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


Jesse Rothstein


University of California, Berkeley, The Richard & Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy; University of California, Berkeley, College of Letters & Science, Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Albert Yoon


University of Toronto - Faculty of Law

March 12, 2007

Princeton Law and Public Affairs Working Paper No. 07-005

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.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 72

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Date posted: May 10, 2007  

Suggested Citation

Rothstein, Jesse and Yoon, Albert, Affirmative Action in Law School Admissions: What Do Racial Preferences Do? (March 12, 2007). Princeton Law and Public Affairs Working Paper No. 07-005. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=983027 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.983027

Contact Information

Jesse Rothstein (Contact Author)
University of California, Berkeley, The Richard & Rhoda Goldman School of Public Policy ( email )
2607 Hearst Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720-7320
United States
HOME PAGE: http://gsppi.berkeley.edu/faculty/jrothstein
University of California, Berkeley, College of Letters & Science, Department of Economics ( email )
549 Evans Hall #3880
Berkeley, CA 94720-3880
United States
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Albert Yoon
University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )
78 and 84 Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M5S 2C5
Canada
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