Diversity by Design or Default? Minority Students and the Texas Top 10% Law

Sunny Xinchun Niu, Princeton University
Teresa A. Sullivan, University of Texas at Austin
Marta Tienda, Princeton University

In response to the judicial ban on affirmative action in college admissions, the Texas legislature passed H.B. 588, which guarantees admission to any Texas public college or university for all seniors graduating in the top decile of their class. In this paper, we examine the selection regime undergirding college enrollment decisions for a cohort of Texas high school graduates, focusing on who achieves top 10% class rank status and knowledge about the law among qualifying students. We find that, even at minority-dominant schools, Blacks and Hispanics are less likely to make it top 10%, even after controlling for family SES. Hispanic top 10% students are less likely to “know a lot about the law,” largely due to low family SES. Hispanic top 10% students from predominately minority schools are particularly disadvantaged – they are less likely to “know a lot about the law” net of differences in SES.

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Presented in Session 137: Race, Ethnicity, Human Capital, and the Labor Market