Asian Americans have mixed views on using race in college admissions: analysis

Story at a glance

  • Three quarters of Asian American adults think race or ethnicity should not be a factor in the college admission process, according to a new Pew Research Center report.

  • The report comes as the Supreme Court works to come to a decision on two cases involving affirmative action in the college admissions process.

  • But while many Asian Americans have negative feelings about race being considered in the admissions process, many who have heard of affirmative action think it is something positive.

Asian Americans have mixed feelings on colleges considering race during the admission process, according to a new analysis from the Pew Research Center.

Researchers found that three-quarters of Asian American adults believe race or ethnicity should not factor into college admissions decisions.

Instead, the bulk of Asian Americans believe that things such as grades, community service and test scores should be valued more than race and ethnicity during the college admissions process.

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Most people — 87 percent — said that colleges should look at high school grades when determining which students are admitted, while 71 percent said community service and standardized test scores should also be factors.

Almost equal shares of Asian Americans do not think race should be a factor in the college admissions process regardless of age, gender, education or origin group.

The analysis also found that 77 percent of Indian Americans and 76 percent of Chinese, Filipino and Vietnamese Americans believe race and ethnicity should not be considered during college admissions.

Similarly, 72 percent of Korean Americans and 70 percent of Japanese American adults hold the same belief.

Pew released the analysis ahead of the forthcoming Supreme Court decision on two cases involving college admissions and affirmative action.

One at Harvard University and the other at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In both cases, the plaintiffs argue each school’s consideration of race during the admission process unlawfully puts white and Asian American students at a disadvantage. However, the analysis suggests that there are contradictory feelings about the practice since just over half of Asian Americans who have heard of affirmative action believe it is a good thing.

“These new results … they add another data point and should be recorded correctly but I’m not entirely sure I think the results are dispositive,” said Anthony S. Chen, associate professor of sociology and political science at Northwestern University.

Chen added that it is difficult to really determine what people think about affirmative action in education.

“What people say in terms of their answers is highly sensitive to what they’re asked about and how things are worded,” he added.

Chen pointed to an Associated Press-NORC analysis from the University of Chicago published last month which also attempted to gauge public opinion on affirmative action but asked its questions differently in order to garner new results.

In that study, two-thirds of American adults said they believe the Supreme Court should allow the consideration of race and ethnicity in the college admissions process.

“I have a great deal of respect for the Pew operation, but it’s important to place their results into the context of other results, and I would caution against interpreting what they have found as providing totally conclusive proof that a clear and overwhelming majority of Americans or Asian Americans implacably oppose the consideration of race as one of many factors in the college admissions process,” Chen told The Hill in a statement.

A broader Pew study, also published on Thursday, found that 50 percent of U.S. adults as a whole say they disapprove of affirmative action practices.

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