Affirmative action in higher education has become an active arena for policymaking and legal challenges in the United States. A question frequently raised about affirmative action is whether racial and ethnic minority students who benefit from affirmative action are successful in the academically demanding context of selective colleges. Using data from the Educational Longitudinal Study, the authors analyzed racial-ethnic differences in cumulative GPAs for White, Black, and Latino students who were high school seniors in 2004 and subsequently attended selective colleges and universities. Results show that Black and Latino students were more likely to graduate from selective colleges than White students who come from similar socioeconomic backgrounds with comparable academic resources and educational experiences.

Document Type

Policy Brief




Affirmative Action, Higher Education, Education Policy




National Science Foundation

Funding ID



Policy Briefs Series


This research was supported by the National Science Foundation [Award #1228207]. We thank Seth Ovadia, Assistant Director of Institutional Research and Assessment at Syracuse University, for providing us with access to Academic Insights Data. We also thank Alyssa Kirk and Shannon Monnat for providing edits on a previous draft of this brief.


Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration | Public Policy | Sociology

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.



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