Designing Affirmative Action Policies under Uncertainty

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http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202005202223
Title: Designing Affirmative Action Policies under Uncertainty
Author: Hertweck, Corinna
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2020
URI: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:hulib-202005202223
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/315169
Thesis level: master's thesis
Abstract: In this work, we seek robust methods for designing affirmative action policies for university admissions. Specifically, we study university admissions under a real centralized system that uses grades and standardized test scores to match applicants to university programs. For the purposes of affirmative action, we consider policies that assign bonus points to applicants from underrepresented groups with the goal of preventing large gaps in admission rates across groups, while ensuring that the admitted students are for the most part those with the highest scores. Since such policies have to be announced before the start of the application period, there is uncertainty about which students will apply to which programs. This poses a difficult challenge for policy-makers. Hence, we introduce a strategy to design policies for the upcoming round of applications that can either address a single or multiple demographic groups. Our strategy is based on application data from previous years and a predictive model trained on this data. By comparing this predictive strategy to simpler strategies based only on application data from, e.g., the previous year, we show that the predictive strategy is generally more conservative in its policy suggestions. As a result, policies suggested by the predictive strategy lead to more robust effects and fewer cases where the gap in admission rates is inadvertently increased through the suggested policy intervention. Our findings imply that universities can employ predictive methods to increase the reliability of the effects expected from the implementation of an affirmative action policy.
Subject: algorithmic fairness
affirmative action
university admissions
Discipline: none


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