Getting a Lawyer While Black: A Field Experiment
Lewis and Clark Law Review 24.1 (2019)
53 Pages Posted: 4 Jun 2019
Date Written: May 16, 2019
In this Article, I present new evidence that African-Americans face unique impediments in obtaining access to counsel. Using a randomized audit design, I show that those with black-sounding names receive only half the responses of those with white-sounding names regarding requests for legal representation. I design a larger, follow-up experiment to evaluate variations on the theory of “statistical discrimination,” that lawyers are merely responding to economically-relevant signals correlated with race. I find no evidence supporting the expectations of the statistical discrimination theory, but some evidence that racial preferences matter. I conclude by presenting a more nuanced theory of racialized service rationing that is consistent with the body of experimental evidence presented and is supported by observational data. I discuss the implications of these theories for potential policy responses, including debates about affirmative action and the size of the legal profession.
Keywords: discrimination, access to justice, race, law and society, law and economics, law and politics
JEL Classification: K4, J71
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation