Tag Archives: ACT scores

Why Most of the Low Income “Strivers” are White

So I was reading David Leonhardt’s story on elite colleges and low income kids with high test scores—not news, since I’d read Steve Sailer’s post on the study earlier—and was pleased to see that the reporter had at least mentioned race: “Among high-achieving, low-income students, 6 percent were black, 8 percent Latino, 15 percent Asian-American and 69 percent white, the study found. ”

Of course, while Leonhardt mentions race, he doesn’t mention that gosh by golly, those numbers are lopsided, aren’t they? and none of the posts or tweets I’ve read mention that tremendous imbalance (other than Steve Sailer, of course). Mokita–the truth we all know and agree not to talk about.

Steve said in his earlier post that he was “guessing” that the reserve of kids was white, and of course he was right. What I’d like to remind everyone, while they’re all ignoring the truth, is that Steve didn’t need to guess.

While Hoxby defined “high achieving” as 1300 SAT M-V, let’s be clear: no white or Asian kid without legacy parents or uncommon athletic or artistic ability has any shot at all at a top 20 school without a GPA of 4.0 or higher and SAT combined score over 1400.

According to the College Board, however, just 1500 African Americans scored 700 on either the Math or Reading SAT—which means almost certainly fewer than 1500 scored 700 on both.

The number of African Americans at the top 20 schools, using 2008 data (saved me looking up the individual common data sets), is 2,217.

Okay, a couple of the top 20 schools field football and basketball teams, but the steep SAT skews for athletes are usually found at the big public universites. So the entire reservoir of African Americans with genuinely competitive SAT scores (never mind grades) are taken up entirely by the top 20 schools and they’re already scooping into the scores below that marker. It goes down from there.

Hispanic admissions would tell a similar story, since only around 3000 Mexican, Puerto Rican, or other Hispanic students scored above 700 in either section (again, probably fewer achieved over 700 on both). Please don’t make me add up all twenty from the CDS—here’s six of the top 10 adding up to a bit over 1100 Hispanic admits in 2011 or thereabouts.

This article argues that elite schools recruit low income blacks and Hispanics as a two-fer—they are both poor and non-white, but it’s a mistake assume that the black and Hispanic admits are impoverished. Within races, SAT scores rise and fall with income, on average, and since so few blacks and Hispanics make top marks, it’s very unlikely that a noticeable percentage of low income blacks and Hispanics are hitting genuinely competitive scores (and I speak as someone who has coached low income black/Hispanic students in SAT/ACT, and even seen a few 600+ scores). Low income whites outscore high income blacks and tie high income Hispanics on every IQ-proxy test we have, and the SAT and ACT are no exception.

So no one needs to guess that the high scoring low income kids attending non-elite schools are a predominantly white population, and David Leonhardt didn’t need to mention it, although I’m pleased he did. The students in this category have to be predominantly white, as there aren’t enough high scoring blacks or Hispanics of any income level to fill the maw of top-50 universities desperate to pat themselves on the back for their “diverse” population; they are already granting a steep discount by the 20th school on the US News list.

Meanwhile, at 35th ranked NYU, 34-42% of their admits received 700 or higher on the Math or Reading SAT, while only 12-14% of the students were accepted with scores below 600 on either section. It’s probably just a coincidence that their Hispanic and black admits combined were 15%? So by 35th ranked NYU, they are reaching down into the 500s. Berkeley, at #21, accepts 3-5% of students with scores in the 400s, but then Cal has a football team.

None of this is news. But in presenting the problem as one of income, Leonhardt is coming perilously close to misrepresenting the story. It’s not gee whiz, how come poor kids are ending up at local community colleges and low-end state universities, but that poor white kids—and indeed, many middle class white kids—simply don’t have a chance at top-ranked schools because they are being actively discriminated against in favor of lower-scoring blacks and Hispanics of all income levels*. Most whites in both low and middle income categories know this full well, so they don’t bother applying—why waste the time or the application fee. Asians, of course, are also subject to discrimination, but as someone with seven years experience in the Asian test prep industry, I’m less bothered by the 100 point premium they pay against whites. Sounds about right, when compared to a white (or black or Hispanic, for that matter) kid of similar abilities who didn’t prep.

And as I’ve mentioned before now, the two tools the universities use to rationalize the discrimination are grades and course transcripts. Majority URM schools (both charter and comprehensive) can simply lie about their course content and grade based on effort. Unexpected consequence: Asians are overrepresented despite the discount, because white parents just don’t care as much about grades.

None of this will be resolved by the Supreme Court decision; universities have demonstrated unyielding allegiance to URM admissions and rich white legacy donors. But in my perfect world, college admissions would work something like this.

*I’m adding this later. Private schools are also discriminating against all non-legacy students in favor of “development” (wealthy or legacy or both) admits. I guess it’s too much to expect that, after their pursuit of money, their treatment of non-development candidates be even-handed.