The Norman Transcript

Nation/World

June 17, 2013

Affirmative action ruling contest pits race vs. class

(Continued)

NORMAN —

The Great Recession was no exception, he said, persuading more Americans that efforts to ensure minorities are represented among the scarce slots at top universities are “a luxury they cannot afford,” Friedman said by telephone.

A report released Thursday by the Lumina Foundation underscored the large and persistent achievement gaps between races in the United States: Nearly 60 percent of Asian adults have a college degree, compared to 43 percent of whites but just 27 percent of blacks and 19 percent of Hispanics.

More alarming are the numbers for those between 25 and 29 — an indicator of recent trends. Whites and Asians are doing better than their parents. Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans are doing worse. That’s a problem for everyone, said Lumina president and CEO Jamie Merisotis.

“Narrowing these gaps is a matter of economic and social collective self-interest,” he said.

But other numbers in the same report revealed how profoundly family income determines how far you go in school: Four-fifths of 24-year-olds from families in the top quarter of income have college degrees, compared to just one in 10 in the bottom quartile.

Other research, while calling the black-white degree gap worrisome, concludes the gap measured by class alone is far broader. Students of all races from educated affluent families are seven times more likely to complete a bachelor’s degree than students from low-income families with less education (68 percent compared to 9 percent).

One study of the freshmen entering the 193 most selective colleges in 2010 found two-thirds came from the top income quartile. Only 15 percent came from the bottom half of the country, income-wise.

At the top 20 law schools, another study found, more than three-quarters of students came from the richest income quartile.

“We continue to struggle with racial discrimination in this country, but class has become a far larger impediment to a person’s life chances than race,” said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, and a prominent advocate for replacing race-based affirmative action with class-conscious measures.

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