Last night I posted an introduction to the Center for Equal Opportunity’s report on the use of race in assessing applicants to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and attempted to untangle their preposterously misleading claim that black students have a 576-to-1 advantage in admissions. This morning I’ll be tackling CEO’s claims as to the rates at which student applicants of various racial groups are admitted to UW.
The CEO study’s author, Althea Nagai, claims on the report’s first page that in 2007 and 2008 “UW admitted more than 7 out of every 10 black applicants, and more than 8 out of 10 Hispanics, versus roughly 6 in 10 Asians and whites.” The university’s own public records for those years, however, show admissions rates of just 42% and 55% for black and Latino students, respectively, compared to a 55% rate of acceptance for white applicants and a 56% rate for Asians. According to UW, in other words, white, Asian, and Latino students were accepted at almost exactly the same rates in the period covered by the CEO report, while black students’ admission rates were considerably lower.
The CEO report does not attempt to explain this dramatic discrepancy. It does, however, provide a hint in a footnote, when it gives its raw numbers for total UW applicants and admissions in 2007 and 2008. By CEO’s reckoning, there were 38,476 applicants and 23,769 admittees to UW in those two years, while according to the university, 50,348 students applied for admission in 2007-08, of whom 27,415 were admitted.
CEO’s data set, in other words, is missing some 11,872 students, of whom only 3,646 were admitted. Nearly twelve thousand students — almost a quarter of the total applicant pool — were left out of CEO’s calculations. Why?
To start with, CEO’s sample set excludes “those cases for which race or ethnicity is listed as ‘Other,’ missing, or unknown,” as well as Southeast Asians and “American Indians and Native Hawaiians.” (A more appropriate approach would have been to combine these students into their own category, in order to preserve the integrity of the study’s data set, but we’ll let that pass.)
Aggregating UW’s figures for white, black, Latino, and “Other Asian” applicants for 2007 gives a total of 21,443, of whom 12,261 were admitted. CEO’s sample consists of 19,345 applicants, of whom 12,219 were admitted. That’s a further omission of 2,433 applicants, of whom 42 were admitted.
CEO doesn’t provide a breakdown by race of the data pool it used, so it’s impossible to say with absolute precision what numbers they used. But it is possible to reverse-engineer their dataset by applying the percentage totals they arrived at for each race to the aggregate numbers they provided. When you do that, this is what you get:
Of 854 black applicants, CEO’s sample included approximately 503. Of 769 Latino applicants, they included approximately 600. Of 2,038 non-Southeast Asians, they included approximately 1,528. And of 18,117 whites, they included approximately 16,714.
What does this mean? It means that about 10% of UW applicants who fit CEO’s racial parameters were left out of their study’s sample, with those exclusions coming disproportionately from student of color applicant pools. Only 8% of white applicants were left out of the CEO report, as compared to 10% of non-Southeast Asians, 22% of Latinos, and a staggering 41% of blacks.
So who were these students who were excluded from the sample?
CEO says that “cases with missing academic data were dropped from the statistical analyses,” as were applicants whose inclusion “might lead to the identification of an individual.” It’s clear that most of the applicants excluded from the CEO pool were students who were not admitted to UW, presumably because they submitted incomplete or otherwise unsatisfactory applications. But whatever the reasons for their rejections, they did apply, and CEO has simply erased them from the record as if they never existed.
Another erasure is the exclusion of Southeast Asians from the category “Asians,” noted above. Nearly a dozen times in the first page of the report, CEO compares statistics for Asians with those of other racial groups without noting once that their definition of “Asian” excludes more than fifteen percent of Asian applicants and admittees to the university. (CEO mentions the distinction between Southeast Asians and other Asians only twice in the report — both times in discussions of retention rates.)
CEO claims, as noted earlier, that UW’s admissions rates for black and Latino students are dramatically higher than those for whites and Asians. That claim rests on the exclusion of more than two thousand students of color from their applicant sample, an exclusion with major implications for CEO’s analysis.