Peer Effects in Affirmative Action: Evidence from Law Student Performance

30 Pages Posted: 8 May 2007 Last revised: 25 Jul 2017

See all articles by John R. Lott

John R. Lott

Crime Prevention Research Center

J. Mark Ramseyer

Harvard Law School

Date Written: March 1, 2007


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 sixteen years at the other. 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 (US, Canada).

JEL Classification: I2, J7, K19

Suggested Citation

Lott, John R. and Ramseyer, J. Mark, Peer Effects in Affirmative Action: Evidence from Law Student Performance (March 1, 2007). International Review of Law and Economics, Vol. 31, No. 1, 2011, Harvard Law and Economics Discussion Paper No. 581, Available at SSRN: or

John R. Lott (Contact Author)

Crime Prevention Research Center ( email )

PO Box 2293
1100 W Kent Ave
Missoula, MT 59801
United States

J. Mark Ramseyer

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-4878 (Phone)
617-496-6118 (Fax)

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