No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life

No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life

No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life

No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life


Against the backdrop of today's increasingly multicultural society, are America's elite colleges admitting and successfully educating a diverse student body? No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal pulls back the curtain on the selective college experience and takes a rigorous and comprehensive look at how race and social class impact each stage--from application and admission, to enrollment and student life on campus. Arguing that elite higher education contributes to both social mobility and inequality, the authors investigate such areas as admission advantages for minorities, academic achievement gaps tied to race and class, unequal burdens in paying for tuition, and satisfaction with college experiences.

The book's analysis is based on data provided by the National Survey of College Experience, collected from more than nine thousand students who applied to one of ten selective colleges between the early 1980s and late 1990s. The authors explore the composition of applicant pools, factoring in background and "selective admission enhancement strategies"--including AP classes, test-prep courses, and extracurriculars--to assess how these strengthen applications. On campus, the authors examine roommate choices, friendship circles, and degrees of social interaction, and discover that while students from different racial and class circumstances are not separate in college, they do not mix as much as one might expect. The book encourages greater interaction among student groups and calls on educational institutions to improve access for students of lower socioeconomic status.

No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal offers valuable insights into the intricate workings of America's elite higher education system.


By the end of the 1970s the U.S. civil rights revolution had reached full flower. The Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine enshrined in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and put a constitutional end to forced school segregation based on race. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 etched the Brown decision into law and ended legalized racial discrimination in government, employment, and public accommodation. A surge in black voter registration was prompted by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, aided in large measure by federal monitoring efforts built into the law. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 banned racial discrimination in the sale or rental of housing, together with discriminatory practices in lending and insurance. These provisions were supplemented by additional safeguards during the 1970s. Chief among them was the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977, which prohibited “redlining”—the practice of denying mortgages based on the racial composition of the neighborhood. The sweeping changes that Brown ushered in took nearly twenty-five years to accomplish, but they effectively put an end to legalized discrimination based on race (Massey, 2007).

Civil and political equality did not guarantee immediate equality in other areas. The effect of the civil rights legislation was to push some discriminatory practices and attitudes underground, making them more subtle, less overt, and harder to detect—what Massey (2007: 110) has described as “discrimination with a smile.” In addition, the historical legacy of racial discrimination cannot be eliminated overnight. Some blacks who attended segregated elementary schools prior to the 1954 Brown decision are still in the labor force. As a consequence, breaking down legal barriers separating black and white society has not translated either instantaneously or spontaneously into complete equality.

Deep racial divisions in social and economic outcomes remain. Whites and Asians typically exhibit the “best” outcomes, and blacks and Hispanics the poorest. More than 30 percent of white and nearly 50 percent of Asian adults over the age of twenty-five have earned at least a baccalaureate degree, as compared with 18 percent of blacks and just 12 percent of Hispanics. Two-thirds of whites and Asians report they are in excellent or very good health, in contrast to one-half of blacks and Hispanics.

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