I begin this chapter by compiling evidence on the enrollment of members of under-represented ethnic groups (UREGs) in US higher educational institutions. Next I address the impact of affirmative action (AA) policies on higher educational enrollments. I then go on to consider the consequences of AA for the academic qualifications of UREG students relative to those of their White student peers. Finally, I examine evidence on the socio-economic impact of AA policies: do AA beneficiaries constitute a "creamy layer" of UREG students, and are they socio-economically better off than the non-UREG students whom they displace?
Data on the growth of higher educational enrollments for each of the UREGs in the US are presented in Table 9.1. Detailed data for each group, and by different types of institutions, became available only as of 1976. These data show significant growth in the Hispanic-American proportion and modest growth in the Native-American proportion of higher educational enrollments (at both the undergraduate and the graduate level) over a twenty-one-year period. The African-American proportion of enrollments dipped slightly from 1976 to 1990 but then increased sharply from 1990 to 1997. Prior to 1976 there are data available only for African Americans in all higher educational programs; these data show that the African-American proportion of higher educational enrollments more than doubled between 1960 and 1976.
More illuminating as a measure of the progress made by UREG members in acquiring higher education at any given level is the "representation ratio"-i.e. the UREG proportion of enrollments relative to the UREG proportion of the total US population. By 1997 the representation ratio for African Americans in all undergraduate programs (including both two- and four-year colleges) was close to 1. The representation ratio is significantly lower-about 0.6-at the graduate level (including professional as well as graduate schools). The data in Table 9.1 indicate that, as of 1997, Hispanic Americans lagged behind African Americans in their representation ratios at all levels of higher education; but Native Americans had actually attained representation ratios that were higher than those of either of the other two groups.