April 1, 2016
Race, Class, and Affirmative Action
Tel-Aviv University Sociology Professor Sigal Alon Presents Findings from Studies Comparing Class-Based and Race-Based Affirmative Action
BERKELEY, CA, April 1, 2016 – No issue in American higher education is more contentious than that of race-based affirmative action. In light of the ongoing debate around the topic and recent Supreme Court rulings, some analysts suggest basing affirmative action policies on class. On April 5th, at Berkeley, Sigal Alon will present findings from her book, Race, Class, and Affirmative Action, in which she evaluates the ability of class-based affirmative action to promote social and economic mobility of disadvantaged populations at selective postsecondary institutions, as compared with a race-based policy. She uses the United States as a case study of race-based preferences, and Israel as a case study of class-based preferences. For each country she compares the model that has actually been implemented to a simulated scenario of the alternative policy type.
Alon finds that affirmative action at elite institutions in both countries is a key vehicle of mobility for disenfranchised students, whether they are racial minorities or socioeconomically disadvantaged. Affirmative action improves their academic success and graduation rates and leads to better labor market outcomes. The beneficiaries of affirmative action in both countries thrive at elite colleges and Alon demonstrates that they would not be better off attending less selective colleges instead.
In studying Israel’s class-based affirmative action programs, Alon finds that they have provided much-needed entry slots at the elite universities to students from poor families. However, this approach has not generated as much ethnic diversity as a race-based policy would. Conversely, affirmative action policies in the United States have fostered racial and ethnic diversity at a level that cannot be matched with class-based policies. Yet, class-based policies would do a better job at boosting socioeconomic diversity at these selective institutions. The findings from both countries suggest that neither race-based nor class-based models by themselves can generate broad diversity. According to Alon, the best route for promoting both racial and socioeconomic diversity is to embed the consideration of race within class-based affirmative action. This type of hybrid model would maximize the mobility of both socioeconomically disadvantaged and minority students.
In her book, Race, Class, and Affirmative Action, Alon seeks to move past political talking points to offer an innovative, evidence–based perspective on the merits and feasibility of different designs of affirmative action. The overarching goal of the book is to develop new, and more global, insights about the potential of race-neutral public policy to promote quality in higher education.
Carol Christ, Director at Center for Studies in Higher Education, will moderate the discussion.
Sponsored by: The Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley and the Social Science Matrix, UC Berkeley, on the 8th Floor Barrows Hall, Tuesday April 5th, from 12:00pm -1:30pm
Sigal Alon is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel-Aviv University. Her main research interests include social stratification and mobility, with an emphasis on the sociology of education. Her work focuses on unveiling the dynamics and historical processes underlying class, gender, and racial-ethnic inequalities in educational attainment, and the extent to which do admission, retention, affirmative action and financial aid policies in higher education narrow these inequalities. Dr. Alon has published in leading journals in sociology, education and economics. Her research has been supported by grants from the Spencer Foundation, the American Educational Research Association, The Russell Sage Foundation, the Texas Higher Educational Opportunity Project, and Yad Hanadiv. She was a visiting fellow at the Russell Sage Foundation, Princeton University, and the University of Wisconsin.
Carol Christ, is the Director, Center for Studies in Higher Education, UC Berkeley; former President, Smith College; and Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost, UC Berkeley.
Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE) was established in 1956 and was the first research institute in the United States devoted to the study of systems, institutions, and processes of higher education. The Center’s mission is to produce and support multi-disciplinary scholarly perspectives on strategic issues in higher education, to conduct relevant policy research, to promote the development of a community of scholars and policymakers engaged in policy-oriented discussion, and to serve the public as a resource on higher education. http://cshe.berkeley.edu