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June 2017 Vol. 54 No. 10

University of Chicago Press

The following review appeared in the June 2017 issue of CHOICE. The review is for your internal use only. Please review our Permission and Reprints Guidelines or email

Social & Behavioral Sciences

Warikoo, Natasha K. The diversity bargain: and other dilemmas of race, admissions, and meritocracy at elite universities. Chicago, 2016. 293p bibl index ISBN 9780226400143, $26.00; ISBN 9780226400280 ebook, $18.00.

Warikoo (Harvard Graduate School of Education) acknowledges that elite institutions of higher education commit resources to diversifying their student bodies, yet fall short of their goals with respect to race and class. While admissions offices and enrolled white students value affirmative action and diversity, they do so because they feel much is to be gained and learned by diversifying the collegiate way of life. That the numbers of underrepresented minorities in the student body fall short of their relative percentages of the population does not occur to them as a problem, for two reasons. First is faith in the concept of merit. Second is the conviction that the admission process is fair. Thus, admitted students ascribe this distinction to individual merit and are thereby willing to accept some affirmative action so long as it personally benefits their own college experience. This is the diversity bargain. But demographic realities raise the question as to what merit is and how it can be redefined to ensure that all sectors of the population can access the opportunities that society offers. The author distinguishes between symbolic and real solutions and has several suggestions for next steps. A sophisticated contribution unobtrusively informed by current theory and distinguished by substantial field research at Brown, Harvard, and Oxford.

--W. S. Simmons, Brown University

Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above.