Affirmative action hurts black law students more than it helps them, by bumping applicants up into law schools where they are more likely to earn poor grades, drop out, and fail their states' bar exams, according to a forthcoming study by a law professor at the University of California at Los Angeles.
The author, Richard H. Sander, argues that ending racial preferences in law-school admissions would increase the number of black lawyers because it would help ensure that students attend law schools where they are more likely to succeed.
A report of the study, scheduled to appear in the November issue of the Stanford Law Review, has sparked a contentious debate among supporters and critics of affirmative action. . . .
His report, "A Systemic Analysis of Affirmative Action in American Law Schools," says that:
- After the first year of law school, 51 percent of black students have grade-point averages that place them in the bottom tenth of their classes, compared with 5 percent of white students. "Evidence suggests that when you're doing that badly, you're learning less than if you were in the middle of a class" at a less-prestigious law school, Mr. Sander says.
- Among students who entered law school in 1991, about 80 percent of white students graduated and passed the bar on their first attempt, compared with just 45 percent of black students. In a race-blind admissions system, the number of black graduates passing the bar the first time would jump to 74 percent, he says, based on his statistical analysis of how higher grades in less competitive schools would result in higher bar scores. Black students are nearly six times as likely as whites not to pass state bar exams after multiple attempts.
- Ending affirmative action would increase the number of new black lawyers by 8.8 percent because students would attend law schools where they would struggle less and learn more, and earn higher grades.
- With the exception of the most-elite law schools, good grades matter more to employers than the law school's prestige.
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I had read Rick's article, and found it extremely interesting and highly persuasive. (I have not checked his raw data, but he has an excellent reputation as a quantiative scholar.)
In case you're interested, Rick is, among other things, a specialist on housing segregation, and former board member and President of the Fair Housing Congress of Southern California, serving the last two years as President, as well as a noted quantitative analyst of legal education. I'm pretty sure that he's being driven by the evidence here, not by political preconceptions.