A William M. Rodgers III, Professor of Public Policy and chief economist at the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University
Michael Lovenheim, Associate Professor in the Department of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornel University
Rodney Andrews, Harvard University Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar, Assistant Professor of economics at University of Texas, Dallas
Mine Z. Senses, Associate Professor of International Economics at Johns Hopkins SAIS

February 14th, 2017

Policies designed to tackle racial disparities in higher education and labor market outcomes have been controversial. As part of Black History Month at Johns Hopkins SAIS, experts recently gathered to discuss the current and future direction of such policies that can promote equal opportunities for all.  

"Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.” Opening with an excerpt from Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech, William Rodgers argued that the larger black-white wage gap today is not only due to changes that affect only African Americans in the economy, but also of the general economic trends, such as the decline in the manufacturing sector. Wage difference should thus not only be viewed as a problem of racial injustice, but also as a social injustice for all Americans. He proposed that policy should combine both race-neutral and race-specific approaches.  

“Affirmative action is not a binary policy; it is about the extent it covers.” Michael Lovenheim discussed the quality-fit trade off embedded within the affirmative policy in the realm of higher education admissions. He contended while the quality of a given institution positively affects underrepresented minority students’ post-graduation earnings, the mismatching of the students’ academic preparation for the given institution due to admission preference may counter-balance the positive quality effect. Lovenheim suggested policy makers focus on determining a suitable level of affirmative action policies, and urged universities and colleges to invest in programs, such as tutoring, that support academic success among students’ affected by the policy.