The Affirmative Action Myth
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In the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold university admissions preferences, affirmative action remains a deeply divisive issue. The author argues that affirmative action produces no concrete benefits to minority groups, but it does produce several significant harms. First, a phenomenon called the”ratchet effect” means that preferences at a handful of top schools, including state flagship institutions can worsen racial disparities in academic preparation at all other American colleges and universities, including those that do not use admissions preferences. This effect results in painfully large gaps in academic preparation between minority students and others on campuses around the country. Research shows that skills, not credentials, can narrow socioeconomic gaps between white and minority families. Policymakers should end the harmful practice of racial preferences in college admissions. Instead, they should work to close the critical skills gap by implementing school choice reforms and setting higher academic expectations for students of all backgrounds.