Society and Culture, Education

At the Ivies, Asians are the new Jews

Image credit:  Shutterstock

Image credit: Shutterstock

It has been documented for some time that Asian applicants to the Ivies face a stiff test-score penalty in the admissions process—Asians have to get higher SAT scores than members of other races to have an equal chance of admission. But it’s one thing to have a higher bar for Asians. It’s still worse to have an Asian quota.

Ron Unz took the evidence of discrimination against Asians to a new level in a long article in the current issue of American Conservative, “The Myth of American Meritocracy.” As Steve Sailer has noted, Unz’s findings have received astonishingly little coverage. “Astonishingly,” because Unz has documented what looks very much like a tacitly common policy on the part of the Ivies to cap Asian admissions at about 16% of undergraduates, give or take a few percentage points, no matter what the quality of Asian applicants might be.That’s a strong statement, but consider the data that Unz has assembled.

From 1980 through the early 1990s, Asian enrollment increased at all the Ivy League colleges. It subsequently continued to rise at the schools with the lowest Asian enrollment, Dartmouth and Princeton. Elsewhere, Asian enrollment hit its peak in 1993 for Columbia and Harvard, 1995 for Cornell, 1996 for Brown and Yale, and 2001 for Penn. What’s more, Asian representation at all eight of the Ivies has converged on a narrow range. In the most recent five years, the average percentage of Asians in the eight Ivies has been 15.7%, and the difference between the highest and lowest percentage of Asians in the eight Ivies has averaged just 3.7 percentage points. Call it the 16±2% solution. The convergence of the Ivies is vividly shown in this figure, using Unz’s data.

We can be sure that the reason for the convergence on the 16±2% solution does not reflect a plateau in Asian applications. As Unz notes, America’s Asian population has more than doubled since 1993. In The Power of Privilege, Joseph Soares documented that Asians are about twice as likely to apply to elite schools as students from other races. It is certain that the Ivies have seen skyrocketing Asian applications over the last twenty years. Not only that, they have been swamped with more and more superbly qualified Asian applicants. A sampling of the data Unz presents:

National Merit Scholarship (NMS) semifinalists represent about the top half of one percent of a given state’s scores on the PSAT, the short version of the SAT. In 2010 in Texas, Asians were 3.8% of the population but more than a quarter of all NMS semifinalists; in New York, Asians were 7.3% of the population and more than a third of NMS semifinalists; in California, Asians were 11% of the high school students and more than 60% of NMS semifinalists. Nationwide, Unz estimates that 25–30% of NMS semifinalists in 2010 were Asians, far higher than their enrollment in the Ivies.

In the US Math Olympiad, Asians have grown from 10% of the winners during the 1980s to 58% in the 2000s. In the computing Olympiad, Asians have grown from 20% of the winners in the 1990′s to 50% in 2009–2010 and 75% in 2011–2012. Among the Science Talent Search finalists, Asians were 22% of the total in the 1980′s, 29% in the 1990′s, 36% in the 2000′s, and 64% in the last two years.

There’s much more in Unz’s article (and the eight online appendixes that go with it), but consider just these two final comparisons. Caltech is acknowledged to have the most strictly meritocratic admissions criteria in the country. During the same period from the mid 1990′s when the Ivies converged on the 16±2% solution, Asians at Caltech rose from 28% to 39% of the student body. If Caltech is too narrowly science-oriented for you, consider the comparison between Stanford, which uses the same “holistic” admissions procedures as the Ivies (“holistic” means considering the whole applicant, not merely academic achievement) and Berkeley, the most elite of California’s public universities, which is required by law to have a transparent set of criteria for admission. Stanford’s Asian enrollment averaged 23% from 1995–2011. Berkeley’s Asian enrollment averaged 41% during the same period—almost double Stanford’s.

The Ivies would have us believe that their holistic admissions policies limit Asian admissions because Asian applicants tend to be one-dimensional, obsessed with academics to the exclusion of all those wonderful other personal experiences that the Ivies value so highly. I submit that this is nonsense. An abundance of Asian applicants have punched all the right extracurricular and community-service tickets to go along with their sensational academic credentials, and there’s no reason to think that Asian young people are, on average, any less compassionate, charming, industrious, or otherwise of good character than applicants of other races.

I propose this challenge to any Ivy League school that denies it has a de facto quota for Asian admissions. Let a third party—any number of highly respected research organizations could handle this task—randomly select a large sample of applications from which the 2012 entering class was selected. Delete all material identifying race or ethnicity. Then, applying the criteria and the weighting system that the university claims to be using, have expert judges make simulated admissions decisions. Let’s see what percentage of Asians get in under race-blind conditions. I’m betting 25% at least, with 30–40% as more probable.

None of the Ivies will take me up on it, of course. The people in their admissions offices know that their incoming classes are not supposed to have “too many” Asian faces, and part of their job is to make sure that they don’t. I just want them to admit publicly what they’re doing, and state their rationale, which presumably goes something like this: The Ivies are not supposed to be strict academic meritocracies. They need students with a variety of strengths and personality types. And even 16% Asian students is more than three times the Asian proportion of the American population.

I don’t have a problem with the need for a student body with diverse strengths and personality types. Harvard is a better place because it does not select a class consisting exclusively of applicants with perfect SAT scores. But a candid statement of the rationale that has led to the 16±2% solution can’t stop there. It needs to say that apart from the need for a variety of strengths and personality types, the Ivies have decided that they just don’t want too many epicanthic folds in their student bodies. Because there’s no getting past the naked fact that students from an ethnic minority are now being turned down because they have the wrong ethnicity. It is exactly the same thing that Ivy League admissions officers did to Jewish applicants in the 1920s, when it was decided that too many Jews were getting into their schools. They too had a rationale for putting a quota on Jews that they too believed was justified. What I don’t understand is this: Why do we all accept that what the Ivies did to limit Jewish enrollment was racist and un-American, while what they’re doing to limit Asian enrollment is not even considered newsworthy?

145 thoughts on “At the Ivies, Asians are the new Jews

  1. I am a graduate of that most strictly meritocratic admissions criteria university. I am very unimpressed with Harvard undergraduates. I remember one recent Harvard BA graduate who was working as a sales clerk at a department store. With experience, she might become department head, but she is no intellectual.

    Harvard has been playing the racial diversity game for a long time, even at the graduate level. Hmm… didn’t a guy named Obama say he went to school there?

    I find it abhorrent that any institution or public action (contracting) would use race or gender as a criterion. If there is a difference in qualifications of individuals correlated with race or gender, then it is caused by personal interest and cultural differences (differences in valuing education), innate differences (taboo subject and certainly not PC), or inadequate preparation (bad public schools). The only one of these that should be addressed through policy is K-12 school choice. Give every child a voucher good at any school, pubic or private, and we can see just what potential they have. It is patently unfair to try to correct K-12 deficiencies with college admissions.

    • Well, President Obama is an obvious example of the opposite is true. You might want to look up what “that guy’s” title is, Mister.
      I am wondering if the “purely meritocratic” amissions method results in the almost asberger’s like t-party racism you bring to a relevant article.
      Finally, “It is patently unfair to try to correct K-12 deficiencies with college admissions.” In some cases, this has been *part* of a college admissions strategy since even before the discrimination of the 1920

    • When attempting to ascertain the future trajectory of demographic trends in America particularly white,Jewish, black, Hispanic and Asian achievement gaps it is imperative to focus on often overlooked trends in modern mating practices.
      “Several studies support the notion that interracial mate preferences are gendered. For example, white women are more likely than white men to state a white racial preference (Sakai and Johnson, 1997) and report more disapproval from family and friends than white males when they date nonwhites (Miller et al., 2004). White males are also more likely to date nonwhites than their female counterparts (Tucker and Mitchell-Kernan, 1995). In speed dating experiments, women have also been shown to place more emphasis on selecting a same-race partner than men (Fisman et al., 2006). These findings may reflect the fact that white men are not as constrained as women in their dating choices, because, in a historically patriarchal society, men’s status is not as associated with their partner (Root, 2001; Spickard, 1989).”
      Also to note “Education is not a significant predictor of Asian exclusion, but college-educated females and males are more likely to exclude blacks than those with only high school degrees. This finding is consistent with racial–economic exchange theories predicting that less educated white women would be more open to minorities of lower racial status.

      One of the most striking findings is that white women who describe themselves as slim, slender, athletic, fit or average are nearly seven times as likely to exclude black men as dates as women who describe themselves as thick, voluptuous, a few extra pounds, or large. This finding is consistent with racial–beauty exchange theories in that white women who do not meet conventional standards of beauty (in terms of having a thinner body type) are more open to dating black men, who may be considered a lower status group.”
      also according to the bureau of labor and statistics
      educational attainment
      interbreeding between white mothers and black fathers
      For Non-Hispanic White mothers (of white vs. mulatto children) aged 20-24:
      Less than HS: 16.7% vs. 21.2%
      B.A. or higher: 7.0% vs. 3.2%

      For Non-Hispanic White mothers (of white vs. mulatto children) aged 25-29:
      Less than HS: 5.7% vs. 11.8%
      B.A. or higher: 37% vs. 16.2%

      For Non-Hispanic White mothers (of white vs. mulatto children) aged 30-34:
      Less than HS: 2.8% vs. 6.8%
      B.A. or higher: 54.2% vs. 30.5%

      this statistics correlate that interracial breeding amongst white females tends to favor lower IQ whites females mating with black or Hispanic mates at higher levels than high IQ white females. It is estimated that today about 10 percent of white females date outside their race split mainly amongst black and Hispanic men. If the men IQ of the white female is about 88 or close to one standard deviation from the mean then miscegenation is eliminating the lower end of the white IQ score. Therefore it is not entirely implausible for a typical white baby being born in the US today having a average IQ of 108 to 112. This will be a positive for whites in terms of achievement in the US also accounting for the fact that the overall average IQ for the country has been no doubt in decline ever since the massive in flux of immigrants from non white countries. Also the Jewish IQ gap could also be shrinking one from the aforementioned demographic trend as well as the dysgenic mating practices currently being used by the Jewish people as a whole. Jewish achievement particularly in the 20 century was due to a genetic bottleneck in evolution that supported a high preference for IQ over physical ability during the middle ages of Europe. However ever since the 1960′s the Jewish ghettos began to disappear in the US and elsewhere. High IQ has a correlation with being less religious especially as you approach an IQ of 130 or above. Therefore it is logical to assume that the higher IQ Jews of the latter half of the 20 century had a higher chance of intermarriage with non Jewish whites. The Jews who decided to be Orthodox or Hasidim would have a lower average IQ then the Reformed Jews. Most likely in the 108 range therefore the Jewish IQ gap could now be even which would not be seen on achieved until this new generation grows up in 30 years

  2. I grew up in California and graduated from high school in 1988. It was a well-known fact even back then that if you were Asian and applied to the engineering department at UC Berkeley, to get accepted was an almost impossibility. So the discrimination was happening even then! It is a shame. Why would you want to take on engineering students that may not have the intelligence to complete the program? Why wouldn’t you want to take on the students who proved themselves capable of doing well in a tough learning environment? Just crazy, if you ask me.

    Blacks and hispanics are golden in the admissions world. But you Asians? You’re not a true minority, apparently. What a joke!

  3. That Harvard graduate young woman who was working as a sales clerk at that department store was undoubtedly an artist, writer or musician struggling to survive whilst she pursued her art. It’s difficult for non-artists to understand that someone would not follow a regular career path but would take incredible risks to stay true to her dream. The arts and humanities matter, they are the soul of a nation and the author of the previous comment had a limited imagination not to understand who that young woman was. For her, Harvard was not a path to riches but to self-understanding.

    • That’s a lovely sentiment and I agree that we should all have a choice as to what path we take. I do not, however, owe this delicate flower a living on account of her brave rejection of mere profit.

  4. I realize that Ron Unz’s article was a longish one; but, did Dr. Murray fall asleep in the middle of it, before it took up the gross discrimination against people like Dr. Murray and me– non-Hispanic White gentiles? Or, does the famously philo-Semitic Dr. Murray not wish to be seen to be suggesting, even indirectly, that his desired increase in so-called Asians at Ivy League schools should come at the expense of those schools’ grotesquely over-represented Jews (of who Mr. Unz himself is one)? Will Dr. Murray be content when Blacks and Hispanics have their mandatory set-asides, and Asians and Jews then more or less split the remainder between themselves?

      • Be specific, genius. What part did I not understand about the proportion of high-performing students who are non-Hispanic White gentiles versus their proportion among Ivy League students? What part did I not understand about the proportion of high-performing Jewish students versus their proportion among Ivy League students?

    • You’re an anti-Semitic fool. You’re Pat Buchananesque bitching at the wrong groups. Jews and Asians, whether or not they’re “grotesquely over-represented” in your bigoted mind, have EARNED their way in. Not only have Jews never had the benefit of quota set-asides to get into college, they were the victims of reverse-quotas that artificially LIMITED their numbers in Ivy League colleges. Of course Buchanan is well aware of these facts too, but it didn’t stop him from making the same anti-Semitic complaint about Jewish “overrepresentation” at the “expense” of non-Jewish whites.

      • Did you even read Unz’s article, Mikey? According to Unz– who, again, is himself a Jewish-American, and an alumnus of Harvard– Jews now represent about 6% of the highest-performing students, coming out of high school; yet, they represent a few to several times that proportion among Ivy League admissions. That is not earning their spots, Mikey– unless you think that simply being a member of the Chosen People per se should trump its members’ individual academic achievements.

        Non-Hispanic White gentiles, on the other hand, now represent somewhere between 60-70% of the highest-performing students, coming out of high school, according to Unz’s article; yet, they comprise only a minor share of that overwhelming proportion among Ivy League admissions.

        Jews do not need set-asides, Mikey; the Ivy League admissions offices are letting them in far in excess of their high-school performances, apparently based largely on the simple fact that they are Jewish-Americans, while non-Hispanic White gentiles, as a group, are being grotesquely discriminated against, by all of the Ivy League schools, based largely on their simply being non-Hispanic White gentiles.

        To those of your ilk, Mikey, there can never be enough Jews, Asians, Blacks and Hispanics admitted– nor too many non-Hispanic White gentiles rejected. To you folks, a minority’s proportion of the population should be an absolute floor to its admissions level, everywhere, while the majority’s proportion should be an absolute ceiling to its, everywhere, with all resultant overrepresentation of minorities, like Jews and Asians, coming at the direct expense of non-Hispanic White gentiles alone. For some odd reason, you feel that your own anti-White bigotry and discrimination is not bigotry and discrimination, at all, but rather the operational definition of enlightenment and “social justice.”

        As for those infamous “anti-Semitic” quotas at the Ivy League schools, back in the day, none of them, as far as I know, was set any lower than 10% of admissions for a particular school. That still was nearly three times the actual proportion of Jews in the American population– which peaked, in the 1940 census, at about 3.61%. Jews now account for all of 1.7% of the resident population of the United States.

        • I think what the writer is saying is that despite the high numbers of minorities in Ivy League schools now, there are still more being turned away despite having perfect grades and extra-curricular testimonials.
          The fact is that minority groups (Asians in this case) are doing so much better than the locals (Whites) that if admission was totally based on meritocracy, they might occupy more than a third of the entire university, and hence there is discrimination against them as the admissions group tries to keep the ratios slightly more proportional to race.

          It is hence not that Admissions favour minorities (as you said in your comment), but rather that minority races excel much more than local Caucasians in general.

  5. There’s probably a cap on Asians but that’s also true for every ethnicity. Someone could easily turn this article around to emphasize the cap on African Americans, Caucasians, or Hispanics. This article implies that there is special treatment of Asians compared to other races. If the schools had one race as a majority, it would greatly decrease learning because there wouldn’t be as many people from different backgrounds presenting their ideas. Any student at one of these schools will tell you that one of the biggest benefits of their education is learning from and sharing ideas with their peers. Why is this so important? Only when you are around people that are different from you will you be able to learn what tolerance, patience, and kindness truly mean in application. You will only begin to see the world from other people’s point of view when you interact with people from different backgrounds. It is at that point that you will truly comprehend the necessity for humanity to work together to make this world a better place. This is the heart of education because education’s purpose is to enable people to use the strengths, character, and tools that they have in order to better our world.

    • “…it would greatly decrease learning because there wouldn’t be as many people from different backgrounds presenting their ideas.”

      This is one of those bits of Liberal drivel that has exactly zero foundation in reality–particularly in any discipline that deals in hard facts–engineering, physics, etc.

  6. It is common that Americans only talk of transparency and free thought. In reality they have excellent guidelines to ensure that there philosophy prevails and they act only in their own selfish interests.

  7. Since when was this a surprise? Every Asian student that has applied to college have heard this already, especially if he/she has once aimed for an Ivy league acceptance. For those who are half other races, they are encouraged to note their ethnicity as the other half. I’m actually even more surprised that for some, this is the first time they hear about this at all.

    • Yes, we just went through that this past year with my mixed-race son. He was actually counseled to respond, of all things, “white” rather than run the risk of being penalized substantial points on standardized tests. Very disappointing indeed.

      My consolation is that over the long haul, interracial marriages and children help to put a dent into the left’s glorious hypodescent schemes.

  8. Please support Asian American students to fight against racism and race-based affirmative action in college and university admissions!

    Historical college admission data and comparative statistical analyses show that the discrimination against Asian American students is systematic and institutionalized in most Ivy League universities, including Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, as well as many public universities, including Univ. of Texas, Univ. of Michigan.

    Please visit and like

  9. Might some of the underrepresentation of very able non-Jewish whites and Asian-Americans at the Ivies be accounted for by such college students’ strong preference for instead choosing to enroll at one or another of the many faith-based colleges and universities?

  10. “Why do we all accept that what the Ivies did to limit Jewish enrollment was racist and un-American, while what they’re doing to limit Asian enrollment is not even considered newsworthy?”

    Because Asians do not own a large percentage of the American media, as do Jews, which this article strategically fails to mention, control the admissions process at America’s Ivy League Universities.

  11. To those who defend quotas, it silly, should non-native African immigrants from Africa or the west indies be discriminated against because they happen to be more successful?

    Asians are a diverse group, ranging from the folks who are of Cambodian descent in poorer areas, to pacific islanders, folks from Indonesia, the Malays which are often criticized as an example that affirmative action does not work even from Malays themselves.

    And yes asians are a minority compared to the whole population but they are not a monolithic group, perhaps the ivy league is trying to stereotype asians with high test scores into one group and then saying oh “the reason we reject them is because they are just like other asians”, so an asian american with a “low test score who parties and is not serious and is gay and happens to have a parent who is non-asian is accepted?”

    I don’t see how that can be a more acceptable alternative. In addition it may be a money move, perhaps whites have greater access to money then an asian with a low income family background who has to achieve the high test scores to get scholarships? Even blacks who can get into the ivy league often balk at the cost even though they may qualify for me aid.

    It’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation, which of course hurts the credibility of the “ivy league”.

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