NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 11, 2005

Affirmative action was supposed to help black students gain admittance into law school, but recent data suggests it is doing far more harm than good, writes Terry Eastland of the Weekly Standard.

The problems arise because race-based preferences have a cascading effect through American legal education, moving up all blacks a tier or two in the law school hierarchy, explains Eastland:

  • The top-tier law schools first enroll the small number of blacks who don't need affirmative action to get in and then less-qualified black applicants "bumped up" by race preferences.
  • After losing qualified students to top-tier schools, second-tier schools then select among the remainder; these schools are thus presented with fewer qualified applicants (under a race-blind standard) and must use preferences to reach their racial goals.
  • This process continues down the law-school ladder until you get to the bottom, where one finds black students who are probably unqualified for any law school.

As a result, nearly all blacks are placed at an enormous disadvantage in the schools they attend. Eastland says the data seems to bear this out:

  • In their first year, about 50 percent of black law students end up in the bottom tenth of their class, roughly two-thirds in the bottom fifth, with 8 percent placing in the top half.
  • Black students have a much higher attrition rate compared to white students (19 percent compared with 8 percent).
  • Black law school graduates fail the bar exam at four times the rate of white graduates.

The result is that there are fewer black lawyers with raced-based preferences than there would be without them, says Eastland.

Source: Terry Eastland, "The Mismatch Game," Weekly Standard, January 3, 2005.


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