Editor’s note: I just posted an Ann Coulter column on the legacy admission issue which has become a big deal in the wake of the SCOTUS affirmative action ruling. It’s an interesting article but doesn’t separate out Jews from non-Jewish Whites. Here Ron Unz fills that void. It was always an interesting question whether Jews would support affirmative action for Blacks and Hispanics, the two underperforming racial categories.
Black-Jewish interests diverged when affirmative action and quotas for Black college admission became a divisive issue in the 1970s. It was not only neoconservatives who worried about affirmative action: The main Jewish activist groups—the AJCommittee, the AJCongress, and the ADL—sided with Allan P. Bakke in a landmark case on racial quota systems in the University of California–Davis medical school, thereby promoting meritocracy and presumably assuming Jews would benefit from such a policy. However, in recent years mainstream Jewish groups such as the AJCommittee have supported some forms of affirmative action, as in the 2003 University of Michigan case, and in the recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action in which Asians were the plaintiffs, the ADL sided with Harvard, claiming there was no evidence of quotas at Harvard.
Therefore it’s interesting that Ron Unz has shown that, although the representation of non-Jewish Whites has declined as a result of affirmative action for Blacks and Latinos, this has not been the case for Jewish representation despite lower academic performance as measured by scores on the National Merit Scholarship exam. Unz’s paper was cited by the plaintiffs in the case.
Unz’s recent article, Affirmative Action and the Jewish Elephant in the Room, quotes from his original 2012 paper:
The evidence of the recent NMS semifinalist lists seems the most conclusive of all, given the huge statistical sample sizes involved. As discussed earlier, these students constitute roughly the highest 0.5 percent in academic ability, the top 16,000 high school seniors who should be enrolling at the Ivy League and America’s other most elite academic universities. In California, white Gentile names outnumber Jewish ones by over 8-to-1; in Texas, over 20-to-1; in Florida and Illinois, around 9-to-1. Even in New York, America’s most heavily Jewish state, there are more than two high-ability white Gentile students for every Jewish one. Based on the overall distribution of America’s population, it appears that approximately 65–70 percent of America’s highest ability students are non-Jewish whites, well over ten times the Jewish total of under 6 percent.
Needless to say, these proportions are considerably different from what we actually find among the admitted students at Harvard and its elite peers, which today serve as a direct funnel to the commanding heights of American academics, law, business, and finance. Based on reported statistics, Jews approximately match or even outnumber non-Jewish whites at Harvard and most of the other Ivy League schools, which seems wildly disproportionate. Indeed, the official statistics indicate that non-Jewish whites at Harvard are America’s most under-represented population group, enrolled at a much lower fraction of their national population than blacks or Hispanics, despite having far higher academic test scores.
When examining statistical evidence, the proper aggregation of data is critical. Consider the ratio of the recent 2007–2011 enrollment of Asian students at Harvard relative to their estimated share of America’s recent NMS semifinalists, a reasonable proxy for the high-ability college-age population, and compare this result to the corresponding figure for whites. The Asian ratio is 63 percent, slightly above the white ratio of 61 percent, with both these figures being considerably below parity due to the substantial presence of under-represented racial minorities such as blacks and Hispanics, foreign students, and students of unreported race. Thus, there appears to be no evidence for racial bias against Asians, even excluding the race-neutral impact of athletic recruitment, legacy admissions, and geographical diversity.
However, if we separate out the Jewish students, their ratio turns out to be 435 percent, while the residual ratio for non-Jewish whites drops to just 28 percent, less than half of even the Asian figure. As a consequence, Asians appear under-represented relative to Jews by a factor of seven, while non-Jewish whites are by far the most under-represented group of all, despite any benefits they might receive from athletic, legacy, or geographical distribution factors. The rest of the Ivy League tends to follow a similar pattern, with the overall Jewish ratio being 381 percent, the Asian figure at 62 percent, and the ratio for non-Jewish whites a low 35 percent, all relative to their number of high-ability college-age students.
Just as striking as these wildly disproportionate current numbers have been the longer enrollment trends. In the three decades since I graduated Harvard, the presence of white Gentiles has dropped by as much as 70 percent, despite no remotely comparable decline in the relative size or academic performance of that population; meanwhile, the percentage of Jewish students has actually increased. This period certainly saw a very rapid rise in the number of Asian, Hispanic, and foreign students, as well as some increase in blacks. But it seems rather odd that all of these other gains would have come at the expense of whites of Christian background, and none at the expense of Jews.
Furthermore, the Harvard enrollment changes over the last decade have been even more unusual when we compare them to changes in the underlying demographics. Between 2000 and 2011, the relative percentage of college-age blacks enrolled at Harvard dropped by 18 percent, along with declines of 13 percent for Asians and 11 percent for Hispanics, while only whites increased, expanding their relative enrollment by 16 percent. However, this is merely an optical illusion: in fact, the figure for non-Jewish whites slightly declined, while the relative enrollment of Jews increased by over 35 percent, probably reaching the highest level in Harvard’s entire history. Thus, the relative presence of Jews rose sharply while that of all other groups declined, and this occurred during exactly the period when the once-remarkable academic performance of Jewish high school students seemed to suddenly collapse.
Most of the other Ivy League schools appear to follow a fairly similar trajectory. Between 1980 and 2011, the official figures indicate that non-Jewish white enrollment dropped by 63 percent at Yale, 44 percent at Princeton, 52 percent at Dartmouth, 69 percent at Columbia, 62 percent at Cornell, 66 percent at Penn, and 64 percent at Brown. If we confine our attention to the last decade or so, the relative proportion of college-age non-Jewish whites enrolled at Yale has dropped 23 percent since 2000, with drops of 28 percent at Princeton, 18 percent at Dartmouth, 19 percent at Columbia and Penn, 24 percent at Cornell, and 23 percent at Brown. For most of these universities, non-white groups have followed a mixed pattern, mostly increasing but with some substantial drops. I have only located yearly Jewish enrollment percentages back to 2006, but during the six years since then, there is a uniform pattern of often substantial rises: increases of roughly 25 percent at Yale, 45 percent at Columbia, 10 percent at Cornell, 15 percent at Brown, and no declines anywhere.
 Friedman, M. (1995). What Went Wrong? The Creation and Collapse of the Black-Jewish Alliance. New York: Free Press, 72.