This Chart Shows How Different Harvard Could Look If the Supreme Court Ends Affirmative Action

Affirmative action went on trial in the Supreme Court Monday, with justices and observers imagining what college campuses might look like if race were no longer factored into admissions decisions.


Competing visions of social justice are at stake.


The court’s conservative majority suggested student-body diversity could be achieved without recourse to racial discrimination, while the liberals warned that a ruling against affirmative action in higher education would lead to “a precipitous decline in minority admissions,” as Justice Elana Kagan put it.

Amid a similar, albeit less legalistic, debate in the media, former founding editor Matthew Ygelsias resurfaced a pair of charts showing how the racial makeup of Harvard College’s incoming class might change if the school ended affirmative action along with preferences for athletes and legacies.

  • The data came from a 2020 discussion paper published by The IZA – Institute of Labor Economics that found Harvard would accept far more Asian-American students and far fewer Hispanic and black ones if the non-merit based programs were ended.
  • Acceptance of white students would not significantly change, per the research.

The Supreme Court began hearing arguments in a pair of cases Monday: Harvard is being sued for allegedly discriminating against Asian-American students in admissions, while the University of North Carolina is accused of discriminating against white and Asian applicants by giving preference to black, Hispanic and Native American ones.

  • The court appeared ready to rule that affirmative action is unlawful.