Does affirmative action in college admissions currently take wealth into account?

This isn’t a debate about the merits or demerits of AA. What I want to know is, as it currently stands, does the AA process in college admissions take wealth into account?
If it doesn’t, then, could a wealthy black or Hispanic applicant, theoretically, have an AA advantage in admissions over an impoverished white or Asian applicant?

Depends on the college. Amherst does, to some extent:

Generally no, but it depends on the school and the circumstances.

In theory yes, but typically many schools will give a boost to poorer students, so the differences would often be erased, minimized, or even reversed.

Some schools are “needs-blind.” What that means is that (supposedly) they do not take financial need into account, or even look at the financial situation of an applicant, during the application process.

Harvard, for example, guarantees that any student who is admitted to Harvard will be financially able to go to Harvard (that’s for undergrad - I doubt that applies to the grad schools, or at least to the law and medical schools). Financial need is not a factor in admissions.

I thought affirmative action was intended to prevent or compensate for discrimination by the colleges. If so, wealth has nothing to do with it - a rich black applicant can face discrimination as easily as a poor black applicant.

Generally, no.

My immediate family is 100% Irish, but my brothers and I married Hispanic women. My niece is dark brown-skinned like her mother but grew up in an affluent suburb and speaks no Spanish. She thinks of herself as Irish.

She got full scholarships to college and law school because she was a Hispanic female. Hey, I encouraged her to check off “Hispanic” on all applications! Never turn down an advantage if it’s available. And she’s a very smart young lady who worked hard and had excellent grades.

But she was never poor or deprived. A white male from Appalachia would have been more deserving of preferential treatment.

Generally, affirmative action only benefits a small upper crust of minorities: a subgroup of people who most likely didn’t need any help in the first place.

Just two examples:

In Norway, when the law suddenly required that 40 percent of each company’s board of directors be women, there were not enough qualified women available, so the small number of qualified women suddenly found themselves with positions on multiple boards, earning extremely high incomes, even though they could not possible be fully fulfilling their responsibilities on so many of these boards. One Norwegian woman, Mimi Berdal, sat on the board of 40 different companies at the same time!

South Africa had the same experiences when they used racial quotas to require that 50 percent of every publicly-traded corporation be owned by Blacks. There were only a small handful of Blacks that had the money to buy the corporate stock, and a select few suddenly became extremely wealthy, again doing virtually nothing to help all the other Blacks. This is how Patrice Motsepe became South Africa’s wealthiest man.

There’s a decent correlation between smarts/parental education and family money; see Freakonomics, the most reliable indicator of the education of a person nowadays is the education their parents had, which correlates generally with money. If the goal of a college is to admit the most qualified of its applicants (even if there’s sort of a separate stream for some races) then odds the ones with the higher qualifications are from the relatively affluent families. IIRC, something like 50% of African-Americans were middle class (a stat from over 10 years ago - better now?) and odds are a lot higher percentage of the successful African American applicants will be from better off families.

Consider the case of Barrack Obama - his mother was a PhD and his father was a doctor, he grew up half a world away from Africa and thousands of miles away from any urban African American experience, raised by a white mother and sometimes a white grandmother, in a university social circle; he had no close black relatives in American cities. He never even met his father until much later. He went to Harvard Law and excelled. You can’t get much whiter and non-ghetto than that with a dark skin; yet to everyone, to the media, to the political commentators, he is “black” and lumped in. Unfortunately, unlike the TV show “Blackish”, or “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” - there’s no street-cred assessment in racial assessment. You can’t be “too rich” or “too oreo” to be classified as black. It’s you racial background and nothing else.

(But as some will tell you, that’s all some others look at when they discriminate - nice suit or baggy pants and hoody, they still can’t hail a cab…)

The only currently legal justification for affirmative action in college admission is the benefits diversity will bring to the rest of the student body. It seems like a rich minority would bring as many diversity benefits as a poor minority so there is no reason to differentiate between them.

I don’t think that’s true. An African-American kid at Yale or Princeton who grew up as the son of a corporate exec or lawyer in Westchester or Greenwich has a background not much different than many of the white suburban kids who are also at Yale or Princeton. But an African-American kid who grew up in the Bronx or Brooklyn and is the first person in his family to go to college (or maybe the first even to graduate high school) has a vastly different background. The latter student brings more diversity than the former.