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Affirmative Action & the Bar



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The efforts by Prof. Sander to obtain bar passage data disaggregated by race (referred to in the LA Times editorial posted by Jonah below) have been going on for well over a year. Last year several members of the U.S.Commission on Civil Rights wrote a letter to the California Bar urging release of the data. The Society of American Law Teachers urged the opposite. The California Bar sided with the latter.

Getting data on the extent to which preferences affect the graduation/bar passage rates of the purported beneficiaries is difficult. The information is guarded more closely than the codes to the nuclear football. Nonetheless, Prof. Sander has been able to pry some interesting data loose. The data suggest that the mismatch effect produced by affirmative action (i.e., students admitted as the result of preferences, who may have SATs 200 points below the school median, have difficulty competing) results in greater drop-out/bar failure rates for the students admitted with preferences.

The mismatch shows up in a variety of disciplines. Last week Prof. Sander testified before the U.S.Commission on Civil Rights regarding the status of minority students in STEM  (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs. Here’s just one of the interesting bits of information that jumped out: For every 100 white students who obtain a Ph.D (measured as a function of frequency in the general population) , there are 43 black students with a Ph.D. However, for every 100 white students with a Ph.D in a science, there are only 15 black students with a science Ph.D. In contrast, for every 100 white students with a science Ph.D there are 703 Asian students with one (again, in terms of relative frequency to the population).

There’s every indication that preferences may be hurting the intended beneficiaries, but affirmative action proponents are struggling mightily to keep the evidence from public view.



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