Beyond the U.S. News Index: A Better Measure of Law School Diversity
The U.S. News & World Report publishes a diversity index along with its annual ranking of U.S. law schools. Race and ethnicity are the only factors the magazine uses to measure law school diversity. But is this a meaningful measure of student difference? Are race and ethnicity all that count or are there other differences that contribute to a richer educational experience for students and better outcomes for law schools? In a 2011 Iowa Law Review article, Kevin Johnson argues that law school diversity is not limited to only race and ethnicity. He further argues that law school diversity, defined broadly, is critical to the success of legal education; both for the students and the institutions that serve them Yet, the epistemological question remains: how do law schools know how diverse their student bodies are? If law student diversity is more than just racial diversity, the current U.S. News index is incomplete and fails to provide a meaningful law school diversity measure. This essay proposes an improved diversity index that captures more of the differences that matter to the success of both law students and law schools. The essay begins by very briefly recapping some of Dean Johnson’s compelling arguments for why law school diversity (in its broader conception) is critical, and why measuring it is so important. It then examines the types of differences shown to produce better outcomes in heterogeneous groups, and explains the methodology behind the proposed cognitive diversity index.