Assessing the potential impact of a nationwide class-based affirmative action system. (English) Zbl 1332.91093

Summary: We examine the possible consequences of a change in law school admissions in the United States from an affirmative action system based on race to one based on socioeconomic class. Using data from the 1991–1996 Law School Admission Council Bar Passage Study, students were reassigned attendance by simulation to law school tiers by transferring the affirmative action advantage for black students to students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The hypothetical academic outcomes for the students were then multiply-imputed to quantify the uncertainty of the resulting estimates. The analysis predicts dramatic decreases in the numbers of black students in top law school tiers, suggesting that class-based affirmative action is insufficient to maintain racial diversity in prestigious law schools. Furthermore, there appear to be no statistically significant changes in the graduation and bar passage rates of students in any demographic group. The results thus provide evidence that, other than increasing their representation in upper tiers, current affirmative action policies relative to a socioeconomic-based system neither substantially help nor harm minority academic outcomes, contradicting the predictions of the “mismatch” hypothesis, which asserts otherwise.


91D20 Mathematical geography and demography
62P25 Applications of statistics to social sciences
62F07 Statistical ranking and selection procedures
62F15 Bayesian inference
91F10 History, political science
62H25 Factor analysis and principal components; correspondence analysis
62-07 Data analysis (statistics) (MSC2010)
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