Do Racial Preferences Affect Minority Learning in Law Schools?

25 Pages Posted: 20 Apr 2013

Date Written: June 2013


An analysis of the The Bar Passage Study (BPS) reveals that minorities are both less likely to graduate from law school and less likely to pass the bar compared to whites even after adjustments are made for group differences in academic credentials. To account for these adjusted racial gaps in performance, some researchers put forward the “mismatch hypothesis,” which proposes that students learn less when placed in learning environments where their academic skills are much lower than the typical student. This article presents new results from the BPS that account for both measurement‐error bias and selection‐on‐unobservables bias that makes it more difficult to find a mismatch effect if in fact one exists. I find much more evidence for mismatch effects than previous research and report magnitudes from mismatch effects more than sufficient to explain racial gaps in performance.

Suggested Citation

Williams, E. Douglass, Do Racial Preferences Affect Minority Learning in Law Schools? (June 2013). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Vol. 10, Issue 2, pp. 171-195, 2013. Available at SSRN: or

E. Douglass Williams (Contact Author)

University of the South ( email )

735 University Avenue
Sewanee, TN 37383
United States

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