does the river spill over? estimating the economic returns to attending a racially diverse college

Published

Journal Article

This article evaluates the frequently argued but heretofore little tested hypothesis that increasing minority representation in elite colleges generates tangible benefits for majority-race students. Using data on graduates of 30 selective universities, we find only weak evidence of any relationship between collegiate racial composition and the postgraduation outcomes of white or Asian students. Moreover, the strongest evidence we uncover suggests that increasing minority representation by lowering admission standards is unlikely to produce benefits and may in fact cause harm by reducing the representation of minority students on less selective campuses. While affirmative action may still be desirable for the benefits it conveys to minority students, these results provide little support for " spillover" effects on majority-race students. (JEL I2, J15, J24). [T]he attainment of a diverse student body is a constitutionally permissible goal for an institution of higher education. The atmosphere of 'speculation, experiment and creation'-so essential to the quality of higher education-is widely believed to be promoted by a diverse student body.-Lewis Powell, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (438 U.S. 265, 1978, pp. 311-12, quoting Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234, 1957, p. 263). © 2009 Western Economic Association International.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Arcidiacono, P; Vigdor, JL

Published Date

  • July 1, 2010

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 48 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 537 - 557

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1465-7295

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0095-2583

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/j.1465-7295.2009.00236.x

Citation Source

  • Scopus