Admitting Students to Selective Education Programs: Merit, Profiling, and Affirmative Action
Journal of Political Economy
125 (3), 761-797
Minority and disadvantaged students are typically underrepresented in selective programs that use merit-based admission. Urban school districts may set different referral and admission thresholds based on income and race (affirmative action), and they may exploit differences in achievement relative to ability across race and income groups (profiling). We develop and estimate a model that provides a unified treatment of affirmative action and profiling. We find profiling by race and income and affirmative action for low-income students. Counterfactual analysis reveals that these policies achieve more than 80 percent of African American enrollment that could be attained by race-based affirmative action.