28 August 2007

Something Smells: The Unfortunate and Unintended Consequences of Affirmative Action

Affirmative Action appears to be one of those open-ended, never-ending social programs that promises to be impossible to phase out, despite doing more harm than good.
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.

Easily the most startling conclusion of his research: Mr. Sander calculated that there are fewer black attorneys today than there would have been if law schools had practiced color-blind admissions--about 7.9% fewer by his reckoning. He identified the culprit as the practice of admitting minority students to schools for which they are inadequately prepared.

...Some of the same people who argue Mr. Sander's data are inconclusive are now actively trying to prevent him from conducting follow-up research that might yield definitive answers. If racial preferences really are causing more harm than good, they apparently don't want you--or anyone else--to know.

Take William Kidder, a University of California staff advisor and co-author of a frequently cited attack of Sander's study. When Mr. Sander and his co-investigators sought bar passage data from the State Bar of California that would allow analysis by race, Mr. Kidder passionately argued that access should be denied, because disclosure "risks stigmatizing African American attorneys." At the same time, the Society of American Law Teachers, which leans so heavily to the left it risks falling over sideways, gleefully warned that the state bar would be sued if it cooperated with Mr. Sander.

Sadly, the State Bar's Committee of Bar Examiners caved under the pressure. The committee members didn't formally explain their decision to deny Mr. Sander's request for these data

... While some students will outperform their entering academic credentials, just as some students will underperform theirs, most students will perform in the range that their academic credentials predict. As a result, in elite law schools, 51.6% of black students had first-year grade point averages in the bottom 10% of their class as opposed to only 5.6% of white students. Nearly identical performance gaps existed at law schools at all levels. This much is uncontroversial.

Supporters of race-based admissions argue that, despite the likelihood of poor grades, minority students are still better off accepting the benefit of a preference and graduating from a more prestigious school. But Mr. Sander's research suggests that just the opposite may be true--that law students, no matter what their race, may learn less, not more, when they enroll in schools for which they are not academically prepared. Students who could have performed well at less competitive schools may end up lost and demoralized. As a result, they may fail the bar.

... Mr. Sander calculated that if law schools were to use color-blind admissions policies, fewer black law students would be admitted to law schools (3,182 students instead of 3,706), but since those who were admitted would be attending schools where they have a substantial likelihood of doing well, fewer would fail or drop out (403 vs. 670). In the end, more would pass the bar on their first try (1,859 vs. 1,567) and more would eventually pass the bar (2,150 vs. 1,981) than under the current system of race preferences.

...A friend of mine wasted a decade of his life going to law school and working as a hospital orderly while flunking the bar exam nine or ten times before giving up. If he'd become a salesman out of college, he might have been making six figures by then.

For blacks, the 43% of black law students who never pass the bar exam represent a well-above average group who could have used their 20s to do something more productive.

Law school is just one example of this phenomenon. It would be nice if researchers had full access to the data necessary to examine expensive social policies such as affirmative action, and other "diversity" policies. But they are simply too explosive, politically. Which means that the status quo will continue, regardless of efficacy, regardless of unintended consequences.


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Blogger M. Simon said...

Fortunately science and technology have not been totally infected. Yet.

Monday, 03 September, 2007  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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