, states, or towns.

Latin Americans will bring the dysfunctional political culture of their upbringing.  Their children will be attracted to the People of Color coalition seeking greater political presence and power vis-à-vis Whites, Blacks, and Asians.

Even as Hispanics learn English, bilingualism doesn’t imply biculturalism.  I can learn French but I am unlikely to be assimilated into French culture (nor would I want to be).  This trend toward greater national ethnicization of America will threaten the institutional fabric that makes Western civilization successful in America.