It Matters How and When You Ask: Self-Reported Race/Ethnicity of Incoming Law Students
student demographics, law school diversity, race and ethnicity
The high-stakes nature of law school testing and admissions puts a premium on the student data presented to admissions committees, such as essays, academic and work history, and student background characteristics including race/ethnicity. 4,472 law school-bound students self-identified their race/ethnicity using (a) a mutually exclusive “choose one” format during registration for the law school admissions test, and (b) an elaborated “check-all-that-apply” format as part of a national survey administered during the first weeks at their chosen law school. Student multiraciality that was masked by the first assessment was associated with self-reported ethnic identity, discrimination experience, intergroup contact, race-related attitudes, academic performance, and trait ratings, as compared to monoracial majority students. A different profile of findings was observed across these constructs when multiracial students were compared to monoracial majority students, to monoracial minority students, and within group. These correlates also predicted the likelihood of changing identification across the two assessment contexts. These findings support the continued study of specific combinations of multiracial groups, fluidity of multiracial identities, and context effects that influence race/ethnicity self-categorizations.