David Mickey Pabello: The Anti-Affirmative Action Avalanche: Where Students Enroll After Affirmative Action Bans


Tuesday, February 11, 2020, 3:00pm to 4:30pm


William James Hall, 33 Kirkland Street, Room 450

Special Colloquium:  Presentation by Dr. David Mickey Pabello, Postdoctoral Fellow in Ethnoracial Relations at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard.


Title: The Anti-Affirmative Action Avalanche: Where Students Enroll After Affirmative Action Bans


The study of affirmative action bans suffers from focusing on the ivory tower as the site for the impacts of affirmative action bans. Prior literature on affirmative action bans, blinded by investigating differences in selectivity, has missed the bigger picture; failing to see that less glamorous schools have also been impacted by the bans. In this article I fully flesh-out the impacts of affirmative action on all of postsecondary education with a larger sample from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and the Current Population Survey from 1991- 2016 and the causal inference methodology known as difference-in-differences. The results illustrate the anti-affirmative action avalanche: a theoretical model showing the downward displacement of underrepresented minority students from more selective schools to less selective schools due to the bans. I confirm previous findings that affirmative action bans have displaced underrepresented minority students from the most selective institutions and find no impact at less selective schools (excluding for-profit schools). Ironically, I find that the bans also increased the college enrollment of underrepresented minority students. However, this increase in college enrollment may be in part driven by a novel finding that underrepresented minority students have enrolled at for-profit colleges and universities.