Abstract
In recent years, a consensus has developed among both affirmative action's advocates and opponents that in relation to the typical white applicant, the effects of minority preferencing are minimal. In this essay, the aim is to clarify the mathematics of affirmative action's impact on majority applicants, and to flag the distinction between that question and affirmative action's opportunity cost. First, the essay establishes the level of agreement among judges and academics on the triviality of affirmative action's effect on the regular white applicant's prospects of success. Second, it demonstrates how the prevailing position on the impact of minority preferencing on the white applicant is flawed - as regards both the calculation of relative admission likelihood and the application of the matriculant yield variable. Making use of a number of case studies reviewed in the literature, it shows how those studies, properly understood, convey a rather different picture of the arithmetic of minority preferencing. The essay concludes by challenging the tendency to take the effects of affirmative action (on both preferred and non-preferred applicants) as exclusively indicative of its costs.
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