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Do Racial Preferences Affect Minority Learning in Law Schools?


  • Doug Williams

Frank W. Wilson Professor of Economics, University of the South, Sewanee, TN 37383; email:


An analysis of the The Bar Passage Study (BPS) reveals that minorities are both less likely to graduate from law school and less likely to pass the bar compared to whites even after adjustments are made for group differences in academic credentials. To account for these adjusted racial gaps in performance, some researchers put forward the “mismatch hypothesis,” which proposes that students learn less when placed in learning environments where their academic skills are much lower than the typical student. This article presents new results from the BPS that account for both measurement-error bias and selection-on-unobservables bias that makes it more difficult to find a mismatch effect if in fact one exists. I find much more evidence for mismatch effects than previous research and report magnitudes from mismatch effects more than sufficient to explain racial gaps in performance.