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Socioeconomic Status, Race/Ethnicity, and Selective College Admissions

Seeks to expand the traditional debate over race and ethnicity in admissions to selective colleges by analyzing the issue of whether low-income students should benefit from affirmative action policies. Anthony Carnevale and Stephen Rose conclude that race-sensitive affirmative action policies should be retained and expanded to include low-income students. Under current affirmative action policies, racial minorities are underrepresented, while the under-representation of low-income students is even greater. In fact, preferences for minority students and the economically-disadvantaged have actually fallen off over the past 30 years. On average, top colleges do not provide a systemic preference from, and could in fact admit far greater numbers of, low-income students, including low-income minority students, who could handle the work. To remedy this imbalance, this paper urges the expansion of current affirmative action programs to include low-income students because they can add both economic and racial diversity. Download the report.


Tags: socioeconomic integration, race, higher ed, education, college admissions


Most K-12 education reforms are about trying to make "separate but equal" schools for rich and poor work well. The results of these efforts have been discouraging. The Century Foundation looks at ways to integrate public schools by economic status through public school choice. At the higher education level, we examine ways to open the doors of selective and non-selective institutions to students of modest means.

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