UCLA Professor Corrects Misconceptions about Minority Representation at University of California: Sends Memo to UC Regents Ahead of Today’s Meeting Discussing Racial Preferences


September 17, 2020

Los Angeles, CA – September 17, 2020 – Richard Sander, an economist and Distinguished Professor of Law at UCLA, released a report today to the Board of Regents of the University of California (UC), disputing common misconceptions about the representation of underrepresented minorities (URMs) in the university system.

Many observers have argued that UC fails to reflect the demography of California, but their claims have not been supported by hard data. Indeed, there has been very little careful analysis of the real patterns of representation when one uses reasonable base group comparisons.

Nevertheless, this argument has served as a key reason for supporting Proposition 16 on this November’s California ballot. The measure would repeal Proposition 209, which was adopted by voters in 1996 and prohibited the use of racial preferences in public employment, public education, or public contracting in the state. If passed, Prop 16 would allow government officials in California, including UC admissions officers, to once again make decisions based on race.

Prof. Sander corrects common misconceptions and presents hard data on these questions to the UC Regents before their meeting today to discuss the impact of Prop 209 at UC. A leading authority on UC’s use of race in admissions decisions, Prof. Sander has found in prior research that Prop 209 has led to strong improvements in both the number and the educational outcomes of URMs at UC. 

In his latest report, Prof. Sander documents the following key points:

  1. If we compare UC freshmen from California with a contemporaneous pool of California high school graduates, URMs are much better represented at UC in 2017 (and any other recent year) than in 1997, the last year before Prop 209 took effect.
  • If we use good available sources to estimate the academic makeup of California high school graduates, and we compare the racial makeup of the top eighth of high school graduates with UC freshmen from California, we find that URMs are substantially overrepresented relative to their numbers in the pool – more overrepresented, even, than Asian Americans. Non-Hispanic Whites are by far the most underrepresented group.

Those who argue that there is a serious underrepresentation problem simply have not put forth their own data and methodologies to justify their claims.

Prof. Sander’s full report to the UC Regents is available here: https://californiansforequalrights.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Rick-Sander-memo-Racial-representation-at-UC-Sept-17-2020-final.pdf.


Richard Sander, UCLA

[email protected]

Ying Ma, NoProp16.info

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(703) 436-4539