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Affirmative Action in Law School Admissions: What Do Racial Preferences Do?

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  • Jesse Rothstein
  • Albert H. Yoon

Abstract

The Supreme Court has held repeatedly that race-based preferences in public university admissions are constitutional. But debates over the wisdom of affirmative action continue. Opponents of these policies argue that preferences are detrimental to minority students -- that by placing these students in environments that are too competitive, affirmative action hurts their academic and career outcomes. This article examines the so-called "mismatch" hypothesis in the context of law school admissions. We discuss the existing scholarship on mismatch, identifying methodological limitations of earlier attempts to measure the effects of affirmative action. Using a simpler, more robust analytical strategy, we find that the data are inconsistent with large mismatch effects, particularly with respect to employment outcomes. While moderate mismatch effects are possible, they are concentrated among the students with the weakest entering academic credentials. To put our estimates in context, we simulate admissions under race-blind rules. Eliminating affirmative action would dramatically reduce the number of black law students, particularly at the most selective schools. Many potentially successful black law students would be excluded, far more than the number who would be induced to pass the bar exam by the elimination of mismatch effects. Accordingly, we find that eliminating affirmative action would dramatically reduce the production of black lawyers.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14276.

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Date of creation: Aug 2008
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14276

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Cited by:
  1. Alon, Sigal & Malamud, Ofer, 2014. "The impact of Israel's class-based affirmative action policy on admission and academic outcomes," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 123-139.
  2. Arcidiacono, Peter & Aucejo, Esteban & Coate, Patrick & Hotz, V. Joseph, 2012. "Affirmative Action and University Fit: Evidence from Proposition 209," IZA Discussion Papers 7000, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Jesse Rothstein & Albert Yoon, 2008. "Mismatch in Law School," NBER Working Papers 14275, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Kala Krishna & Alexander Tarasov, 2013. "Affirmative Action: One Size Does Not Fit All," NBER Working Papers 19546, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Christopher Cotton & Brent R. Hickman & Joseph P. Price, 2014. "Affirmative Action and Human Capital Investment: Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 20397, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Bertrand, Marianne & Hanna, Rema & Mullainathan, Sendhil, 2010. "Affirmative action in education: Evidence from engineering college admissions in India," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 94(1-2), pages 16-29, February.
  7. Francis, Andrew M. & Tannuri-Pianto, Maria, 2012. "The redistributive equity of affirmative action: Exploring the role of race, socioeconomic status, and gender in college admissions," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 45-55.
  8. Maria Eduarda Tannuri Pianto & Andrew Francis, 2011. "The Redistributive Efficacy Ofaffirmative Action: Exploring The Role Of Race And Socioeconomic Statusin College Admissions," Anais do XXXVIII Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 38th Brazilian Economics Meeting], ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pósgraduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of 218, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pósgraduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
  9. Danny Yagan, 2014. "Affirmative Action Bans and Black Admission Outcomes: Selection-Corrected Estimates from UC Law Schools," NBER Working Papers 20361, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Peter Arcidiacono & Esteban Aucejo & Patrick Coate & V. Joseph Hotz, 2013. "Affirmative action and university fit: evidence from Proposition 209," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library 51565, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.

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