Counting By Ancestral Background: Mandatory For Some, Forbidden For Others?

Over at Marginal Revolution, economist Tyler Cowen links to Ron Unz`s The Myth of American Meritocracy, saying:

There is a new and stimulating piece by Ron Unz, in The American Conservative. The article covers plenty of ground, but I took away two main points. The first is that there is massive and quite unjustified bias against Asian and Asian-American students in the U.S. admissions process. Yes, I already thought that but it turns out it is much worse than I had thought. Yet many people support this aspect of our current admissions systems, either directly or indirectly.

The second point is the claim that Jewish academic achievement in America is collapsing at the top end, in relative terms at least.

For reasons which are possibly irrational on my end, but perhaps not totally irrational, I am not entirely comfortable with the religious and ethnic and racial “counting” methods applied in this piece (blame me for mood affiliation if you wish). Still, it is an interesting read and after some internal debate I thought I would pass it along, albeit with caveats.

I’d like to hear more from Tyler about why he had to struggle with his comfort level. After all, he is in a quantitative field, and vast amounts of quantitative analyses are published annually based on data collected about race and ethnicity. On the other hand, almost nothing quantitative is published in the mainstream about what is, arguably, the most influential ethnic, racial and/or religious group in 21st Century America.

On the other other hand, Jewish publications and organizations keep close tabs on quantitative measures of Jewish accomplishment. For example, the venerable Jewish Telegraph Agency estimated in 2009 that about 35% of the Forbes 400 were Jewish. (Here`s a more careful count of the ethnicity of the 400 richest people in America.)

Similarly, in the 1995 book Jews and the New American Scene, the prominent social scientist Seymour Martin Lipset, a Senior Scholar of the Wilstein Institute for Jewish Policy Studies, and Earl Raab, Director of the Perlmutter Institute for Jewish Advocacy at Brandeis University,pointed out:

“During the last three decades, Jews have made up 50% of the top two hundred intellectuals, 40 percent of American Nobel Prize Winners in science and economics, 20 percent of professors at the leading universities, 21 percent of high level civil servants, 40 percent of partners in the leading law firms in New York and Washington, 26% of the reporters, editors, and executives of the major print and broadcast media, 59 percent of the directors, writers, and producers of the fifty top-grossing motion pictures from 1965 to 1982, and 58 percent of directors, writers, and producers in two or more primetime television series.” [pp 26-27]

Finally, would Tyler have linked to Unz’s article about Jewish achievement if Unz wasn’t Jewish?