Examining Gender and Race Intersectionality in Public Law School Admissions and Enrollment: A Multi-Institutional Analysis
law school diversity, race, gender, law school admissions, intersectionality, access to legal education, LSAT score
In many ways law schools are gatekeepers to positions of influence or power in U.S. society, including state and federal judicial systems, legislative and executive branches of government, and a variety of industries. Law schools help prepare social leaders who may advocate for greater gender and racial equity and justice in our society in ways that are unique from undergraduate programs, master’s programs, medical schools, and even research doctoral programs. Although scholars have long sought to address the underrepresentation of women or racial minorities in law schools and the legal profession, they tend to examine gender and race separately. This study focuses on law school admissions and enrollment among women of color, particularly Black and Hispanic women. It is important to improve access for underrepresented women of color to law schools as an equity issue within legal education and for the preparation of civic leaders. Additionally, this study is important for considering whether law schools achieve the educational benefits of diversity. Based on our findings, we argue that women of color are underrepresented, at least in part, because they are less likely than White men to be admitted to 25 public law schools—not less likely to enroll after being admitted. Unlike underrepresented women of color, Black and Hispanic men were more likely than White men to be admitted to public law schools. However, Black and Hispanic men were less likely to enroll, conditional on admission, than White men. Toward the end of the paper, we discuss the limitations of the study and implications for diversifying legal education.