AccessLex Institute Research
"Freedom Is Not Enough...": Affirmative Action and J.D. Completion Among Underrepresented People of Color
affirmative action, race-neutral alternatives, student demographics, law school diversity
In Fall 2022, the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the future of affirmative action in higher education. Initially, affirmative action policies were adopted to give equal opportunity to communities who have been and continue to be harmed by discriminatory systems and practices. As we wait for the Court’s decision, it is crucial to understand how existent affirmative action bans impact underrepresented people of color’s (uPOC) graduate/professional degree attainment. Data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the Center for Reproductive Rights is analyzed to determine whether affirmative action bans decrease the proportion of uPOC completing their law degrees (or enrolling in graduate programs). We utilize a differences-in-differences (DiD) estimation method, which compares pre- and post-ban rates of degree completion (and graduate school enrollment, where applicable) in states that implemented an affirmative action ban to those states without one. Using this technique, we find that the implementation of a ban decreases the proportion of uPOC completing their law degrees and enrolling in graduate programs. These effects are both practically and statistically significant. Despite the partisan controversy surrounding race-conscious admissions, our findings add to empirical research demonstrating the detrimental impact of eliminating affirmative action in college and university admissions.