Affirmative action ruling contest: race vs. class

Monday, June 17, 2013

In post-Great Recession America, which is the bigger barrier to opportunity — race or class?

A decade ago, the U.S. Supreme Court kept the focus on race as a barrier, upholding the right of colleges to make limited use of racial preferences to ensure a diverse student body. But in a ruling due this month, the court is widely expected to roll back that decision. Such an outcome would shift attention more toward a less constitutionally controversial practice: giving a boost to socio-economically disadvantaged students, regardless of race.

If that happens, it would reflect more than just a more conservative makeup of the justices. Over the last decade, clogged social mobility and rising economic inequality have shifted the conversation on campuses and in the country as a whole.

As a barrier to opportunity, class is getting more attention, while race is fading.

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