Tuesday, June 27, 2000

Study Says Law Schools Favor White Applicants Over Their Minority Peers With the Same Grades


The Chronicle of Higher Education, Tuesday, June 27, 2000




Law schools rely too much on a standardized admissions test, and in so doing penalize minority and female applicants, who are

less likely to be admitted than men with the same college grades, according to articles being published this month.


The articles, in The Yale Journal of Law and Feminism and The Texas Journal of Women and the Law, were based on a

study conducted by Testing for the Public, an educational research group based in Berkeley, Calif., that opposes giving too

much weight to standardized-test scores.


The author, William C. Kidder, a researcher with the testing group, examined admissions decisions from 1994 to 1998 at more than 175 law schools accredited by the American Bar Association. The data showed that among applicants with college

grade-point averages of 3.5 to 3.74, the acceptance rates were 85 percent for white applicants, 80 percent for Hispanic

applicants, and 76 percent for black applicants.


For applicants with G.P.A.'s of 2.25 to 2.49, white applicants were admitted 47 percent of the time, compared with 33 percent for Hispanic applicants and 28 percent for black applicants, according to data compiled by the Law School Admission

Council. The average LSAT scores were 154 for white applicants, 148 for Hispanic applicants, and 143 for black applicants.


Women were also accepted less frequently than men during that time period; overall, 69 per cent of men and 66 per cent of

women were accepted by at least one law school. The difference in their college grade-point averages is less than 1 percent,

Mr. Kidder said.


Those findings counter the perception that affirmative action unfairly punishes white, male applicants, he says.


"I've found that's a widespread misconception," Mr. Kidder said in an interview Monday. "The more closely you look at things, the more you realize that our conventional definition of merit favors whites and men."


The testing group is backing the law school of the University of Michigan, which is currently defending its affirmative-action

policies in a lawsuit brought by critics of racial preferences. (See an article from The Chronicle, October 30, 1998.)


Officials with the Law School Admission Council, which sponsors the LSAT, were unavailable for comment Monday, but in

January, the council released a guide that also suggests that law schools de-emphasize standardized test scores. The council

urged law schools to consider a broad range of criteria, including life experiences, to help ensure a diverse student body.



Copyright 2000 by The Chronicle of Higher Education