Stunningly bad results for African-Americans on state bar exams


Empirical results questioning some benefits from Affirmative Action in Law Schools

Mark Ramseyer and I have a new paper that might be considered somewhat controversial.

Peer Effects in Affirmative Action: Evidence from Law Student Performace

In the Grutter case, Justice O'Connor suggested that universities could justifiably try to enroll a critical mass of minority students. Enroll fewer than that critical mass, reason some observers, and minority students will feel too marginalized to perform at their highest levels. In this article, we test whether minority students perform better with other students from their ethnic group in a class or school. To do so, we assemble data on the ethnicity and performance of each student in all classes at two law schools - for three years at one, and for sixteen years at the other. We find no consistent evidence that having additional students from one's ethnic group raises a student's performance. Instead, we find some evidence that having additional ethnic peers lowers performance - albeit by a very small amount.



O’Connor on the possible end of Affirmative Action

Sandra Day O’Connor, the retired associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and author of the majority opinion in a landmark 2003 decision upholding the legality of race-conscious college admissions, acknowledged in a speech today that she is not confident the court had preserved affirmative action in higher education for much longer.

Speaking at Washington’s National Press Club at a symposium on diversity at colleges, Justice O’Connor said, “The future of affirmative action in higher education today is certainly muddy.” As the basis for her observation, she cited Michigan voters’ adoption last fall of an amendment to that state’s Constitution banning affirmative-action preferences, as well as the passage of similar measures in California in 1996 and Washington State in 1998, and current efforts to place preference bans on several states’ ballots in 2008.. . .

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Justice Clarence Thomas on the harm from affirmative action in schooling

I strongly recommend reading the entire interview. Given some recent research that I have been doing on peer effects in universities, this part caught my attention:

There's a lot of discomfort with learning from each other. What I learned by being the only black in my school was that it's hard but it's necessary. The rest of the world isn't going to accommodate you. You can't just go into a cocoon. At some point, you have to deal with it and the world has to deal with you. If others are comfortable with being over here, while you're comfortable with being over there, it makes it less likely that learning will occur. It's certainly comfortable because you don't have to put up with conflicts and the discomfort of being one of the few blacks on campus. But it's not as easy as the theorists think it is. They should try to be the only one in an environment. I had been the only black student in my high school. I knew what that was about.