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Is African American Enrollment in Law School Down?:

One frequently hears that the enrollment of African American students in law school has "declined," calling for desperate measures such as the ABA's new "diversity" standard. [See, e.g., a statement from Marian M. Yim, Chairperson, Education Subcommittee, ABA Council on Racial and Ethnic Justice, stating that there is a "growing crising [sic] in declining enrollment of African-American and Latino students in law school."] Putting aside the relevant legal and policies issues, is it true that African American enrollment has declined? Yes, but. Data on the ABA's website (if someone can tell me how to reproduce the chart in this post, I will) shows that enrollment of African-American students leaped from 5,894 in 1986 to 9,681 in 1994, a better than 60% increase in just eight years. Enrollment then declined slightly, reaching a low of 9,271 in 1998, and then began to rise slowly again. In 2004, the last year for which data is available, the total reached 9,488.

In short, African-American enrollment has indeed "declined" if you use 1994 as the baseline. On the other hand, if you use 1986 as a baseline, African-American enrollment has risen by over 60%, but the increase essentially came in one large boom between 1986 and 1994. If that increase had happened gradually between 1986 and 2004, the trend line would show a steady increase in African-American students. So it's correct to state that enrollment of African-American students has declined since 1994, but it's a bit misleading if you don't acknowledge that the 1994 statistics reflected a seemingly anomalous large increase (why the sudden increase at that time? I don't have a clue) over a very short period of time.

Academic Year No. of Schools Reporting 1st Year 2nd Year 3rd Year 4th Year TOTAL
2004-2005 185/188 3,457 2,873 2,845 313 9,488
2003-2004 184/187 3,300 3,008 2,787 342 9,437
2001-2002 181/184 3,474 2,867 2,737 334 9,412
2000-2001 180/183 3,402 2,890 2,757 305 9,354

1999-2000

179/182

3,353

2,903

2,700

316

9,272

1998-99

178/181

3,478

2,728

2,754

311

9,271

1997-98

175/178

3,126

2,752

2,887

367

9,132

1996-97

176/179

3,223

3,013

2,991

315

9,542

1995-96

175/178

3,474

3,161

2,855

289

9,542

1994-95

174/177

3,600

3,000

2,771

310

9,681

1993-94

173/176

3,455

2,846

2,573

282

9,156

1992-93

173/176

3,303

2,603

2,465

267

8,638

1991-92

173/176

3,169

2,556

2,196

228

8,149

1990-91

172/175

2,982

2,222

2,023

205

7,432

1989-90

172/175

2,628

2,128

1,816

219

6,791

1988-89

171/174

2,463

1,913

1,728

217

6,321

1987-88

171/175

2,339

1,761

1,690

238

6,028

1986-87

171/175

2,159

1,800

1,735

200

5,894

1985-86

172/175

1,800

1,838

1,791

240

6,052

1984-85

171/174

1,735

1,878

1,686

177

5,955

1983-84

170/173

1,735

1,813

1,711

196

5,967

1982-83

169/172

2,217

1,827

1,623

185

5,852

1981-82

169/172

2,238

1,793

1,596

162

5,789

1980-81

168/171

2,144

1,684

1,531

146

5,506

1979-80

166/169

2,002

1,647

1,438

170

5,257

1978-79

164/167

2,021

1,565

1,572

192

5,350

1977-78

160/163

1,945

1,648

1,508

203

5,304

1976-77

160/163

2,128

1,654

1,488

233

5,303

1975-76

160/163

2,045

1,511

1,452

119

5,127

1974-75

154/157

1,934

1,587

1,329

145

4,995

1973-74

147/151

2,066

1,443

1,207

101

4,817

1972-73

144/149

1,919

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