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Peer effects in affirmative action: Evidence from law student performance

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  • Lott Jr., John R.
  • Ramseyer, J. Mark
  • Standen, Jeffrey

Abstract

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 16 years at the other. Although these schools enrolled a smaller fraction of African-Americans than most law schools, they are located in states with a much smaller fraction of African-Americans than in the United States as a whole. There is also a large amount of variation in the percent African-American across classes. At these schools, 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.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal International Review of Law and Economics.

Volume (Year): 31 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 (March)
Pages: 1-15

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Handle: RePEc:eee:irlaec:v:31:y:2011:i:1:p:1-15

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/irle

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Keywords: Affirmative action Critical mass;

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  1. Pedro Carneiro & James J. Heckman & Dimitriy V. Masterov, 2003. "Labor Market Discrimination and Racial Differences in Premarket Factors," NBER Working Papers 10068, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Audrey Light & Wayne Strayer, 2000. "Determinants of College Completion: School Quality or Student Ability?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 35(2), pages 299-332.
  3. James Heckman & Pedro Carneiro, 2003. "Human Capital Policy," NBER Working Papers 9495, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Alan Krueger, 2000. "Economic Considerations and Class Size," Working Papers 826, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
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