Study finds Prop. 209 decreased Black, Latinx, Native American UC admissions

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By studying UC applicants from 1994 through 2002, Zachary Bleemer, UC Berkeley economics doctoral candidate, found that abolishing California’s race-based admissions process negatively impacted Black, Latinx and Native American students.

Bleemer’s study was published Aug. 20 by UC Berkeley’s Center for Studies in Higher Education. California’s Proposition 209, passed in 1996 and enacted in 1998, eliminated race-based university admissions. In November, California voters will vote on whether or not to repeal Prop. 209.

“Prop. 209 hurt us in our admissions and how we could get into university,” said Kyndall Dowell, Racial Justice Now campaign vice chair and campus junior “You saw it the most dramatically at UCLA and Berkeley.”

Bleemer analyzed datasets of UC applicants who applied directly before and after affirmative action was abolished in the state, providing information about which college they went to, what classes they took and their job earnings.

Before Prop. 209, Bleemer said, affirmative action policies in the UC gave preferred admissions to Black and Latinx students. He noted that some universities had “very large” advantages for those applicants.

Abolishing affirmative action allegedly deterred more than 1,000 Black, Latinx and Native American students from applying to the UC system per year, accompanying large declines in Black and Latinx populations throughout the university, according to a Berkeley News press release.

After graduation, Black and Latinx UC students between the ages of 24 and 34 made 5% less in annual wages than they would have during periods when affirmative action was instituted, according to the press release.

Furthermore, Black and Latinx students enrolled at less prestigious universities rather than more selective UC campuses despite their qualifications, while other Black and Latinx students were disproportionately “pushed” out of college altogether, according to the press release.

“If you are the type of person that would think that affirmative action would harm Black and Hispanic students, you should really reconsider that stance in light of this study,” Bleemer said.

Asian and white students, on the other hand, saw an increase in selective university enrollment after Prop. 209 took effect, according to Bleemer’s study. These students did not see significant long-term economic effects from the legislation, as they already had access to universities of similar prestige regardless of increased UC admissions, the study states.

If passed in November, Prop. 16 would overturn Prop. 209, allowing California and public institutions to implement affirmative action policies. The push to repeal Prop. 209 was started by Dowell, as Racial Justice Now is a student organization that operates throughout the UC system.

“As a Black student at the UC, I have seen the harmful effects of (Prop.) 209 and how it has withheld opportunities for students of color,” Dowell said. “(Prop. 16) will allow equal opportunity for students of color and women, and people of color as a whole.”

Eric Rogers is a research and ideas reporter. Contact him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @eric_rogers_dc.