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. Self-congratulation & identity celebration form the new American religion (not a very stable one, I’d bet). Even though I find the Ivy-worshiping a tad overdone–smart people who don’t get admitted by the NE Lousy Athletic Conference are still, at the end of the day, smart–I have to be greatly cheered by Mr. Murray holding their feet to the fire (even though they’ll ignore it as they ignored Jerome Karabel). Ultimately the Ivies are bastions of social conservatism beneath their irrelevant “liberal” outbursts, and naturally invested in propping up the tissue of lies that keeps our society going (as such)

  2. Asians’ penchant for hard work, self reliance, and personal sacrifice are abhorrent to leftist coastal elites. If prestigious universities allow the number of Asians to reach a certain tipping point, the liberal indoctrination of students could be severely compromised.

    • I think the battle is made harder for themselves as Asians voted 50% for Obama. You get what you pay for. Democrats are the party of Identity Politics

  3. A big part is cultural Marxism. With the de-Stalinization speech, the Left (at least in America) abandoned political Marxism. With Maggie Thatcher and the failure of Eurocommunism, economic Marxism receded (in part by transferring its energy to the public sector unions.) But cultural Marxism remains strong though typically protean as it moves from one failure to another. So they had to throw over Open Admission and AFDC. Then they tried sub-prime mortgages, where things like credit history could not be taken into account. That didn’t work out so well, so now they are getting their jollies off by discriminating against Asians and mocking the normative notion that children deserve a mommy and a daddy.

    The Bible says the poor will always be with us. So it appears will the Left, and the trail of tears they leave behind.

    • Communism was a false opposite of Capitalism (of Capitalist exploitation and Imperialism). Now the neoconservatives are the “Capitalists”; and there is no more Karl Marx, just Fried-rich Engles Milton Fried-man with Noam Chomsky, i.e. David Horowitz with Saul Alinsky. “Political Marxism” was repackaged as part of “Intellectual Capital,” i.e. the Ivy Tower/Think-Tanks and their “conversations,” such as Vietnam, Rwanda and Bosnia. Those who don’t or can’t “converse” are left with “the-right-to-work,” i.e. the the “law” for those who are not jibberish/nonsense “intellectuals” is that they must “arbeit-macht-frei.” Think about it: Why are their BP gas station/convenience stores in the U.S.? It isn’t to make a profit, like a legetimate business would.

  4. The ideological Left is obsessed with equality; not equality of opportunity, but equality of outcomes. Over achievers like Jews and Asians upset the applecart. They make mincemeat of the Left’s theory that we’re really all literally equal. The very existence of these over achievers is offensive to the committed Leftist.

    • Caltech! Berkeley! Not started by Asians, true. But is that really important? Many more in Europe and rest of the world ( inlcuding Asia ).

      In America, that kind of an experiment generally leads to fall in brand value, endowment etc.

  5. Mr Murray’s report of Mr Unz’s article is completely accurate as far as it goes, but he ignores two other very important aspects of Mr Unz’s argument. The American Conservative article goes on to say that Jews are significantly over-represented among Ivy League student bodies relative to their qualifications as deduced by test scores and other measures; and that non-Jewish whites (i.e., white Christians) are the most under-represented group of all relative both to their qualifications and to their proportion in the secondary school population. As many of those who responded to the Unz article have pointed out, the first of these assertions is subject to so many qualifications, and based on so many assumptions, as hardly to be illuminating or perhaps even valid. But the second–the systematic exclusion of well-qualified ‘white Christians’, to a greater extent perhaps even than Asians–is undeniable. Why this isn’t a source of outrage, or why Mr Murray doesn’t point this out, puzzles me. Further, one suspects that whites disproportionately fill the rosters of the Ivies’ lacrosse, hockey, football, rowing and other teams, and that many spots are reserved for such applicants, or for the offspring of wealthy alumni or ancient names or celebrities. What chance therefore has the bright Methodist son of an accountant from Oklahoma?

    Clearly the Ivies have become an ethnic spoils system.

    But that is the lesser problem. In my mind, the undue power given a few institutions to select and to credential those destined for power is what is really pernicious. We have succeeded in replicating the Grand Ecoles system (with somewhat less objectivity in selection), and are reaping the same inbred result.

    • That is a very interesting comment about les Grandes Ecoles. And no doubt true.

      Also, I was struck by the comment about conservative Christians. I didn’t actually see the Unz article, though I think I saw somewhere that a study showed that people with certain kinds of activities were less likely to gain admission, and as I remember, there was a Christian tint to how that played out. Good catch.

    • For better or worse, there is conspicuous evidence of discrimination against non-Jewish whites. There is no evidence that the discrimination is explicit or intentional. However, it is very clear that college admission policies have that effect. See “The Roots of White Anxiety” ( A few quotes (but read it all).

      “Last year, two Princeton sociologists, Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford, published a book-length study of admissions and affirmative action at eight highly selective colleges and universities. Unsurprisingly, they found that the admissions process seemed to favor black and Hispanic applicants, while whites and Asians needed higher grades and SAT scores to get in. But what was striking, as Russell K. Nieli pointed out last week on the conservative Web site Minding the Campus, was which whites were most disadvantaged by the process: the downscale, the rural and the working-class.”

      “This was particularly pronounced among the private colleges in the study. For minority applicants, the lower a family’s socioeconomic position, the more likely the student was to be admitted. For whites, though, it was the reverse. An upper-middle-class white applicant was three times more likely to be admitted than a lower-class white with similar qualifications.”

      “But cultural biases seem to be at work as well. Nieli highlights one of the study’s more remarkable findings: while most extracurricular activities increase your odds of admission to an elite school, holding a leadership role or winning awards in organizations like high school R.O.T.C., 4-H clubs and Future Farmers of America actually works against your chances. Consciously or unconsciously, the gatekeepers of elite education seem to incline against candidates who seem too stereotypically rural or right-wing or “Red America.””

      “This provides statistical confirmation for what alumni of highly selective universities already know. The most underrepresented groups on elite campuses often aren’t racial minorities; they’re working-class whites (and white Christians in particular) from conservative states and regions. Inevitably, the same underrepresentation persists in the elite professional ranks these campuses feed into: in law and philanthropy, finance and academia, the media and the arts.”

      I don’t think the administrator have an explicit intent to exclude non-Jewish whites. They would be just as biased against a Jewish kid from Nebraska who excelled in ROTC. However, the effect of elite admission preferences is a deep de-facto bias

  6. I don’t think that there’s still a general acceptance that what the Ivies did to limit Jewish enrollment was racist and un-American. I believe they’re back to doing more or less the same thing – just lumping Jews together with “Whites”, and limiting their enrollment in the pursuit of “diversity”.

  7. Ironice that you would call Asians the new Jews. So often now you see Chinese American women pursuing Jewish husbands. This is not fair, as the trade off just doesn’t cut it. I have no interest in Chinese men, and neither do my friends. It is hard enough to find a good Jewish husband, without bringing into the equation these little thieves, stealing our men.

    • Hannah, Who said life is fair?

      But fight back. You and your friends should steal some Chinese men anyway, even if you don’t like them. Train them as close to being Jewish as possible. If you succeed you can keep them or let Chinese women steal them back. Either way you win.

    • If Jewish men prefer Asian women, it implies that women such as yourself have nothing to offer except assine and bitter commentary such as you have posted.

  8. Welcome to the world of the southern white…..where qualified white students were refused addmission to a college that a black student with worse credentials got admission to. Where a white police officer with top scores on exams got passed over for a black police officer with much lower, nearly unexceptable scores. Where we have to dumb down our requirements for engineers who work for the state highway department, because graduates of predominately black colleges cannot pass the National Board of Engineering (EIT) exam. Now that Asians are getting shunned and not being treated equally, they want to cry about it!! Please!!!

  9. There can be little doubt that Mr. Murray’s thesis is correct. The de facto Asian quota is a necessary extension of affirmative action. The entire elite university project would collapse if classes consisted of 40% Asians admitted on merit, 15% of minorities admitted based on affirmative action, and only 45% non-minority applicants, including the important Legacy group.

    • If they admitted Orientals on merit (Asia is a big place – we are talking Eastern Asia here) and still had 15% for Affirmative Action, the remainder would be reserved entirely for the children of rich Alumni. There wouldn’t be room for anyone else.

  10. IT’s a Shame we can put some Asian DNA into the Black Race that sadly since President Johnson equal Oppuniety act of 1964 and Fair Housing act 1965 .
    Alone with 12 major welfare and entitlement Programs .
    Paid to not work or behave a first time ever ruined many black families and its getting far worse few would deny .
    Even Black Great Thinkers like Dr Thomas Sowell , Dr Shelby Steele and Dr Walter William’s say that all 13 Quality of Life Issues in the black community are far worse than 64 years ago .
    Dr Sowell points out .In 1945 only 5.7 % of Black Babies were Born without Dads .Today .It is 73.1 % and in 14 Black cities it is 77.1 % born without dads .
    Making tax payers and the Govt. poor mom’s and dads .
    Skilled Jobs among Black men in the 50.ies was not rare .Today it is .
    More Black Kids Graduated HS in 1950 percentage wise than do today .Plus their Educations were far better as well .
    Why is this Happening ? Asian have strong families while Education ,hard work , manners and deplane is a way of Life .

  11. Perhaps its a blessing (for Asians & the country) that the Ivies discriminate against Asians– fewer Asians will be indoctrinated by intolerant left-wing faculty zealots. Sadly, though, the Democrats have already co-opted the Asian vote, having relentlessly promoted itself as The Party for ethnic grievance, envy & racial tribal identification. It’s a formula that badly undermines the cohesiveness of society & promotes race/class divisions, but it works for the Democrats, as last month’s election graphically illustrates.

  12. My son is Latino and his wife Chinese. I suppose their best strategy for getting their offspring into elite schools is to have them declare as Latinos… and never mention their Asian heritage. This seems a little sick.

  13. As a teacher in South Korea, I am totally unsurprised by this. Many of my students would love the prestige of an Ivy League degree and they study for hours to improve their English in the hope that they will be able to get high SAT scores. They don’t realize that other institutions without the glitz of the Ivies will admit them on their merits alone, and probably give them a better education, too.

    This is just another legacy of the racist left-wing idea of affirmative action. Shame on the Ivies.

  14. “Harvard is a better place because it does not select a class consisting exclusively of applicants with perfect SAT scores.”

    How do know that without ever having tried it that way?

  15. If you allow Asians to gain admission based on merit, Whites are going to be next. And heaven knows America isn’t ready for that. Affirmative Action and meritocracy are mutually exclusive.

  16. It’s ironic that Jews are now the new WASP’s in the Ivies, using unofficial quotas to protect Jewish slots from more qualified Asians. Fifty years ago, Manhattan was still dominated by WASP’s. Now it’s obviously dominated by Jews. Fifty years from now, it’s a safe bet it will be dominated, and owned, by Asians and Asian-Americans, who will have replaced Jews at the top of the American money poll, the same way the Jews replaced the WASP’s.

  17. Hogwash. You provide no evidence other than skewed numbers.

    The University of California takes mainly students from California, admits many students solely on the basis of test scores and grades, and cannot use race as a factor to increase African American and Latino students.

    Stanford enrolls students from across the nation, does not rely largely on test scores and grades, and does try to recruit African American and Latino students to increase diversity.

    Whether or not you agree with these policies, these differences can easily account for the differences in their student bodies. You don’t have to invoke a system of quotas to understand the outcomes.

  18. There have been numerous accounts of widespread cheating on the SAT in China and the existence of organizations that write essays. Perhaps the credentials of Chinese applicants are not quite what they seem.

  19. Although elite universities do not openly proclaim that there is an Asian quota, they do not hide the fact that the admissions process is not a pure meritocracy. Schools regularly state in their admissions materials that many students with perfect SAT scores or who are valedictorians of their high school class do not get admitted. They also stress their goal of a diversified class. I hardly think they are hiding the ball on how the class gets selected. I do not agree with the process but it is not a big mystery.

  20. Identity as an “Asian=American” is hardly analgous to that of Jewish-Americans. Jews have lived a distinct life for milennia, while asian-American is a constructed American identity with almost no historical basis beyond its american context.

    • Actually, Matthew– Koryo or what we know of Korea distinct life is 4346 yrs- it is now 2013. Approximately the same number of yrs as the Jewish milennia. They have a history 2000 yrs before Christ, as do Koreans. China’s is older than that. As a historical reminder they are the oldest civilization & had moveable print 200 yrs before it was “invented” in Europe. So, their identity is deeply ingrained in history way beyond american context. They (Koreans, Jews, Chinese, etc…) are Eastern and they share an Eastern culture which means they were not illiterate hunters with a false pretense of history.

    • Actually, Matthew– Koryo or what we know of Korea distinct life is 4346 yrs- it is now 2013. Approximately the same number of yrs as the Jewish milennia. They have a history 2000 yrs before Christ, as do Koreans. China’s is older than that. As a historical reminder they are the oldest civilization & had moveable print 200 yrs before it was “invented” in Europe. So, their identity is deeply ingrained in history way beyond american context. They (Koreans, Jews, Chinese, etc…) are Eastern and they share an Eastern culture which means they were not illiterate hunters with a false pretense of history.

      • Though that sounds elitist or maybe just annoyed, I understand your point and it is well taken. Credit really needs to be given where it is due. Matthew Hall should have researched obvious history moreseo for his “historical piece”//

  21. Let’s face it, race and ethnicity matter. Do you really want your alma mater’s student body to consist primarily of those of another race or ethnicity? Do you even want the student body to consist in large part of those of another region of the United States? This is largely an immigration problem–from other nations and continents. Other nations include other regions of the U.S.

    • Such things shouldn’t matter. I want the people who follow me out of Cornell to be the best and brightest they can be, and I don’t care where they or their ancestors came from. If the Class of 2013 is 90% Asian, then maybe the non-Asian high-schoolers should have spent a little less time with the X-box and more time studying.

  22. The bastions of so-called “liberal” thought are simply run by hypocritical bigots. No surprise there for anyone with common sense.

  23. “…punched all the right extracurricular and community-service tickets…”

    A little off-topic, but such requirements are ridiculous anyway. Why does an engineering student need to have a ticket-punch for all that touchy-feely “community service” crap? Why does any kid have to be able to prove he’s wasted endless hours that could have been better spent studying getting battered on a football field learning something he’ll never use again in his life?

    Universities are there to teach high-level readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmetic–not how to be a mushy-minded do-gooder.

    Henry Miller, Cornell ’75

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