28 January 2010

Law School Affirmative Action Close To Gone

[L]aw schools added about 3,000 seats for first-year students from 1993 to 2008, [but] both the percentage and the number of black and Mexican-American law students declined in that period . . . in that same period, both groups improved their college grade-point averages and their scores on the Law School Admission Test . . . . "[the] scores and grades [of African-Americans and Mexican-Americans] are improving, and are very close to those of white applicants[.]”

Conrad Johnson "who oversees the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic at Columbia . . . collaborated with the Society of American Law Teachers to examine minority enrollment rates at American law schools."

From here. Study details here.

The study itself notes that 34% of white applicants, 46% of Mexican-American applicants and 61% of African-American applicants are "shut out" (i.e. not able to get into any of the law schools to which they applied).

Recent studies on race and the LSATs by the company that designs and administers the test can be found here.

In the 2005-2006 academic year, the mean LSAT scores by ethnicity were:

African-American 142.31 SD 8.39
Mexican-American 147.65 SD 8.68
Caucasion 152.71 SD 9.03

LSAT scores have, by design, a nearly perfect bell curve.

The quote from the study author above suggests that this gap has narrowed since this academic year.

1 comment:

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

The study doesn't make the numbers clear on its webpage (a disappointing part of the presentation), but the implication if you look at the shutout percentages, Z scores, and standard deviations, is that the LSAT score gap between admitted white and admitted African-American students is on the order of 2-3 LSAT points, i.e. less than a third of a standard deviation, even though the gap among applicants is a little more than a full standard deviation.

It is fair to guess that the applicant score gap may be driven by historically higher tolerance of low LSAT scores in minority applicants.

It is also fair to guess that some of the applicant LSAT gap may be closing because white applicants with lower scores are more prone to apply to law school during a recession (higher education being a common refuge from the job market during a weak economy). There are probably more white students with the finacial means to make law school a smaller economic sacrifice, relative to African-American and Mexican-American college graduates who are more likely perceive themselves as unable to afford to go to law school no matter what their inclinations are. So, the pool of white college graduates who believe that they can afford to go to law school but are ambivalent and influenced by the economy may be larger than the comparable pool of minority college graduates both in absolute terms and relative to the number of applicants. If this guess is right, the LSAT gap among applicants is likely to increase again when the economy recovers.

Law school grade studies by the LSAT sponsor state that LSATs slightly over-predict minority first year law school grades.

None of the sources I had access to provided insight into the raw undergraduate GPA information referred to in the study.