Two legal experts make the explosive argument that affirmative action hurts minority students’ educational and career chances—and that liberals are in denial about it.
Affirmative action in higher education is a perennial lightning rod for controversy. But until recently, there has been little hard data about how and if racial preferences work.
In Mismatch, law professor Richard Sander and journalist Stuart Taylor, Jr. draw on extensive new research to prove that racial preferences put many students in educational settings where they have no hope of succeeding. Because they’re under-prepared, fewer than half of black affirmative action beneficiaries in American law schools pass their bar exams. Preferences for well-off minorities help shut out poorer students of all races. More troubling still, major universities, fearing a backlash, refuse to confront the clear evidence of affirmative action’s failure.
“This lucid, data-rich book is simply the best researched and most convincing analysis ever done of affirmative action in higher education, a work at once impeccably scholarly and entirely accessible to anyone interested in the social and legal ramifications of well-intentioned policies that, as the authors show, have a boomerang effect on the intended beneficiaries.” —Judge Richard A. Posner
“This book probably will make constitutional history. Written at the intersection of social science and law, its data conclusively demonstrate the damage that has been done to intended beneficiaries by courts’ decisions that have made racial preferences in college admissions an exception to the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws.” —George F. Will
“As a high-profile defender of affirmative action, I used to think the so-called ‘mismatch’ problem was a bit overblown. Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor have caused me to think again. How many bright and promising minority students, we must ask, have failed because they were steered—with the best intentions, of course—into elite schools for which they were less prepared academically than most of their classmates? What better ways can we devise to boost academic achievement and expand the pool of qualified students of all races? We don’t do future generations of students any favors by trying to ignore this issue or pretend it doesn’t exist. If common-sense moderates don’t step up and engage this debate, we only allow extremists to take control of it.”
—Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning (1989 for Commentary) syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune
“[A]n influential book.” —Michael Kinsley, Bloomberg View
“[A] wealth of information…. Dr. Sander and Mr. Taylor present an excellent explanation of what is currently meant by affirmative action and demonstrate how it has been abused.” —New York Journal of Books
“[A] remarkable new book. [Sander and Taylor] have shifted the focus of the entire debate. Bypassing the standard arguments about core principles, their extensive research focuses on the actual effects of racial preferences on the students they were intended to benefit. Drawing upon data never before available to independent-minded scholars, they find, to their dismay, that such policies actually do more harm than good to black and Hispanic students. From now on, it will be impossible to have a serious debate on this subject without extensive reference to the evidence provided in this volume.” —National Review
“[W]hat Mr. Sander and Mr. Taylor have accomplished here is incredibly impressive. The authors have done an excellent job of pulling together the available research, and Mr. Sander in particular has been dogged in his pursuit of fresh numbers…. Mr. Sander and Mr. Taylor, of course, have their share of critics, and Mismatch will not be the last word on this subject. But they have put the nation’s universities in a put-up-or-shut-up situation: They can either admit that preferences do harm, or they can release the data that prove otherwise.” —Washington Times
“Sander and Taylor have marshaled a formidable amount of evidence to substantiate the mismatch theory, and…the payoff is persuasiveness…. Mismatch is very much in the tradition of the muckraking that Lincoln Steffens did a century ago when he took on the corruption in American cities; indeed, the book could be titled ‘The Shame of the Colleges.’” —Wall Street Journal
“[A] sober, reasoned, more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger critique of affirmative action…. One of the virtues of this book is that it is based on a rigorous, dispassionate examination of the facts. It is packed with easy-to-follow graphics and statistical analysis, as well as extensive case evidence based on interviews.” —The American Spectator
“The highly anticipated Sander-Taylor book, Mismatch: How Affirmative Action Hurts Students It’s Intended to Help, and Why Universities Won’t Admit It, was published Tuesday, on the eve of the oral argument in Fisher v. Texas. It is, in a word, magisterial. No matter what the Supremes decide, this work will be regarded as a major – perhaps the major – discussion of the use and abuse of race in American higher education, easily displacing Bowen and Bok’s unduly influential The Shape of the River, which it respectfully but effectively eviscerates…. As someone who has attempted to follow racial issues closely, I can assure you that you will learn, as I did, a great deal that you didn’t know and be impressed by the wealth of social science evidence ably and judiciously presented to support and extend the mismatch theory…. Mismatch, in short, is a major contribution to the debate over affirmative action, a model of vigorous but fair and balanced argument and analysis.” —John S. Rosenberg, Minding the Campus
“As a longtime defender of affirmative action, I used to think the so-called mismatch problem was an overhyped myth. But Sander and Taylor make a convincing case and, more important, good recommendations to keep affirmative action alive – without preferences.” —Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune
“[Sander and Taylor] are intelligent critics who support the modest use of race in admissions but think very large preferences have harmful effects…. [T]his book is at its best when it skewers college and university officials – who feel morally superior for defending affirmative action – for in fact pursuing what Yale Law professor Stephen Carter has called ‘racial justice on the cheap.’” —Richard Kahlenberg, The New Republic
“[A] powerful new book that explains the nefarious consequences of [undergraduate and graduate admissions programs] for the supposed beneficiaries of racial preferences. The dirty secret – not a dirty little secret, but a dirty huge secret – is how massive in size their racial preferences are.” —Ed Whelan, National Review Online, Bench Memos
“[An] eye-opening critique of affirmative action…. Sander and Taylor present a lucid, accessible analysis of affirmative action in higher education and the groupthink enshrouding it, one that grapples with its failures while eschewing genetic determinism. Their well-argued challenge to the prevailing orthodoxy on racial preferences is sure to provoke controversy – and rethinking just as the Supreme Court hears an affirmative action case involving the University of Texas-Austin.” —Publishers Weekly
“The authors offer extensive data in support of their conclusions that the present system is not serving those students well…. This information will be argued over all the same, but the authors’ evenhanded suggestion that what might be a better strategy is to raise educational attainment by investing more in elementary and secondary education for lower-income students – ‘targeting economic need before racial identity,’ as they put it – seems unobjectionable on the face. The subject may be hard to talk about, but it must be, and this is a valuable contribution to opening that needed discussion.” —Kirkus Reviews
About the Authors
Richard Sander is a law professor and economist at UCLA whose article on the affirmative action “mismatch” problem is one of the most widely-read law review articles ever written. He has been written about in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Los Angeles.
Stuart Taylor, Jr. received his B.A. from Princeton and graduated at the top of his class at Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He was coauthor of Until Proven Innocent, and his writing has appeared in a range of popular and scholarly venues, among them the New York Times and Newsweek. He is currently a contributing editor for the National Journal and a Brookings Institution nonresident senior fellow, and he has taught a course on law and the news media the last two spring quarters at Stanford Law School. He lives in Washington, D.C.
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