Does Affirmative Action Do What It Should?
March 16, 2013 • Dan Slater, New York Times Magazine
In the lead story in the NYT’s Sunday Review, Dan Slater undertakes a careful inquiry of the debate over “mismatch” in higher education. His conclusion: “If affirmative action continues — either until Justice O’Connor’s 2028 horizon or beyond — then the results from California and the Bar Passage Study suggest it’s worth a closer, numbers-based look at the consequences, for everyone.. ” Read Article
The New Affirmative Action
“In another time, it wouldn’t have been too hard to guess where Frances Harris would have ended up going to college. She has managed to do very well in very difficult circumstances, and she is African-American. Her high school, in the Oak Park neighborhood of Sacramento, was shut down as an irremediable failure the spring before her freshman year, then reopened months later as a charter school. Midway through high school, her father developed heart problems and became an irritable fixture around the home. She also discovered that he was not actually her biological father. That was a man named Leroy who, when her mother took Harris to see him, simply said his name was George and waited for her to leave. In Harris’s senior year, her mother lost her job at a nursing home and the family filed for bankruptcy.”
A Mismatch Effect? Affirmative Action Policies Need Closer Study
“The best data in the nation for studying any mismatch effect in law schools reside in the archives of the State Bar of
California, the state agency that administers the bar exam and oversees the conduct of lawyers. Starting in the 1980s, the California bar has maintained careful records on the backgrounds of bar exam-takers and their performance on its tests. With this data, it is possible to compare how students with similar college grades and LSAT scores do on the bar when they’ve attended different law schools and experienced different types of legal education. It is also possible to more deeply compare the bar performance of minority students before and after Proposition 209 and use other careful techniques to test whether the mismatch effect exists.”
Affirmative Action Backfires
“Three years ago, UCLA law professor Richard Sander published an explosive, fact-based study of the consequences of affirmative action in American law schools in the Stanford Law Review. Most of his findings were grim, and they caused dismay among many of the champions of affirmative action — and indeed, among those who were not.”
Lawyers Debate Why Blacks Lag at Major Firms
“Thanks to vigorous recruiting and pressure from corporate clients, black lawyers are well represented now among new associates at the nation’s most prestigious law firms. But they remain far less likely to stay at the firms or to make partner than their white counterparts. A recent study says grades help explain the gap. To ensure diversity among new associates, the study found, elite law firms hire minority lawyers with, on average, much lower grades than white ones. That may, the study says, set them up to fail.”
For Blacks in Law School, Can Less Be More?
“One would have thought, given the decades of ardent debate over affirmative action in higher education, that the main axes of the dispute had been established. Defenders of racial preferences say that they compensate for historical wrongs, ensure vibrant and varied campus discourse and help create minority role models and leaders. Opponents say preferences are nothing but a reverse form of discrimination that stereotypes and stigmatizes minority students. But a recent study published in The Stanford Law Review by Richard H. Sander, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, has found a new way to inflame the debate. In fact, the study has ignited what may be the fiercest dispute over affirmative action since 2003, when the Supreme Court found some forms of it to be constitutional.”