NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


November 9, 2004

African-Americans who benefit from affirmative action are being admitted into law schools where they find themselves achieving lower grades and failing the bar exam in higher numbers than they would have without the preferences, says Richard H. Sander, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Sander relied primarily on data that the Law School Admission Council collected on 27,000 students who entered 160 U.S. law schools in 1991, including their grades in college, test scores and bar exam results. He found:

  • Close to half of the black law students ended up in the bottom tenth of their class.
  • African-Americans were more than twice as likely than whites to drop out -- and more than six times as likely to fail state bar exams after multiple tries.
  • Some 86 percent of blacks currently admitted to law school would still gain admission without preferences but they would attend less competitive schools, where they would compile stronger records.
  • The remaining 14 percent -- 500 to 600 a year -- would likely drop out or fail the bar.

To preserve diversity, Sander recommends setting modest goals for racial preferences -- about 4 percent in law school classes -- instead of aiming for twice that figure, which he says is typical. Less selective schools would be able to meet that figure without affirmative action, he argues.

Sander claims that abolishing preferences wouldn't reduce the number of black lawyers. In fact, he estimates it would increase the number of black attorneys emerging from the class of 2004 by 8 percent and the number of those passing the bar the first time by 22 percent.

Source: John Hechinger, "Critics Assail Study of Race, Law Students." Wall Street Journal, November 5, 2005.

For text: Wall Street Journal: (subscription required) Critics Assail Study of Race, Law Students.


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