Thomas Sowell

Comparisons of other institutions with large and small racial gaps in test scores show very similar patterns -- except for the Bowen and Bok study, in which affirmative action seems to have no negative effects. But one of the remarkable things about the Bowen and Bok study is that the raw data from which their statistics were compiled, and from which their many tables and graphs were put together, remain secret and off-limits to other researchers.

Their refusal to separate out those black students admitted under lower academic standards, combined with their refusal to let others get their hands on the data they used, so that others could make that separation if they wished, make the Bowen and Bok study an odd choice to rely on so uncritically as much of the media and academia have relied on it.

It is hard to explain this reliance on a study conducted in such an unusual way, and whose results are so different from other studies conducted according to the usual scholarly practices -- except that the Bowen and Bok book told many people what they so much wanted to hear.

The sample used in the Bowen and Bok study was as questionable as their methods. That sample consisted of 24 private colleges and universities -- and only four state institutions. But only 9 percent of black college students attend private institutions, which constitute the bulk of the Bowen-Bok sample.

Nearly two-thirds of the black students in the study by Bowen and Bok had at least one parent who had graduated from college, which is by no means the norm for black students attending college. What all this shows is that highly atypical blacks attending a highly atypical sample of institutions have a different pattern from most blacks attending most institutions.

The 14th Amendment's requirement for equal treatment should not be overthrown or evaded because of one contrived "study."

Thomas Sowell

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

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