The Public Interest

The case for racial preferences

Nathan Glazer

Spring 1999

IT rarely happens that answers to contested political questions can be found in a relevant body of data and empirical analysis. Certainly, a scarcity of data has long afflicted the debate over preferences for African-American students in admissions to selective colleges, universities, and professional schools. The practice of preferences has been almost universal since the 1970s, though recently, courts, governmental agencies, and popular referenda have banned the practice from public institutions in California, Texas, and Washington, and it is under assault in other states as well. But now, thanks to the remarkable “College and Beyond” (C&B) data base, hard numbers can be brought to bear on this heated political debate. And, in their new book, The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions,† William G. Bowen and Derek Bok present and analyze, with perspicuity, insight, thoroughness, and balance, this new information on the question of preferences. 

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