Two legal experts make the explosive argument that affirmative action hurts minority students’ educational and career chances—and that liberals are in denial about it.

Affirmative action in higher education is a perennial lightning rod for controversy. But until recently, there has been little hard data about how and if racial preferences work.

In Mismatch, law professor Richard Sander and journalist Stuart Taylor, Jr. draw on extensive new research to prove that racial preferences put many students in educational settings where they have no hope of succeeding. Because they’re under-prepared, fewer than half of black affirmative action beneficiaries in American law schools pass their bar exams. Preferences for well-off minorities help shut out poorer students of all races. More troubling still, major universities, fearing a backlash, refuse to confront the clear evidence of affirmative action’s failure.

The controversy over affirmative action will take center stage this fall, when the Supreme Court hears Fisher v. Texas. Mismatch—a bold, nonpartisan, and scrupulously researched exposé of a well-intentioned policy’s flaws—will be essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the real impact of this contentious social program.

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Praise for Mismatch

“This lucid, data-rich book is simply the best researched and most convincing analysis ever done of affirmative action in higher education, a work at once impeccably scholarly and entirely accessible to anyone interested in the social and legal ramifications of well-intentioned policies that, as the authors show, have a boomerang effect on the intended beneficiaries.” —Judge Richard A. Posner

“This book probably will make constitutional history. Written at the intersection of social science and law, its data conclusively demonstrate the damage that has been done to intended beneficiaries by courts’ decisions that have made racial preferences in college admissions an exception to the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws.” —George F. Will

“As a high-profile defender of affirmative action, I used to think the so-called ‘mismatch’ problem was a bit overblown. Richard Sander and Stuart Taylor have caused me to think again. How many bright and promising minority students, we must ask, have failed because they were steered—with the best intentions, of course—into elite schools for which they were less prepared academically than most of their classmates? What better ways can we devise to boost academic achievement and expand the pool of qualified students of all races? We don't do future generations of students any favors by trying to ignore this issue or pretend it doesn't exist. If common-sense moderates don't step up and engage this debate, we only allow extremists to take control of it.” —Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning (1989 for Commentary) syndicated columnist for the Chicago Tribune

“The authors offer extensive data in support of their conclusions that the present system is not serving those students well…. This information will be argued over all the same, but the authors’ evenhanded suggestion that what might be a better strategy is to raise educational attainment by investing more in elementary and secondary education for lower-income students – ‘targeting economic need before racial identity,’ as they put it – seems unobjectionable on the face. The subject may be hard to talk about, but it must be, and this is a valuable contribution to opening that needed discussion.” —Kirkus Reviews

About the Authors

Richard Sander is a law professor and economist at UCLA whose article on the affirmative action “mismatch” problem is one of the most widely-read law review articles ever written. He has been written about in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Los Angeles.

Stuart Taylor, Jr. received his B.A. from Princeton and graduated at the top of his class at Harvard Law School, where he was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. He was coauthor of Until Proven Innocent, and his writing has appeared in a range of popular and scholarly venues, among them the New York Times and Newsweek. He is currently a contributing editor for the National Journal and a Brookings Institution nonresident senior fellow, and he has taught a course on law and the news media the last two spring quarters at Stanford Law School. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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