Reply to Ron Unz

Ron Unz has been busy lately dealing with his critics. This is good news because it means that the word is getting out about his meritocracy paper. His most recent excursion was a beat down of of a 3500-word comment by Prof. Andrew Gelman (“Meritocracy: Response to Prof. Gelman on Jewish Elite Overrepresentation“). Unz defends his analysis that on Jewish overrepresentation quite well. However, toward the end, he attempts to lump my critique in with Gelman’s:

Still, [Gelman and Jane Mertz] are hardly alone in such carelessness.  By a remarkable coincidence, their critique was published almost simultaneously with that of a critical column by Prof. Kevin MacDonald, whose focus of greatest interest seems very similar to that of Prof. Mertz.  In Prof. MacDonald’s case, he chided me for no longer discussing the Jewish aspects of my analysis.  Apparently he, too, had failed to notice the same column of mine missed by Prof. Mertz.

In fact, I had noticed Unz’s previous column (“Unz on meritocracy: Yale debate and surname analysis“). Indeed, I linked to it toward the end of my article because it referred to several of his public appearances where he seems to focus entirely on discrimination against Asians. It therefore buttressed my point that Unz’s public comments at Yale and elsewhere, including his NRO article, have ignored the plight of non-Jewish Whites and have even failed to mention Jewish overrepresentation.

I am glad that Unz is defending his analysis of the data on Jews in these online exchanges because I have no quarrel with his analysis. It’s just that the real message of his data is that non-Jewish Whites are being discriminated against because of the huge overrepresentation of Jews. Again, the point of my column is that Asians are being discriminated against only with respect to Jews; when Jews and non-Jewish Whites are combined into one category, as is the practice by universities, there is no discernible discrimination against Asians. Moreover, when compared to Jews, Asians are being discriminated against far less than are non-Jewish Whites. But you would never know this from accounts of Unz’s public appearances, his NRO article, or in accounts of Unz’s work by writers like David Brooks in the New York Times mentioned in my column.

In his reply to Gelman, Unz concludes:

Under these estimates, the current Jewish share of high-ability American students seems likely to be around 6%, the Asian one at 25-30%, and the white Gentile total at 65-70%.  I would strongly argue that the burden of proof shifts to anyone who argues for a substantially different set of figures.

Let’s look at some individual cases. If we take Unz’s data for Harvard, 2007-2011 (see this figure), Jews are overrepresented at Harvard by a factor of 4.33 based on ability, while non-Jewish Whites are underrepresented by a factor of around 3.75. This implies that, for high-ability students, Jews are overrepresented compared to Whites by between 1560% and 1680%, and close to my estimate of 1500% I came up with in my original article. Using data from the same figure, Princeton and Dartmouth discriminate against Whites far less. Assuming that non-Jewish Whites comprise 67.5% of the top students, Dartmouth discriminates against non-Jewish Whites the least—”only” 293% based on a Jewish enrollment of 11% and a non-Jewish White enrollment of 42%. Princeton, where there was a big brouhaha over Jewish underenrollment, discriminates against non-Jewish Whites by nearly 400%. On the other hand, Columbia and Penn  discriminate even more than Harvard, again estimating that non-Jewish Whites comprise 67.5% of the top students: Columbia: 1875%; Penn: 1785%. Yale comes in at 1460%. The average for the entire Ivy League is 1270%.

This is somewhat above what Unz concludes in his reply to Gelman: “adjusting for the number of high ability students lowers the level of apparent Jewish over-representation to roughly 1,000%, a figure still comfortably above the 20% discrepancy threshold that helped spark a federal investigation in the late 1980s regarding Asian students.”

But let’s not quibble. Clearly the main victims are non-Jewish Whites. Asians don’t have a beef at all, except in relation to Jews, and certainly not against non-Jewish Whites. Of course it’s unlikely in the extreme that the feds will investigate Jewish overrepresentation, especially when Jews are tucked away so that they are invisible in the White category.

In conclusion, I love Ron Unz’s analysis. As a critic of Jewish power and influence in America, Unz’s analysis fits well with my emphasis on Jews as an elite and the importance of ethnic networking in explaining Jewish advancement.

There is a genuine mystery in how Hillel comes up with its figures for Jewish enrollment. As Unz notes, these are the numbers that are commonly used in the media, but perhaps we should be a bit skeptical until there is greater transparency on how Hillil comes up with its estimates. My assumption has always been that Hillel, as a very well-organized group whose mission is to increase Jewish consciousness among students, would be in a very good position to keep tabs on the group they are supposed to be motivating. The fact that Hillel gives very precise numbers rather than ranges, suggests they are canvassing the entire student body. It’s hard to see what motive they would have in distorting these data, except perhaps to underreport Jews in order to keep the pressure on universities to enroll Jews at levels comparable to their peers (keeping up with Harvard et al. was the basis for the well-known pressure on Princeton noted by Unz; see also here) or to avoid the sort of scrutiny that might occur if word got out that Jews were vastly overrepresented at elite universities. But the latter seems not to be the case. After all, Unz originally exposed the vast overrepresentation of Jews and underrepresentation of non-Jewsh Whites in a 1998 Wall Street Journal article, and nothing happened.

I just wish he would emphasize the real problem in his public appearances: Massive discrimination against non-Jewish Whites, and, to use a phrase from Unz’s original article, “wildly disproportionate” overrepresentation of Jews.