Professor Peter Arcidiacono Provides Expert Analysis for Nonprofit’s Lawsuit Against Harvard

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Does Harvard discriminate against Asian-American applicants?

Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), a nonprofit representing Asian Americans who were denied admission to Harvard, thinks so. SFFA filed a lawsuit against the Ivy League school in 2014 and has since filed motion for summary judgment. Both parties last week submitted reports from outside economists detailing the role of race in Harvard’s undergraduate admissions, prompting significant media coverage. Professor Peter Arcidiacono provided expert analysis for SFFA, and Professor David Card (University of California, Berkeley) wrote a report on behalf of Harvard.

A labor economist, Arcidiacono has focused much of his research on issues of race and ethnicity and admissions decisions in higher education. His report concluded the following: “there are ‘penalties’ against Asian-American applicants”; “race plays a significant role in admissions decisions”; “Asian Americans are the primary group hurt by preferences given in Harvard’s Admissions Office”; there is an “artificial floor for African-American admit rates”; and, moreover, his “findings are consistent with Harvard’s own internal analyses before this lawsuit.”

The SFFA and Harvard filings are publicly available, including the economists’ reports and rebuttals. Notably, Arcidiacono and Card largely agreed on many aspects concerning the relevant dataset, methodology and even findings, but their interpretations of the results ultimately diverge. Card’s report concludes that there is no legally sufficient evidence of discrimination.