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CEP discussion paper

Affirmative Action and University Fit: Evidence from Proposition 209


Proposition 209 banned the use of racial preferences in admissions at public colleges in California. We analyze unique data for all applicants and enrollees within the University of California (UC) system before and after Prop 209. After Prop 209, graduation rates increased by 4.4%. We present evidence that certain institutions are better at graduating more-prepared students while other institutions are better at graduating less-prepared students and that these matching effects are particularly important for the bottom tail of the qualification distribution. We find that Prop 209 led to a more efficient sorting of minority students and the sorting effects explain over 20% of the graduation rate increase. Further, universities appear to have responded to Prop 209 by investing more in their students, explaining between 30-45% of the graduation rate increase.


Peter Arcidiacono, Esteban Aucejo, Patrick Coate and V. Joseph Hotz

12 June 2013     Paper Number CEPDP1224

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This CEP discussion paper is published under the centre's Education and skills programme.