The Illusory Aura of Ivy

Salam, Douthat, and Menashi have taken over at Weirdness ensues, and it's almost entirely Reihan's fault (or to Reihan's credit). Anyway, good stuff, at least that which is non-free-associative enough to comprehend.
The exchange between Reihan and Douthat about the pointlessness of affirmative action at elite schools reminded me of Marie Gryphon's talk on affirmative action at a Cato panel this summer. (Check out Marie's talk and replies in the newest Cato Policy Report.) Here's the bit I had in mind:

But contrary to what many assume, attending a selective school does not raise student incomes, regardless of race. This is an important new finding. A couple of years ago, economists Stacy Dale and Alan Krueger generated shockwaves by solving a persistent problem of older research on this issue. They compared students who were accepted to Cornell, for example, and went to Cornell, to students who were accepted to Cornell but chose, for reasons of their own, to attend a less selective school, like the University of Washington. Comparing students with identical acceptances allowed them to control for all of the factors that colleges consider when they accept students. Dale and Krueger found that when genuinely equivalent students are compared, those who attended the fancier schools make no more money at all—not an extra dime—than students who attended the less selective schools. The idea that the Ivy League will make you rich is just another part of the myth. The Dale and Krueger paper, by the way, is in the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Fall 2002, in case you need to print it out and give it to that neighbor who is so proud that his son got into Penn early admission this year.

This is an extremely satisfying finding to people like me who did not attend prestigious schools, but who fancy that there is a very nearby possible world in which they were admitted to Princeton. Now, I find that this news is not entirely welcome in DC, a town choked in Ivy. As Reihan or Ross point out, pedigree really matters in the reputation- (and not so much money-) based nepotistic professions, like academia and journalism (I could never have been a TNR “reporter-researcher” like Reihan or my eminent Columbian housemate). And it is of course from journalists and academics from whom we receive our opinions about things like affirmative action. So we should not be surprised that the transformative effects of Yale are rather overplayed.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

21 thoughts

  1. Of that 47% that is non-Canada born, how many were born in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, rest of Europe, and the US? I could not find that breakdown.
    What I did find is that of the “visible minorities”, 70% were of Asian ancestry. The vast majority from India and China.
    Is there a comparable city in the US with a similar demographic breakdown to compare against?
    You quote the murder rate being low, is the property crime rate, assaults, etc. crime rate just as low?

    1. “Is there a comparable city in the US with a similar demographic breakdown to compare against?”
      Hmm. Maybe San Francisco?

    2. San Fran or Seattle, magnets for Asian immigration, would be the closet you could come, I think.
      Yes. Toronto’s crime rate is astonishingly low on every metric. In fact, it is safer than most other Canadian cities, such Saskatoon and Winnipeg, all with smaller populations of immigrants, which suggests the possibility that Toronto’s immigrants actually bring down the crime rate.

      1. Thank you very much for posting the country of birth information for the immigrants in Canada. I was quite surprised that the number of folks from the UK, Australia, US, and rest of Europe was that low.
        Again on the topic of the crime rate. Is there a non-US born (legal or illegal) immigrant subset more prevalent in the US that have a higher crime rate per capita that is NOT a prevalent immigrant subset in Canada?
        Are the crime rates for the Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, etc immigrants in Canada comparable to US figures for the same immigrant groups? If the crime rates across the two countries for the same immigrant groups are comparable, then maybe it has to do with something in the culture of the immigrant groups. If Canada is much lower, then maybe there is something in the water up north??
        Finally, according to Wikipedia, the illegal immigrant population is less than 1% (120K / 33M). I think that has to be a factor.

  2. The article reeks of Cato (can’t evenhandedly acknowledge drawbacks of libertarian policy planks) Institute bait and switch, except the bit about cultural decay not being so worrying with the Canadian immigrant mix. We don’t get a mention of the fact that a much higher fraction of Canadian immigrants are selected through a point system (favoring those who speak English or French, have significant educational credentials, etc) to get immigrants who will assimilate relatively well. You also completely ignore the issue of the ancestry of the Canadian immigration flows, which are disproportionately Chinese and upper-middle class Indian.
    Black Canadians underperform in school to an extent comparable to blacks in the U.S., show elevating rates of crime and substance abuse, and a hugely disproportionate share of murders in Toronto (every year there is a parade called Caribana, regularly accompanied by gun murders by Canadians of African descent), which doesn’t push the city’s overall murder rate too high because of the relatively limited African population and the low crime rates among other groups.
    There was recent hand-wringing in the national papers here about studies showing that the children of immigrants from different countries and of different racial backgrounds regress to different means: when you compare Chinese and black immigrants of equal income and education, the children of the Chinese earn more while the black children earn less than their parents.
    All Canada tells you is what everyone already knows: skilled Asian immigrants integrate well. So take lots more of them, like Canada, but don’t try to trick your readership.

    1. So you’re saying that you accept the idea that liberal democratic institutions can survive a huge influx of outsiders who do not share the culture that created those institutions — as long as they’re the right outsiders? You admit that Chinese and Indian culture is not much like Anglo-Protestant culture, right? So you agree that Toronto proves Huntington wrong?

      1. Yes, I agreed in my first sentence: “except the bit about cultural decay not being so worrying with the Canadian immigrant mix.” I don’t care if we all speak English or Mandarin or Hindi, and I don’t think Chinese immigrants bring too much in the way of illiberal values (absolutely not for HK, not too worryingly for PRC migrants). But I don’t want the engines of economic (and critically scientific and technological) growth in advanced countries to be screwed up by outright open borders/unconditional migration rights (I liked your nod to guest workers).
        But you chose to talk about the low crime rates, quality of life, etc, without a disclosure of the role of immigrant mix.

      2. Many xenophobes in Europe are asking for more Asian immigrants and less Muslims. If we want to destroy xenophobia, we have to focus on Muslims, African refugees and low-skilled Mexicans. Asians, highly educated immigrants and secular Muslims are already accepted by almost everyone.

      3. Relatedly, there’s a lot of progress to be made on openness to those desirable immigrant groups: Canada is a leader (in its per capita immigration intake) on that front. The U.S. H1-B cap and the foolish policy of sending those H1-B skilled workers home after 3 or 6 years comes to mind as a contrast. Consider an immigration bill that tightened border enforcement (including popular measures like physical border walls) and employer sanctions to discourage illegal immigrants while allowing unlimited skilled immigration: such a bill would easily pass and have global welfare benefits far exceeding the status quo.

      4. “…such a bill would easily pass…”
        lol! If so, it would have already passed.
        As soon as the unions get on board, it would easily pass, and as soon as the unions get on board it would be a crappy bill.

  3. I think you’re going to have to fight through some significant selection bias here, Will. I’d like to see the United States issue more visas to skilled workers. But there is a huge difference between people applying for citizenship with Canada and making it through their screening process, and day laborers hopping the border from Mexico. Which group do you think will be more compliant with liberal democractic institutions?
    By logical extension of your argument, shouldn’t we believe the neocons when they say that, if we only try hard enough, we can export liberal democratic institutions and fix the world?

  4. teageegeepea – If you're willing to do a little legwork you can probably find out who I really am, and then be disappointed when you find I'm nobody.
    TGGP says:

    Toronto is genuinely multicultural, which is a lot better than bicultural. I discuss that in my Putnam/diversity post.

  5. I’d say there’re a lot of pieces missing from your argument. As other commenters have pointed out, we’d first need to know the breakdown of “foreign-born” residents in Toronto. Huntington’s objections are to specific classes of immigrants, and you would therefore have to show that Toronto was accepting those classes, not merely that they have a lot of immigrants. Since Huntington’s argument is based on cultural rot more than on immigration anyway, you would probably also need to say something about the class and race of native-born Torontonians as well. More importantly, you would need to supply some comparative statistics showing (rather than merely speculating, as in your comment above) that Toronto’s relatively low crime rate is not disproportionately accounted for by immigrants. You would probably also need to explain why some cities like Tokyo, which are considerably less diverse than Toronto, are also safer (i.e. single-point comparisons are usually not persuasive).
    Where I think your argument succeeds is in refuting the idea that immigration/cultural dillution alone can account for rises in crime. Clearly crime and immigration are not directly correlated in the way that Huntington suggests. But there is still a quite a distance between having proved that and showing that immigration is not one of the (or even the primary) contributing factors to a city’s crime rate. It can still be the case that, controlling for all other variables, reducing immigration and/or screening immigrants for factors which suggest they can and will easily assimilate into Anglo-Saxon culture helps control crime.
    My concern here is not to argue against immigration, incidentally. I agree with your “guest-worker programs, not walls” aside. It’s more that I don’t think you’re doing “our side” any favors with this kind of argumentation. Toronto’s single data point based on statistics gained from a single year – and with little or no characterization of the context – is not convincing.

  6. I was surprised to see no bump in the percentage of immigrants from the US for 2006 (the first year in the graphic after 2004). Gee, my reading of the NYT suggested they should’ve seen at least… oh say 1/2 million from that city alone after the ’04 election.

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