Affirmative Action’s Fate: Are 20 More Years Enough?
Keywords:higher education, affirmative action, legal analysis, demography, overrepresentation, underrepresentation
In this article we examine the current status of affirmative action in postsecondary admissions through a concurrent review of recent court rulings, state legislation, and higher education enrollment data. Analyzing each of these factors in the context of the others is important because the court decisions and state-level legislation interact to affect enrollment. We not only present the state of the law, but also examine several outcomes of affirmative action case law and ballot initiatives as well as political implications for the future of affirmative action. From a broad philosophical and legal perspective, then, we ask first, what is the current legal and political status of race-conscious policy in higher education admissions?
And second, given that current status, what is the likelihood that by 2028 affirmative action will no longer be needed to further the goals of diversity and equality on college and university campuses? Our methods include analyses of prominent court decisions and state legislation, as well as analyses of enrollment data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System to examine the racial/ethnic diversity of first-time, degree-seeking undergraduates at several state flagship institutions from 1994 to 2005 and compare that to the racial/ethnic diversity of the same undergraduate students attending all 2- and 4-year degree granting public and private institutions in the flagship’s state. In states potentially facing anti-affirmative action ballot initiatives, these analyses provide one approach to examining the current need for affirmative action in admissions and the likely consequences if the ballot initiatives pass.