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    Affirmative action “mismatches” students of color with upper-tier colleges and would be better served at less-selective schools


    The “mismatch” theory about collegiate affirmative action is based on bad research

    In a 2012 book called Mismatch, UCLA Professor Richard Sander and journalist Stuart Taylor Jr. put forward the theory that students of color actually suffer when they are admitted to selective schools.

    But in a brief submitted to the Supreme Court as part of the affirmative action case Fisher v. University of Texas, a group of 11 distinguished scholars detailed the flaws of that theory:

    [T]he principal research on which Sander and Taylor rely for their conclusion about the negative effects of affirmative action -- Sander's so-called "mismatch" hypothesis -- is far from "unrebutted." Since Sander first published findings in support of a "mismatch" in 2004, that research has been subjected to wide-ranging criticism. Nor is Sander's research "very careful." As some of those critiques discuss in detail, Sander's research has major methodological flaws -- misapplying basic principles of causal inference -- that call into doubt his controversial conclusions about affirmative action. The Sander "mismatch" research -- and its provocative claim that, on average, minority students admitted through affirmative action would be better off attending less selective colleges and universities -- is not good social science.

    Sander's research has "significantly overestimated the costs of affirmative action and failed to demonstrate benefits from ending it." That research, which consists of weak empirical contentions that fail to meet the basic tenets of rigorous social-science research, provides no basis for this Court to revisit longstanding precedent supporting the individualized consideration of race in admissions. In light of the significant methodological flaws on which it rests, Sander's research does not constitute credible evidence that affirmative action practices are harmful to minorities, let alone that the diversity rationale at the heart of Grutter is at odds with social science.