Mismatch and academic performance at America’s selective colleges and universities

Amy C Lutz, Pamela R. Bennett, Rebecca Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


American selective colleges and universities use affirmative action policies to achieve diversity, given blacks and Latinos have somewhat lower SAT scores than their Asian and white peers. Critics of affirmative action argue that this results in lower grades and greater dropout among underrepresented minority groups. Using the Educational Longitudinal Study, a nationally representative longitudinal data set, we examine the relationship between SAT mismatch and college outcomes for students at selective institutions. We find that mismatch is not associated with graduation from a selective institution, but is associated with lower grades. The negative relationship between mismatch and grades holds for all racial-ethnic groups, not just blacks and Latinos, and is less predictive of academic performance than is high school grade point average. Thus, although mismatch may lower performance at selective colleges, it does not appear to prevent students who may have benefitted from affirmative action from obtaining important credentials from America’s elite educational institutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalEthnic and Racial Studies
StateAccepted/In press - Nov 14 2017


  • Affirmative action
  • college graduation
  • grade point average
  • higher education
  • mismatch
  • SAT scores

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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