Some Oddities in a Law School "Diversity Study":

A "study" out of Columbia Law School, trumpeted in a law school press release, boldly states that based on LSAC data African American and Mexican American matriculation in law schools declined between 1992 and 2005, even though more law school slots are available overall due to the opening of new law schools.

There are some real oddities with this study. First, the LSAC apparently changed its data collection methods in 2000, and an LSAC page (go to the "Data" link) warns that data starting that year is not comparable to earlier data, which would seem to make the entire exercise of comparing data from 1992 to data in 2005 moot.

Second, that LSAC page shows 2,980 African American and 620 Mexican American matriculants to law school in 2005, consistent with the Columbia study. But a different LSAC web page shows a steady increase in Mexican American first-year students to 866, up from 807 in 1992 (and 586 in 1986), and a slight decrease in African American first-year students from 3,303 in 1992 (and 2,156 in 1986) to 3,132 in 2005 (rebounding to 3,516 in 2006). Similarly, this page shows Puerto Rican matriculants holding steady at just over 200, while this page shows a steep increase to 780.

Both pages show a very substantial increase in the number of "other Hispanics," to over 2,000--conveniently left out of the Columbia study--but again the exact numbers differ. And given that Mexican American and Puerto Ricans compose about three-quarters of the Hispanic population of the United States, can it really be that their numbers in law school are dwarfed by "other Hispanics"? Perhaps some Mexican Americans are checking off "Hispanic/Latino" instead of "Chicano/Mexican American"?

Thanks to my colleague Michael Krauss for the pointer.

Makes sense if a lot of the "other Hispanics" are foreign nationals, or if U.S. Latinos with other backgrounds are a lot more likely to attend law school than Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans. Anecdotally I'd say this is reasonable -- I met several Cuban-Americans in law school, as well as a lot of foreign nationals from South America, but only one Puerto Rican and no Mexican-Americans at all.
1.23.2008 3:06pm
[A]n LSAC page warns that data starting that year is not comparable to earlier data....

The link you've provided in that portion of your post does not say what you say it says.

1.23.2008 3:46pm
Perhaps word has gotten back to these communities that rates for bar passage for certain minority groups is low, and that law school is, therefore, a waste of time and money. Are there any statistics on whether the number of African American and Mexican American who actually pass the bar and become practicing lawyers has decreased, reamined steady, or increased over that time period?
1.23.2008 4:08pm
Elliot Reed (mail):
To me "Mexican Americans" sounds like it means "people who personally immigrated from Mexico." Is three quarters of the Hispanic population of the U.S. really first-generation Mexican immigrants? It sounds to me like you're using it to mean "people whose family background traces back to Mexicans" which doesn't make any sense to me. Would we call someone whose parents immigrated from France a "French American"?
1.23.2008 4:59pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
I remember in my day the test was a hispanic-sounding surname.

A good friend named Ramirez was thus hispanic, altho he was half Italian.

Another friend who was 2nd generation American and spoke with an accent was not hispanic, since his surname was O'Hagen. Perhaps descended from the Irish-American troops of the Mexican War who went over the hill and stayed.

And I knew one fellow who had a devil of a time getting into law school because his named sounded hispanic, but was in fact Italian. General admissions kept kicking his application over to minority admissions, which kept rejecting him. He finally got in.
1.23.2008 5:06pm
Jacob (mail):
Elliot: Yes, when such a person's French ancestry is the topic at hand, like it is for these Mexican-Americans. Have you really never heard anyone beyond first generation refer to himself or herself this way? Have you been to a bar on St. Patrick's Day?
1.23.2008 5:09pm

Would we call someone whose parents immigrated from France a "French American"?

Why not? French-Canadian is commonly used. African-American is even more analogous.
1.23.2008 5:27pm
Guestius Maximus:
@Jacob -- I can assure you that Elliot has never, in fact, been in a bar on St. Patty's day, and thus missed out on the legions of Irish-Americans (some portion of whom might even have Irish ancestors).
1.23.2008 5:57pm
TGGP (mail) (www):
Speaking of diversity check out this from Robin Hanson and this from Mencius Moldbug.
1.23.2008 7:35pm
Is there anyway to tell whether these matriculants are LLM or JD students? It seems like there might be a growing demand in Central and South America for LLMs in US law. Or a growth by law schools in offering such programs.
1.24.2008 3:52am
I suspect the study is a fraud based on personal experience.

While at Michigan Law during the run up to the Supreme Court the schhol paid for a survey of all students as to the 'worth' of students of color in class.

The questions were a push poll:

'Are there students of color in your class'

'Do those students bring contributions to the class'

'Do you like them'

and more in that vein, which demanded a yes answer in order not to insult said SoCs.

I and several friends heard about the survey and decided to answer straight 'nos' after the first question. I know five students said no on the raw questions and that was not reported in the U of M class results. It turns out we were 'outliers' and therefore not results.

I suspect the same ethical standard was used in studying this data.

When it comes to AA, no action is too dishonest at the university to get the results they are required to get.
1.24.2008 9:20am