The Efficiency of Race-Neutral Alternatives to Race-Based Affirmative Action: Evidence from Chicago's Exam Schools
AbstractSeveral K-12 and university systems have adopted race-neutral affirmative action in place of race-based alternatives. This paper explores whether these plans are effective substitutes for racial quotas in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), which now employs a race-neutral, place-based affirmative action system at its selective exam high schools. The CPS plan is ineffective compared to plans that explicitly consider race: about three-quarters of the reduction in average entrance scores at the top schools could have been avoided with the same level of racial diversity. Moreover, the CPS plan is less effective at adding low-income students than was the previous system of racial quotas. We develop a theoretical framework that motivates quantifying the inefficiency of race-neutral policies based on the distortion in student preparedness they create for a given level of diversity and use it to evaluate several alternatives. The CPS plan can be improved in several ways, but no race-neutral policy restores minority representation to prior levels without substantially greater distortions, implying significant efficiency costs from prohibitions on the explicit use of race.
CitationEllison, Glenn, and Parag A. Pathak. 2021. "The Efficiency of Race-Neutral Alternatives to Race-Based Affirmative Action: Evidence from Chicago's Exam Schools." American Economic Review, 111 (3): 943-75. DOI: 10.1257/aer.20161290
- H75 State and Local Government: Health; Education; Welfare; Public Pensions
- I21 Analysis of Education
- I28 Education: Government Policy
- J15 Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination