Asian Americans are less likely to be accepted to colleges or universities than white applicants, according to a recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
About the study: Researchers analyzed five admission cycles from 2015 to 2021 and found that Asian American applicants were 28% less likely to be admitted to highly selective institutions than white students with similar test scores, grade point averages and extracurricular activities.
“Unrelated” to the affirmative action case: The findings of the study, which is reportedly the first to collect such data in nearly a quarter century, are “largely unrelated” to the affirmative action case, according to data scientist Josh Grossman, one of the study’s authors.
“If you consider that Black and Hispanic students have a disadvantage in a world where affirmative action exists and don’t believe that Asian American students have those disadvantages … then Asian American and white students should be admitted at similar rates,” Grossman told Inside Higher Ed. “What we found is that is not the case.”
Admissions gaps: The researchers also found admissions gaps among different ethnicities of Asian American applicants. Students of South Asian descent were 49% less likely to be admitted than white applicants as compared to a 17% difference between students of East Asian descent and white students.
“We haven’t seen any other paper that really treats Asian American students as anything other than this monolithic group, but there is a marked heterogeneity in their experiences,” Grossman said. “If you don’t consider that, you lose an important part of the story.”
Legacy status hurts applicants: The study also suggests that legacy admissions, which favor alumni’s family members, disproportionately hurt applicants. White and Asian American legacy applicants are reportedly more than twice as likely to be accepted than applicants without legacy status. However, East Asian and Southeast Asian applicants are three times less likely to have legacy status than white students. As for South Asian students, legacy status rates are almost six times lower than those of white students.