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Affirmative Action and Racial Segregation

Prior research suggests that statewide affirmative action bans reduce minority enrollment at selective colleges while leaving the overall college enrollment of minorities unchanged. However, the effect of these bans on across-college racial segregation has not yet been estimated. This effect is theoretically ambiguous because of a U-shaped relationship across colleges between minority enrollment and college selectivity. This paper uses variation in the timing of affirmative action bans across states to estimate their effects on racial segregation as measured by standard exposure and dissimilarity indexes, finding that affirmative action bans increased segregation across colleges in some cases but reduced it in others. In particular, early affirmative action bans in states with highly selective public universities appear to be associated with less segregation, whereas more recent affirmative action bans appear to be associated with more segregation.