The less things change, the more they stay the same: Michigan edition

The Black Student Union at the University of Michigan is protesting against the campus administration. One of their demands is 10% Black representation on campus.

The story in the Michigan Daily brought me back to my freshman January in Ann Arbor, in 1989, 25 years ago this week! It was the university’s first “Diversity Day,” a ham-handed response to student demands that the university celebrate Martin Luther King Day by canceling classes. At the time, the United Coalition Against Racism was demanding 12% Black representation.

michigan-daily-1-17-89

What a great photo, by Robin Loznak.*

The story of Black representation at Michigan is long and rather sad, in the intervening decades involving multiple Supreme Court cases (Gratz v. Bollinger and Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003), and then a ballot measure that banned affirmative action, which is before the court now.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ IPEDS Data Center (which has this useful tool), the University of Michigan’s full-time undergraduate student population was 4.4% Black in 2012. The states’ 18-24 year-old population is 18.9% Black.

How does that compare to other big state universities? Using that NCES tool, and IPUMS.org’s 2012 American Community Survey data tool, I made the same comparison for the 30 largest 4-year state universities in the country (just enough to include my own, UMD). Those below the red line have higher Black representation in the state 18-24 year-old population than in the university. Those above the line… just kidding (click to enlarge).

blackstudents

Percent Black among 18-24 year-olds in the state, and among full-time undergraduate students in the university (30 largest 4-year state universities, 2012).

The three schools piled on top of each other are Cal State Fullerton, UC Davis and UC Berkeley.

Here’s the data in a table:

blackstudents-table

Michigan trend addendum

Dan Hirschman has provided data on the trend for Michigan from 1975 to 2009. Here is his note (from the comments), followed by my graph of the trend:

Black students at the University of MIchigan have been demanding – and needed to demand – 10% enrollment all the way back to the late 1960s (for a an overly detailed history, see here, starting on page 23). In the mid-1960s, after the first affirmative action programs were initiated, black enrollment rose from less than 1% to a bit more than 3%. At that point, there were actually enough black students to effectively organize and make demands (like increased minority enrollment). By the early 2000s, black enrollment actually approached 10%. Then the Supreme Court decision restricted the undergraduate race-based affirmative action program and the 2006 ban gutted it entirely, and we’re where we are now. So, the overall similarity of present and historical demands masks significant variability, and gains that have been lost.

um-trend

* A few days earlier, January 13, 1989, I wrote an op-ed for the paper in support of a proposed mandatory course on racism for arts college majors which never came to pass — the essay is actually here in the Google News archive of the Michigan Daily, where I got this screen shot.

16 Comments

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16 responses to “The less things change, the more they stay the same: Michigan edition

  1. krippendorf

    I understand the point of this, but wouldn’t you also want to look at proportion of 18-24 year olds who graduated from high school, as well as of total population? (Yeah, Phil, spend more time on your blog posts…🙂 ) Lumpers vs. splitters, I suppose.

    Also, I don’t see a whole lot of state-level variation. Most states seem to fall somewhere 1/3 and 1/2 as many black students as you’d expect if share of enrollment was proportionate to share of the state’s population of 18-24 year olds. (I’m lumping all the CA schools together, not weighting by enrollments. Ditto FL and IN.) MI, WI, and UT-Austin are a bit lower, at around 1/4, which is I’d guess is related to the relatively large number of out-of-state students who pay nearly Ivy level tuition to fund, um, go to these institutions. But, what’s up with A&M?

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    • Even if you looked at the population of high school graduates, that wouldn’t isolate this to university policy per se, because you would have to take into account student preparation or high school quality. So I would consider it one measure of inequality. On the other hand, these are all public institutions, so they’re part of the one big education system, and the whole thing has a problem.

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      • vijay

        Sometimes I wonder whether these articles are serious are just to fill some quota of required equality articles. Going to college is not a given, and there is no requirement that the college population should resemble high school population. Nobody is (may be, except the fed) asking for more college liberal arts majors. In fact, the lack of technically and vocationally qualified students who can work the factory jobs has been an important shortcoming in industry.

        From school to college, it is a big step; first, people have to graduate high school, then, meet some requirements such as SAT scores. The combination of SAT scores and high school GPA has consistently been shown to be a predictor of college performance. The other thing we know is that the black minority has consistently scored less in SAT (Table 2, page 14 of http://works.bepress.com/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1017&context=ezekiel_dixon-roman, or “http://www.jbhe.com/2013/09/a-small-decrease-this-year-but-the-racial-gap-in-sat-scores-remains-huge/”), has lower school performance (as shown in the school test scores), and lower graduation rates. Given these differences, why should the college percentage of blacks should reflect the state population percentages? I question even the need to go to college when the need for vocationally qualified students is much larger than liberal arts majors.

        However, this is a field that can launch a thousand blog entries, and I welcome more, such as:
        1. The percentage of physicians in the state of Maryland is less than the percentage of blacks.
        2. The percentage of nuclear engineers in the NRC is much less for Hispanics than the Hispanic population.
        3. The percentage of teachers is much less than Hispanic women population percentage.
        and so on.

        I have another question:- the Asian population of colleges significantly exceeds their 4% of the population; should their representation in colleges should be significantly reduced to meet the 10% black requirement?

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  2. Black students at the University of MIchigan have been demanding – and needed to demand – 10% enrollment all the way back to the late 1960s (for a an overly detailed history, see here, starting on page 23). In the mid-1960s, after the first affirmative action programs were initiated, black enrollment rose from less than 1% to a bit more than 3%. At that point, there were actually enough black students to effectively organize and make demands (like increased minority enrollment). By the early 2000s, black enrollment actually approached 10%. Then the Supreme Court decision restricted the undergraduate race-based affirmative action program and the 2006 ban gutted it entirely, and we’re where we are now.

    So, the overall similarity of present and historical demands masks significant variability, and gains that have been lost.

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    • Thank you, Dan. I spent a few minutes looking for that trend data and then got distracted by the idea of comparing universities. Because of the court cases, I figured, analyzing UM student composition is pretty well-trodden.

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      • Here’s the data from iPeds, cleaned (with thanks to Ozan Jaquette). Some years are missing and they only start in the mid 1970s (the data from the 1960s we have is from other internal sources, and may not be completely comparable).

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        • vijay

          As a group, are sociologists now convinced that each ethnic group should have the same representation percentage in college as its population, and no more, independent of test scores and GPA? Does this mean Asians or Jews should have no more than 4 and 2% representation in colleges? Should we bother about SAT and GPA any more?

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        • vijay: no one has, or would, suggest it’s that simple. Inequality has many sources. I didn’t get into admissions policy because it’s complicated.

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        • vijay

          Then, let me pose the question another way; how did you determine that percentage admission in colleges is an indicator of inequality? as an example, I estimate 57% of the college admits are women; can I say that women are better off than men?

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          • Vijay,

            Let me try to walk through the argument.

            1. Access to elite colleges is a scarce and valuable resource. That is, there is a limited number of spots at elite colleges and that getting into an elite college generally leads to better life outcomes in a variety of ways.*
            2. Michigan is an elite college (not Harvard elite, but “public ivy” elite, and “selective” by the typical measure involving percent of students rejected, etc.).
            3. So, the demographic composition of people enrolled at Michigan is one measure of the distribution of a scarce and valuable good across the population. This works especially well for Michigan because there is no comparable university in the state – there are no elite private schools here, for example – although a bit less well than it used to because the percent of out-of-state students has risen to about a third in the past 30 years, corresponding to declining state appropriations.
            4. Thus, if 19% of college-aged people in the state of Michigan are black but only 4.4% of undergrads at Michigan are black, we can infer that access to elite college, much like so many other scarce resources, is unequally distributed by race.

            Ok, now I think the leap that you might be making, and which is not made in the above analysis, is whether or not racial inequality in admission (and thus enrollments) at Michigan reflects underlying structural disadvantages or causes further inequality by preferentially disfavoring black applicants over similarly qualified white (or Asian or etc.) applicants. In one sense, you’re right – a 4.4% enrollment rate is perfectly consistent with some conceptions of fairness or meritocracy. But not all. And here we get to a messy debate about the role of the public (and private but not-for-profit) university, the notion of meritocracy, and things of this sort.

            Clearly, given all of the other forms of disadvantage that are unequally distributed by race (income inequality, wealth inequality, policing and incarceration, on and on), black students are much less likely to graduate high school with the good grades and SAT scores seen as indicators of academic merit than their white counterparts. Of course, it’s worth asking why think of standardized test scores as objective indicators of merit in the first place (and the long history of justifying the power of a white elite wrapped up in that project), and we should remember that disadvantaged students also are less likely to understand the cultural rules of the admissions game, how to write the right kind of essay, how to engage in activities that look appealing to an elite college, and so on.

            Beyond that, as our research shows, Michigan (like many elite universities) confronted (and continues to confront) a situation where it had many more “qualified” applicants than slots (qualified meaning likely capable of doing the work and graduating), and thus was faced with picking among those qualified applicants. Like many universities, Michigan chose to select those seen as the most meritorious – highest GPA/SAT – but it also chose to preferentially select athletes, children of alumni, in-state residents, men in nursing, women in engineering, and (until 2006) underrepresented minority students from among the set of qualified applicants. What’s the “right” set of preferences for choosing among qualified applicants? There’s no clear answer.

            So, as usual, it’s complicated. But hopefully three things are clear: 1. Racial disparities in enrollment at elite institutions are, almost by definition, indicative of inequality somewhere in the system, if not in the admissions process itself; 2. That racial disparity does not directly imply any single social policy, such as immediately somehow guaranteeing admission of a proportional number of minority students; 3. Evidence from research on admissions gives some reason to think that existing and historical admissions practices at elite institutions disfavor minority students above and beyond the disparities in education and resources that lead minority students to look less ‘meritorious’ at the moment of application (especially in the absence of race-based affirmative action, now abandoned or prohibited in many states).

            *This last point is not crystal clear, as disaggregating treatment and selection effects for admission to elite colleges is not trivial (example here). That said, the reason it’s hard to estimate is partially because people who don’t get into the absolute most elite colleges usually get into the next rung. As we can see from a casual glance at the list of people running the country – CEOs, elected officials, etc. – going to an elite university is a seemingly important prerequisite, and the weight of the evidence seems to favor this point.

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        • vijay

          “if 19% of college-aged people in the state of Michigan are black but only 4.4% of undergrads at Michigan are black, we can infer that access to elite college, much like so many other scarce resources, is unequally distributed by race.”

          Why is that wrong and should be corrected?

          First, and foremost, you assume that 19% (black) of the college aged people are college-ready. You need to decompose that population by
          1. Population that actually graduated high school
          2. Population that graduated school but have the cognitive ability to attend college.

          We know that between 60 and 66% of the 19% population graduated high school in 4 years in Michigan in 2000-2010; next about 12.7% of the SAT -takers were black in Michigan in 2000; the number dropped to about 11.9% in 2010. The black-white gap in SAT is one of the highest in Reading-writing in the US (“The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, No. 29 (Autumn, 2000), pp. 91-95”). The 9% percentile of Black SAT scores were comparable to median Asian and white SAT scores. Based on all these arguments, it is reasonable to assume that 5% of the black population is eligible to the SCARCE UM academic resource.

          “In one sense, you’re right – a 4.4% enrollment rate is perfectly consistent with SOME conceptions of fairness or meritocracy. But NOT ALL.”

          Who talked about fairness here or anywhere? There is one and only one point. Merit. Merit can be precisely quantified by SAT scores, high school grades, test scores, and other academic achievement parameters. The rest of the stuff like essay are bullshit, created by HR ladies to make sure they can weasel out subject to lawsuits.

          The following paragraph is a sociological gem;

          “a situation where it had many more “qualified” applicants than slots (qualified meaning likely capable of doing the work and graduating), and thus was faced with picking among those qualified applicants. Like many universities, Michigan chose to select those seen as the most meritorious – highest GPA/SAT – but it also chose to preferentially select athletes, children of alumni, in-state residents, men in nursing, women in engineering, and (until 2006) underrepresented minority students from among the set of qualified applicants. What’s the “right” set of preferences for choosing among qualified applicants? There’s no clear answer.”

          NO! there is a right answer; just rank them by grades and SAT; How many women in engineering and men in nursing were selected?
          Why do sociologists always say there is no right answer?

          My point here is that sociologists conduct demographic studies with convoluted statistics, but when they want to make an argument they do not make with appropriate mathematics.

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        • vijay

          Lastly I would like to ask why sociologists always think of 1960s United States when they think “Minority”. Why is Black the only minority?

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  3. vijay

    However, before Cohen and Hirschman mark me as a rightwinger spewing vitriol, I want to point out that the math they have to be not based on what is academically acceptable. I explain it here:

    1. The populations (two, three or four) with statistically differing abilities as reflected by scores or academic achievement should be modeled.

    2. For the composite distribution, it is evident any cutoff in admission will preferentially remove people of left or lower performing statistical distribution. Based on a statistical analysis, it is clear that 5% is an outcome of a competition for “Rare” resource (not that I consider a degree from Michigan a Rare Resource; I think Sociologists have a misunderstanding of the word “Resource” but that is another argument).

    3. From there, the goal would be to help the left half of the statistical distribution.

    4. This means no NAFTA, no large scale immigration, more vocational courses, and a REDUCED rush for higher education. No college requirement for Mcdonald and Starbucks employees.

    5. Feeding more people from the left end of the distribution into non-matching academic environment will make Cohen and Hiscchman happy, but not the students. Once, they get into college, they still have to take the classes and graduate, correct?

    Before, I take leave, I want to ask one question to Messrs. Cohen and Hirschman; would they take a student with 850 reading+ writing composite SAT score as their grad student?

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  4. Pingback: Quick correction on that 90-percent-of-faculty-are-White thing | Family Inequality

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