Tuesday, September 23, 2008

LA Times: Give The Professor The Data

1. LA TIMES (9/26/2007) -- Affirmative action enables hundreds of minority law students to attend more elite institutions than their credentials alone would allow. Data from across the country suggest that when law students attend schools where their credentials (including LSAT scores and college grades) are much lower than the median at the school, they actually learn less, are less likely to graduate and are nearly twice as likely to fail the bar exam than they would have been had they gone to less elite schools. This is known as the "mismatch effect."

Data from one selective California law school from 2005 show that students who received large preferences were 10 times as likely to fail the California bar as students who received no preference. After the passage of Proposition 209, which limited the use of racial preferences at California's public universities, in-state bar passage rates for blacks and Latinos went up relative to out-of-state bar passage rates. To the extent that students of color moved from UC schools to less elite ones, the post-209 experience is consistent with the mismatch theory.

In general, research shows that 50% of black law students end up in the bottom 10th of their class, and that they are more than twice as likely to drop out as white students. Only one in three black students who start law school graduate and pass the bar on their first attempt; most never become lawyers. How much of this might be attributable to the mismatch effect of affirmative action is still a matter of debate, but the problem cries out for attention.

~UCLA Law Professor Richard Sander, "Does affirmative action hurt minorities? Racial preferences may be setting up many black and Latino law students for failure."

2. LA TIMES (9/8/2008) -- Two years ago, Richard Sander published research suggesting that racial preferences at law firms might be responsible for black lawyers' high rate of attrition and difficulty making partner. He hypothesized that in the interest of promoting diversity, law firms sometimes hired black lawyers who were underqualified, and that when there was a "credentials gap" between black and white lawyers at a firm, black lawyers often were less likely to advance and more likely to leave the firm.

The research stirred debate throughout the legal community, and Sander said he was surprised at the vehemence with which people attacked his motives. A former Volunteers in Service to America participant, fair-housing activist and campaigner for Chicago's first black mayor, Sander, who is white, insisted he was simply trying to examine an important question.

Now the professor has waded into another controversy. Sander says his goal this time is to examine whether law schools set up many affirmative action beneficiaries for failure by admitting them into rigorous academic environments in which they are ill-prepared to compete. He proposes to study almost 30 years of data on State Bar of California exam-takers. In the end, he hopes to explain why, as reported in a Law School Admissions Council study in the 1990s, blacks are four times as likely as whites to fail the bar exam on the first try.

The state bar has refused to facilitate his probe. Citing privacy concerns, the bar has denied him access to detailed demographic data collected from exam-takers since 1972.

~From the article "Does affirmative action help or hurt African American law students?"

3. LA TIMES EDITORIAL (9/17/2008) -- A California professor studying affirmative action should have access to law school performance statistics.


At 9/24/2008 5:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The blog should just say I hate liberals, democrats and blacks. The political bias on this blog can be smelled from blocks away and it sure stinks.

Who said only liberals teach in our schools?

At 9/24/2008 7:33 AM, Blogger daltonsbriefs said...

Gotta love Mr. Anonymous, disregard the facts and attack the teacher.

Mark, I think it's highly probable that "affordable housing" initiatives will feature these same results. When we disregarded the underlying fundamentals to give loans based on reverse redlining or race, we'll find mismatched credit risk.

At 9/24/2008 8:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Sander did not say that blacks lacked the ability to become lawyers.

The mismatch problem he encountered in the data put students in programs where they were out of their depth. Had they gone to one of the less prestigious lawschools where their abilities were similar to the other students, they would have passed in far greater numbers.

Considering that the student ends up with $200k in debt, and no law degree to show for their efforts, isn't it important that such a problem is identified and corrected going forward. If Sander is correct, don't we owe black students the best possible opportunity to succeed?

Without access to the data, how can one determine whether or not this really is happening.

Sander's previous work puts him squarely in the liberal camp. That he looks at the data without ideological blinders makes him a researcher rather than an ideologue.

Certainly, there are legitimate privacy concerns which need to be addressed. There is also a potential for lawsuits by former students given the litigious nature of the U.S. It is easy to understand why few people wish to open this potential can of worms.

At 9/24/2008 8:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


If it's as politically biased as you say, why are you attracted to this website like a bee to honey?

Isn't kinda like putting your head in a vat of chip fat?

At 9/24/2008 9:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You might wish to consider what happened on Greg Mankiw's blog.

After a series of intense personal attacks against the host and other posters, Prof. Mankiw decided to turn off the comments feature which was taking major amounts of time to respond to attacks and moderate the comments. Buggy Professor has described a similar experience.

Having a forum to discuss ideas is a privilege not a right. It depends on our behavior not only toward the host but toward each other. That goes for OBH & Juandos as well.

Would very much appreciate if you could confine yourself to the topic and debunking the arguments posted. It should be possible to poke holes in the logic, and data without trashing others. It is easy to get frustrated and occassionally lose one's temper but we risk losing this forum in the process.

We do not have control over the selection of material and our host certainly has a preference for free market economics and U.S. content. Personally, I would like more emphasis on globalization and international content. Can't have everything.

Just something for you to consider. Have a good day :)

At 9/24/2008 11:09 AM, Blogger Shawn said...

anon...I didn't think we still shot the messenger.

At 9/24/2008 3:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The validity of Sander's research aside, the facts are that state and federal law, privacy rights and confidentiality agreements prevent the State Bar from turning over the data that Sander is requesting.

The Bar decision to deny Sander's request was not an ideological one. It was based on the law and out of respect for the privacy rights of the bar exam takers.

Sander is pushing the notion that his research can only be done with the confidential data from the bar exams. Nothing is stopping him from collecting permission-based data of bar exam takers. Other studies have done so.

And while the Bar's denial was not based on ideology, Sander's research certainly seems so. The conservative Searle Freedom Trust provided a $1.2M grant for it.

How is that objective science?

At 9/24/2008 5:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keith, I don't understand your comment. The data can be packaged without names, just race, schools, test scores and other objective data. So who's privacy is violated with that approach.

After all, this is what the feds do with the census data.

At 9/24/2008 10:35 PM, Blogger juandos said...

anon @ 5:06 AM whining again: "The blog should just say I hate liberals, democrats and blacks"...

Well considering that YOU anon are the one who brought up hate, here's a reason you can hate them all yourself: Rep. Alcee Hastings told an audience of Jewish Democrats Wednesday that they should be wary of Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin because “anybody toting guns and stripping moose don’t care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks.”...

How can one respect clueless liberals like Hastings who also happens to be black and a Democrat?

At 9/25/2008 3:17 AM, Blogger juandos said...

"And while the Bar's denial was not based on ideology, Sander's research certainly seems so. The conservative Searle Freedom Trust provided a $1.2M grant for it.

How is that objective science?

So how's the decision of LIBERAL RETREADS of the California Supreme Court objective?

Then again Keith Kamisugi of the ever questionable but thoroughly libtard Equal Justice Society is hardly someone capable of making a call on this...

Don't you have any illegal aliens to pander to Kamisugi?


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