U.S. Supreme Court

Context Matters: Affirmative Action, Public Health, and the Use of Population-Level Data

By Wendy E. Parmet, Elaine Marshall & Alisa K. Lincoln

Last June, in Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA), the Supreme Court ruled that universities could not consider race in admitting students. In support of that decision, the Court dismissed the relevance of data about the varied experiences of racial groups, insisting that admissions decisions must be based solely on the experiences and merits of individual applicants. The Court’s rejection of group-level data evinces a critical misunderstanding about the uses and limits of such data that, if applied more broadly, portends troubling implications for health equity and health policy.

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