Thomas Sowell

The real issue, however, is not how highly ranked the institutions are, but how big the racial difference in admissions standards has been. This they never tell us, despite mountains of statistics on everything else. From other studies, however, it is clear that racial differences in SAT scores, for example, are much smaller at Harvard (95 points) than at Duke (184 points) or Rice (271 points).

In other words, where the racial preferences in admissions are not as great, the differences in graduation rates are not as great. The critics of affirmative action were right: Racial preferences reduce the prospects of black students graduating. Other data tell the same story.

Compare racial preferences in Colorado, for example. At the flagship University of Colorado at Boulder, test score differences between black and white students have been more than 200 points -- and only 39 percent of the black students graduated, compared to 72 percent of white students. Meanwhile, at the University of Colorado at Denver, where the SAT score difference was a negligible 30 points, there was also a negligible difference in graduation rates -- 50 percent for blacks and 48 percent for whites.

In short, it is not the relative rankings of the institutions but the racial differential in admissions standards that has been crucial. You are not doing anybody a favor by sending them where they are more likely to fail, rather than where they are more likely to succeed. Critics of racial preferences and quotas have been saying that for more than 30 years, and now the data back them up -- which may be why you don't hear much about those data.

None of this should be relevant to the question before the Supreme Court, which is whether the 14th Amendment's requirement of "equal protection" for all Americans is trumped by the magic word "diversity."

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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