What people say about Color and Money-

"Anyone interested in the inequities of the selective college admissions process will find Color and Money clear-eyed, hard-hitting, enlightening, and informative."--Rachel Toor, author of Admissions Confidential: An Insider's Account of the Elite College Selection Process.
"For those concerned about why the march toward social justice in America has faltered badly for nearly forty years, Peter Schmidt's Color and Money is a highly instructive--and greatly disturbing--guidepost." --Richard Kluger, author of Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America's Struggle for Equality.
"An indispensible guide to the debate over affirmative action in the United States."--Michael Lind, author of The Next American Nation.
"This book is a must read for anyone concerned with access to higher education, especially to the nation’s elite universities, as well as with larger questions of social policy and social justice."--Terry MacTaggart, Former Chancellor, University of Maine System
"Books on the highly-charged issue of affirmative action are usually one-sided and inflammatory. Peter Schmidt's Color and Money is a wonderful exception. It provides an honest and fair examination that is also passionate and illuminating."--Richard D. Kahlenberg, Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation, and author of The Remedy: Class, Race, and Affirmative Action

Peter Schmidt is available as a speaker

Peter Schmidt is available to speak at colleges, bookstores, schools, churches, and at gatherings of education associations. His past speaking engagements are listed at the bottom of this Web site. If interested in having him appear, e-mail him at schmidt_peter@msn.com. He also is available as an expert source for journalists covering affirmative action. Those on a tight deadline should email him at peter.schmidt@chronicle.com.

Hear interviews with Peter Schmidt

Jack Lessenberry of Michigan Public Radio talked to Peter Schmidt about Color and Money in August. You can hear the interview here. Reading the book inspired Jack to write an essay on it, which you can read here. You also can hear Peter Schmidt talk about his book on the NPR program Justice Talking and in a Chronicle of Higher Education podcast.

Color and Money Is a College Course!

Many college professors are now using Color and Money in their classes, but Jack Dougherty, the director of the educational studies program at Trinity College in Connecticut, has gone a big step beyond. He has decided to name a freshman seminar "Color and Money" and to structure the class around the book. He has graciously agreed to share his syllabus, available here, for faculty members at other colleges who may have the same idea.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Peter Schmidt in USA Today: The Affirmative Action "Wedge" Splits the GOP, Too

When John McCain voiced opposition to affirmative action preferences last summer in an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, the conventional wisdom among many pundits was that he was bringing up a wedge issue long used to divide Democrats along racial lines.

In an analysis recently published in USA Today, Peter Schmidt, the author of Color and Money, makes the case that the affirmative action issue divides Republicans as well--enough so to discourage the McCain campaign from drawing much attention to his stand.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Did Elite College Lacrosse Contribute to Our Economic Crisis?

One of the key findings of Color and Money is that selective colleges serve as a sorting machine, playing a key role in determining who rises to positions of leadership and makes big bucks in places such as Wall Street. In examining the inefficiencies of that sorting machine, Color and Money cites a wealth of research showing how selective colleges lower the bar for students who have cash or connections or can play a sport well. Left largely unexplored by the book is the question of what mayhem can result when elite college degrees are conferred upon people who really are not very bright, helping them go on to land jobs where they can do things like, well, make decisions that will profoundly effect our economy and help determine whether our retirement funds will grow or disappear.

With our economy being described as teetering on disaster, it is instructive, therefore, to read this Wall Street Journal article, passed along by an appreciative and alert Color and Money reader. It describes how many major Wall Street investment firms, including Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers, maintain their own lacrosse teams and are happy to recruit young men skilled in the sport. It cites the old joke "the only way to get a job on Wall Street is to have high test scores or play lacrosse," suggesting that skill in the sport not only opens the doors of selective colleges, but the doors of firms that recruit employees from them.

Given how much investment bankers make, one suspects that Wall Street lacrosse players have plenty of cash on hand should they choose to hire strippers for their team parties.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Feds to Colleges: Don't Consider Applicants' Race Unless Diversity Is "Essential" to Your Mission

As discussed in depth here on the Chronicle of Higher Education blog, the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights has sent colleges a letter telling them they may not consider race in admissions unless it is “essential” to their “mission and stated goals.”

The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund has responded by accusing the federal government of overstating the limitations placed on race-conscious admissions policies by the U.S. Supreme Court in its 2003 rulings involving the University of Michigan's chief undergraduate program and law school. “There is no reason for such clarification at this time,” a statement issued by the group says. “Rather, it seems that more than five years after those decisions, OCR is issuing this letter to further its efforts to subvert and give unnecessary pause to higher-education institutions that are pursuing a racially diverse student population in a constitutional manner."

For their part, few college lawyers have said much in protest of the new federal guidance, which they generally see as reflecting their own interpretation of the Supreme Court's rulings.

Friday, September 19, 2008

New Congressional Caucus To Advocate for Colleges Serving Black Students

More than two dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives have banded together in a new caucus to promote the interests of historically black colleges and universities and other higher-education institutions classified as predominantly black. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat of Texas, says she and two colleagues, Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, a Democrat, and Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. of Tennessee, a Republican, founded the group “in order to create a bipartisan dialogue in Congress that will focus on the legislative priorities of our nation’s HBCU’s.” Full Chronicle of Higher Education news blog coverage of this development is available here. The new effort was announced this month at a breakfast staged by the United Negro College Fund.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Researchers Sue California Bar for Data on Law School Graduates

Two researchers who question the benefits of affirmative action are asking the California Supreme Court to force that state’s bar to release years of data showing how law-school graduates of different races and ethnicities perform on their bar exams. The lead plaintiff in the suit, filed last month, is Richard H. Sander, a professor of law at the University of California at Los Angeles who has already produced controversial research concluding that race-conscious admissions policies hurt many black law students and lawyers, by setting them up to perform poorly in their chosen field. Full Chronicle of Higher Education blog coverage of the suit is available here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Study Finds Blacks, Hispanics, Women Take Longer to Earn Doctorates

A new report from the Council of Graduate Schools suggests that blacks, Hispanics, and women are less likely to earn their PhDs partly because they end up taking longer to get through doctoral programs.

While 23 percent of whites or Asian Americans who earned doctorates within 10 years did so after the seventh year in doctoral programs, 27 percent of blacks and 36 percent of Hispanics who earned doctorates within a seven-year period.

Women are three percentage points less likely than men to complete their doctorates than men in 10 years, but the gap would be even wider if not for women's persistence in such programs. Six years into such programs, women are nine percentage points less likely to have earned their PhDs. The gap narrows as women stick it out and finish sometime after the seven-year mark.

William B. Russel, dean of Princeton University's Graduate School, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that a disproportionate share of minority students enter doctoral programs academically and, in some cases, culturally unprepared for the demands that will be placed on them, causing them to fall behind early on.

Pamela J. Benoit, dean of the Graduate School at the University of Missouri at Columbia, told the newspaper that the report's findings highlight the need for student-retention efforts to take into account where students are in their doctoral studies. "There is a real difference between issues that have to do with early attrition and late attrition," she said. Students who drop out of such programs early on may do so because they chose the wrong programs or lacked access to strong mentors, while students who abandon their quest for a doctorate late in the process often do so because of some conflict with a faculty adviser or a dissertation committee.

The report is titled Ph.D. Completion and Attrition: Analysis of Baseline Demographic Data From the Ph.D. Completion Project. A Chronicle of Higher Education article on it is available to Chronicle subscribers here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Election Year Reality Check: Here's a Formula for Measuring the Political Clout of the Rich

We sometimes hear people lament that our federal government does not care much about the little guy, that a rich man’s vote seems to carry a lot more weight than a poor man’s. Candidates for Congress and the presidency often claim they will look out for ordinary Americans, but, once in office, they are almost always accused of catering to the mansion-and-Mercedes crowd.

Are complaints that the rich rule the nation the product of excessive cynicism? How much truth is there to them?

Martin Gilens, an associate professor of politics at Princeton University, sought to find out in a study first released as a working paper in August 2004 and later published in the Public Opinion Quarterly. He looked at the views Americans expressed toward various possible changes in federal policy in surveys conducted from 1992 and 1998 and checked whether the federal government ended up heeding the survey respondents’ wishes. He then broke down the results by income group, focusing his attention mainly on those whose incomes were at the 10th percentile (meaning they had less money than about nine out of ten Americans), those at the 90th percentile (who had more money than about nine out of ten), and those who were squarely in the middle, at the 50th percentile.

In aggregate, Gilens found, a policy that was overwhelmingly favored by people with incomes in the 10th through 50th percentile was about twice as likely to be implemented as a policy that was overwhelmingly opposed by them. A policy that was overwhelmingly favored by people at the 90th percentile was, by comparison, four times as likely to be implemented as a policy that they overwhelmingly opposed.

It’s wrong, however, to look at such numbers and conclude that the wealthy had about twice as much clout as those who are working- or solidly middle-class. That’s because on many questions—such as whether the federal budget should be balanced—both the rich and the poor held very similar views. It’s entirely possible that the government was carrying out the wishes of the poor simply because the rich wanted the same thing.

To get a clearer picture of which income groups had how much clout, Gilens looked at about 300 survey questions dealing with areas of substantial disagreement between the wealthy and poor. They included, for example, questions such as whether the government should enter free trade pacts like NAFTA, and whether it should cut capital gains and inheritance taxes. On such questions, Gilens found, the government’s actions were strongly correlated with the desires of the wealthy, but largely ignored the views of both the poor and middle class. A policy strongly supported by the wealthy was six times as likely to be implemented as a policy that the wealthy strongly opposed. A policy strongly supported by middle-income Americans was only 1.3 times as likely to be implemented as a policy they strongly opposed, and the views of the poor appeared to have almost no bearing on the government’s decisions at all.

Of course, it was possible something besides money was at work. Because both wealthy people and key decision-makers in government tend to be highly educated, maybe what they had in common was being smart and well-informed. But when Gilens tweaked his analysis to compare the highly educated of every income group, he found that money, in itself, still played a key role in determining whether people’s wishes were heard.

Gilens says the key advantage the wealthy have in shaping policy is the wherewithal to donate to parties, candidates, and interest organization. One might wonder, however, if the vast personal wealth of many in top positions in government also plays a role, and the picture would be different if more lower- and middle-income Americans stood a chance of rising to positions of power.

Gilens writes: “There has never been a democratic society in which citizens’ influence over government policy was unrelated to their financial resources. In this sense, the difference between democracy and plutocracy is one of degree. But, by this same token, a government that is democratic in form but is in practice only responsive to its most affluent citizens is a democracy in name only.”

A footnote of interest to readers of Color and Money: Gilens found that the poor were more likely to support affirmative action than the wealthy. The finding, he says, is not simply a reflection of the fact that black people are disproportionately represented at the bottom of the economic ladder. Other studies have found that poor white people are more likely to support affirmative action than people who are white and wealthy.