UCLA Professor Documents Errors in UC Berkeley Study on Prop 209

September 4, 2020

Los Angeles, CA – September 4, 2020 – Two weeks ago, Zachary Bleemer, a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, released a paper purporting to show that race neutrality as mandated by Proposition 209 had hurt minority students who attended or applied to the University of California. Richard Sander, an economist and distinguished professor at UCLA, released a rebuttal report today, showing that Bleemer’s key conclusions are clearly contradicted by publicly available data. Sander also criticizes the UC Office of the President for prohibiting Bleemer from sharing his data with any other scholar. 
“The Bleemer paper in its current form is worse than useless in assessing the effects of Prop 209 at the University of California,” said Prof. Sander.
Prop 209 passed in California in 1996 and prohibited the use of racial preferences in public employment, public education, or public contracting. Proposition 16, on this November’s California ballot, threatens to repeal Prop 209’s guarantee of equal opportunity.
“The first sentence of Bleemer’s conclusion claims that the number of underrepresented minorities (URMs) enrolling at the University of California fell by ‘800 per year’ after 1998,” Prof. Sander noted. “But in reality, URM freshmen enrollment at UC rose 250 in 1999, 400 in 2000, and 450 the year after that. If Bleemer can make such a wild distortion in his main conclusion, and his other analysis cannot be checked (since the data is secret), none of the material in his paper should be trusted, much less reported credulously.” 
Prof. Sander pointed out numerous problems with the Bleemer study’s assumptions and conclusions about the impact of Prop 209.

  • The Bleemer study contends that when UC adopted race-neutral policies, URM graduation rates were damaged. Sander shows that URM graduation rates – especially four-year (“on time”) graduation rates, rose steadily after race neutrality was implemented.
  • The Bleemer study contends that race neutrality at UC hurt the ability of URM students to successfully complete degrees in science, math and engineering (so-called “STEM” fields). Sander shows that the number of URMs earning STEM degrees rose dramatically after race-neutral policies were implemented. 
  • Half a dozen major studies by established scholars, using publicly available data obtained from UC, and published in respected, peer-reviewed journals, have shown that race neutrality at UC had positive effects on URM enrollment and outcomes. The Bleemer study is not peer reviewed, is not published in a journal, and is based on secret data that the university will not allow Bleemer to share with anyone. 

Prof. Sander criticized reporters who credulously reported Bleemer’s findings without looking at the data themselves, and without talking to the established scholars whose findings directly contradict Bleemer. “The real stories here are,” said Prof. Sander, “first, that URM outcomes at UC have soared since Prop 209, and second, that the university is politically committed to passing Prop 16 and is trying to skew the debate by withholding data and accountability from scholars and the press.”
Prof. Sander will hold a press conference on Zoom on Tuesday, September 8, at 2:00 p.m. EDT/11:00 a.m. PDT to discuss his rebuttal and answer questions. Please send an email to [email protected] if you wish to attend and receive further details.
Prof. Sander’s full preliminary rebuttal to Bleemer’s study: https://californiansforequalrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Sander-Rebuttal.pdf
Richard Sander
[email protected]
Ying Ma
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(703) 436-4539