For blacks graduating from middle-rank law schools, racial preferences are costly, writes Rick Sander, a UCLA law professor and visiting Volokh blogger who’s relying on national data on young lawyers’ education, jobs and pay.

Black students enter law school with lower grades and test scores, Sanders writes in part one of his opus. Part two finds that black law students earn lower grades have a higher drop-out rate and are much more likely to fail the bar exam.

At American law schools that use large racial preferences, half of all black students end up in the bottom tenth of their first-year class. Put a little differently, the median black student performs in the first-year at about the 7th percentile of the median white student.

Black law graduates who’ve earned poor grades have poor career prospects, part three concludes.

Law school prestige is important, but for law graduates as a whole, good grades are a much more powerful predictor of getting a higher-paying job than the eliteness of one’s school.

What this implies about racial preferences is not completely obvious. One needs to estimate both how much of an “eliteness” boost the typical black applicant gets in the admissions process, and how much the average black student’s law school GPA would go up if admissions were race-blind and the student went to a lower-ranked school. Both calculations are difficult, and subject to some debate. That said, I think the general pattern is fairly clear. Anywhere outside the most elite schools, new black lawyers are hurt by preferences more than they are helped. For a typical black graduating from a middle-ranked law school, the grades/prestige tradeoff that goes with affirmative action lowers her earnings by about twenty percent.

At top 10 law schools, the gains from prestige offset the grade disadvantage.

Black lawyers are more likely to take government jobs and to work in small firms. Some of this undoubtedly is due to preference, writes Sander, but lower grades also are a factor.

Not surprisingly, Discriminations has more on Sander’s study.

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  1. Just another example of the unintended, and unforseen consequences of social engineering. With all of its good intent, it just doesn’t work.

  2. Steve, don’t you know that this is just more racism on the part of the law schools, since the theory of affirmative action is perfectly sound and unquestionable by anyone who is for civil rights? (Sarcasm Off)

    Seriously, the people who support affirmative action and other social engineering refuse to listen to the evidence that says it doesn’t work because in their mind the theory is correct regardless of how it pans out in reality. “If minorities aren’t doing well, it must be racism or something because our theory can’t be wrong!”

    It has been said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Just something to think about…

  3. Adrian,

    I obviously agree with your assessment. Further to your point, with the evidence weighing in against affirmative action, I have to question the motives of those who defend it. It can’t be only to advance the cause of minorities, since evidence shows no benefits to affirmative action. Rather, I have to believe that some of the motivation in defense of these plans is just due to spite and the desire to stick it to those who succeed on their merit alone. I also believe that affirmative action is an industry in itself, thus providing those who defend it a livelihood and power beyond means.

  4. america4all says:

    Steve and Rick, don’t you know that this is just more racism on the part of the law schools, since the theory of affirmative action is perfectly sound and unquestionable by anyone who is for civil rights? (NO SARCASM intended.)

    We have a HISTORY of racism in this country – FACT. There is a history of preference in this country – FACT. For years and years and years and even now there has been, whether you call it affirmative action or not, a preference toward caucasian people.

    If life is unfair, unfairness should be distributed ALL around.

    Obviously, I don’t agree with your assessment, and more than anything I find it sad. I also find it depressing that there are so many who would like to hold on to these views, and suggest that they are concerned with fairness. If historically there has been disparity (and there is) and that the status quo disproportionately benefits caucasians, to be fair, these people should try to put forth some proposals to fix this before they try to tear down the only suggested attempt at a remedy.

    It’s really, really sad.