Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Harvard Recruits African-American Applicants Who Have 'No Chance Of Being Admitted'

New York Times, That Recruitment Letter From Harvard Probably Doesn’t Mean Much:

The message, emailed to more than 100,000 high school students, was seductive and flattering: “Your strong grades and standardized test scores indicate to us that Harvard and other selective institutions may be possibilities for you.”

Harvard encouraged them to apply. But many of the recipients had little chance of getting in, especially if they were black, according to a new analysis of the university’s admissions data by three economists.

Peter Arcidiacono (Duke), Josh Kinsler (Georgia) & Tyler Ransom (Oklahoma), Recruit to Reject? Harvard and African American Applicants:

Over the past 20 years, elite colleges in the US have seen dramatic increases in applications. We provide context for part of this trend using detailed data on Harvard University that was unsealed as part of the SFFA v. Harvard lawsuit. We show that Harvard encourages applications from many students who effectively have no chance of being admitted, and that this is particularly true for African Americans. African American applications soared beginning with the Class of 2009, with the increase driven by those with lower SAT scores. Yet there was little change in the share of admits who were African American. We show that this change in applicant behavior resulted in substantial convergence in the overall admissions rates across races yet no change in the large cross-race differences in admissions rates for high-SAT applicants.

Harvard 1

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Harvard largely practices affirmative action for wealthy white applicants, as revealed in the recent litigation

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Jan 15, 2020 2:16:08 AM

Searching this blog for "Harvard" brings up mostly results about dysfunction. Maybe we should focus on universities that mostly bring us scholarship and let those folks catch up or fade away.

Posted by: Anand Desai | Jan 15, 2020 5:42:49 AM

Years ago The Wall Street Journal reported that Northeastern University was sending out more than 200,000 such letters per year. "Attract to reject" is selective college admissions policy 101, and a very nice example of Campbell's Law in relation to maintaining/improving one's USNWR ranking.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 15, 2020 7:09:57 AM

Flying Spaghetti Monster! Mike Livingston and I agree on something.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 15, 2020 11:14:32 AM

Mike: "Harvard largely practices affirmative action for wealthy white applicants."

Agreed to a certain extent. However, I think the byline of this article should also include the fact that Harvard "rejects Asian applicants who have every chance of being admitted."

Posted by: MM | Jan 15, 2020 1:36:31 PM

I find the argument as glossed here truly bizarre. Knowing that students of color statistically underperform on standardized tests, elite schools deliberately encourage students with lower scores to apply. Few of them will be admitted - but that's about admissions, not recruitment. I don't see why this is not a GOOD policy (so long as applying is cheap or free; if it isn't, that's another story) - and if there's a problem, it's in the admissions office, not in the recruiting strategy.

Posted by: Diane Klein | Jan 16, 2020 6:36:06 AM

This looks so racist.
It's unfathomable that higher education could be so r-a-c-i-s-t.
Lol, I keed, I keed.

In all fairness, though, I can stomach them saying Asians have terrible personalities. They're increasingly voting Democrat, so I don't care.

But mailing love letters to blacks just to get their app fees and boost selectivity stats, is just too much for me to handle!

Posted by: Anon | Jan 16, 2020 9:00:10 PM

Let's just call it one more way in which Harvard leads the Ivy League.

Posted by: Gerald Scorse | Jan 17, 2020 8:45:35 AM


Harvard rejects people of every race "who have every chance of being admitted." Hell's bells, man - even the expert witness for the SFFA has admitted in an NBER paper that about 1/3 of white applicants in recent years only got in because they were legacies, athletes, children of Harvard faculty, or dean's interest applicants (read: scions of plutocrats, children of national/international politicians, teen celebrities, etc). Those people also *took* spots from more academically qualified applicants of ALL races.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 17, 2020 12:02:53 PM

Unemployed: "Harvard rejects people of every race..."

Wow, congrats on both stating the obvious and avoiding my specific point altogether.

Harvard rejects Asian applicants at the HIGHEST rate of any other group:

This despite their objective test scores being higher than other groups. Harvard justifies this disperate treatment, according to a lawsuit by Asian applicants, by marking them down in subjective "personality scores".

I don't blame you for not caring about these facts. Willful ignorance coming from a guy like you isn't a surprise, it's an expectation.

Posted by: MM | Jan 19, 2020 9:59:55 PM