Law School Discussion

Why Affirmative Action is Justified


Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #160 on: July 12, 2006, 05:56:26 AM »
You'll have to explain this further.  The stereotype threat exists -- it is real.  It affects a significant amount of black candidates (as these studies demonstrate).  I already agreed with you that AA is not an ideal blanket solution, but considering that a significant proportion of this demographic is affected by the problem, I think the solution is reasonable.

Whoa there.  The studies indicated the stereotype threat affects certain candidates for certain aptitudes  under certain conditions and when that prime is removed, the threat no longer exists.  There are three variables involved here, and I haven't seen any discussion of these relevant to the aptitudes and conditions of the LSAT.

For example, the threat of black subjests was removed by stating it was a psychological rather than skills based assessment.  Would you be willing to place wagers on an LSAT-style experiment where candidates were told the test was a psychological assessment? According to the OP's studies and based solely on the significance of the stereothreat attributed as justification for AA, the black-white gap in performance could be removed.  If it doesn't normalize the stereotype threat is shown to be lacking in significance and the justification for AA on that basis falls apart.  I certainly wouldn't bet on it normalizing.

Whats entertaining, is everyone knows that's hogwash.  AA with roots in SES is definitely more sensible.  I'd put my money on any group whose parents/groundparents are physicists/doctors/lawyers/engineers/professors over a middle/lower class minimal education group, regardless of race.  The caveat here is that while race may introduce one to a more positive socioeconomic group, educational level almost guarantees it. 

Miss P

  • *****
  • 19300
    • View Profile
Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #161 on: July 12, 2006, 10:07:56 AM »
Also, if my point was minor, your point was both deeply flawed and minor.

That's the nerdiest thing I've ever seen you type. In conclusion, my slide rule is bigger than yours.

Honestly, if this is the nerdiest thing you've ever seen me type, you really haven't been paying me enough attention at all.  I'm sad.  [/hijack]


Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #162 on: July 12, 2006, 12:01:30 PM »
breadboy asked/said:

1. Why is it better to add affirmative action rather than remove emphasis on the LSAT?

Actually, it may not be. In my view, affirmative action is in no way a first-best solution to the problem represented by the LSAT as a systematically-biased admissions instrument.

The situation as I see it, is this: given the US News rankings’ importance, and given the importance of the 50th, 25th and 75th percentile LSAT scores in a school’s rankings, it is unlikely that schools would put principle over rank. In fact they haven’t done so. What they have done is to try to remedy the effects of the systematic bias in the LSAT within the room for discretion that the rankings arms-race allows them: in the bottom half or quartile of their LSAT distribution.

De-emphasizing the LSAT is, other things being equal, a preferable solution,  and I have previously indicated my own views on how this could work here:,55214.msg1098274.html#msg1098274

If you think it wrong-headed, please post your replies there rather than in this thread.

2. but so were Irish, Italian, Jewish, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean immigrants at one time or another, all of which don’t seem to be in need of affirmative action.

Notice that you have mixed past and present tenses in this sentence. It is a reflection of your not reading Sowell critically.

Here’s an explanation of the difference anyway. 

a) Sandardized testing of the LSAT sort became both widespread and important after the second world war, by which time Irish, Italian, and Jewish Americans had already “become white”.  African Americans’, Latinos’, and Native Americans’  widespread participation in higher education came later , much later., after they had already been labeled intrinsically stupid (or, in your view, breadboy, culturally predisposed to stupidity).

b) Stereotypes about The Jew and The Oriental mostly involve(d) “clever and devious”, rather than “dumb”. In which case, it is hard to make a case that Asians and jews would be threatened in quite the same way. There is, however, a hint that they may now receive the benefit of a stereotype lift.

3.  I think you have yet to prove this [ that the stereotype threat operates wrt URMs & the LSAT in particular]. I don’t find sitting a group  [of] women down and saying, “alright we’re going to see if your understanding of Calculus is up to the level of the male nuclear physicists we just tested,” is the same as a Hispanic woman sitting down to take the LSAT without a similar pronouncement.
and a similar comment from BPM:

The studies indicated the stereotype threat affects certain candidates for certain aptitudes  under certain conditions and when that prime is removed, the threat no longer exists.  There are three variables involved here, and I haven't seen any discussion of these relevant to the aptitudes and conditions of the LSAT.

For example, the threat of black subjests was removed by stating it was a psychological rather than skills based assessment.  Would you be willing to place wagers on an LSAT-style experiment where candidates were told the test was a psychological assessment? According to the OP's studies and based solely on the significance of the stereothreat attributed as justification for AA, the black-white gap in performance could be removed.  If it doesn't normalize the stereotype threat is shown to be lacking in significance and the justification for AA on that basis falls apart.  I certainly wouldn't bet on it normalizing.

Right, and I think this is the central point around which the discussion in this thread turns. I am proceeding from a broadly scientific approach on this one: find an explanation that best fits all of the facts, and proceed on that basis until an explanation that better fits the facts comes along.

The stereotype phenomenon, as I have pointed out many times, does exist. The question is whether it explains the performance disparities in the LSAT. As far as I can tell, it is more than reasonable to infer that it does:  it fits all of the criteria upon which the experimental results are based, and it is consistent with all of the real world facts with respect to the disparate performance of URMs on the LSAT.

“Proving” an inference is hard. That’s why I keep an open mind, while nevertheless thinking that stereotype threat is the best explanator that we know of.

I welcome any explanation at all, from anyone, that both explains this 6-4-2 point underperformance (after controlling for SES, GPA, school, and major) as well as (or better than) does the phenomenon of stereotype threat. Seriously -- I mean it. Give me that narrative, cite your data and sources (not opinion pieces or essays, but evidence), and I am ready to change my mind completely. “URMs and whites who score the same GPAs at the same schools and in the same majors and who otherwise have equal academic accomplishments and socioeconomic backgrounds have a 6-point differential in the LSAT because...”


Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #163 on: July 12, 2006, 12:03:36 PM »
4.  Which should be rectified in Graduate school why? Why not preschool or high school or undergrad or post-grad or on a non-academic level all together? Will there be any negative impact from trying to fix it here, is this a symptom of something else we’re missing earlier that with only be superficially fixed at this point? Are there better ways to do this that will cause fewer problems? Etc.

This is a simple point on which I do hope that we can make a litlte bit of progress.

I am telling you that people who have overcome whatever socioeconomic and (as you believe, cultural) disadvantages  to earn the same undergraduate GPA as a white counterpart from the same UG school, in the same Major, score consistently lower on the LSAT.

Your implicit argument (and your arguments are always implicit) is that blacks as a whole do worse than whites as a whole because there are problems in the pipeline. There is a lot of merit in that view, but it is not relevant to this discussion: we are talking here of a subset of the minority population, and that is a subset that has performed equally well in undergrad as whites. Despite the broken pipeline. 

Here is a quotation from evidence given in the Grutter case:

“The LSAT gap remains even when minority applicants are carefully matched with similarly successful white college graduates... I commissioned a study of the applicant pools for 12 law schools of varying levels of selectivity and reputation, limited to the top four feeder schools (those with the most applicants to the law school), to provide a sufficient data base. A total of 19,287 applicants were compared, including 1,636 applicants identified as members of minority groups.

Each minority applicant was compared with white applicants from the same undergraduate institution, but only if the white applicants’ GPAs were very close to the minority applicant’s.

White applicants were considered comparable to minority applicants when their GPAs were within ± .10 on a 4-point scale. When these graduates from the same colleges with the same grades were compared on the basis of their LSAT scores, the study’s author, Dr. Joseph Gannon, concluded that “the minority-nonminority group differences in LSAT scores are staggering.”

When compared with white students who graduated from the same college with the same GPAs, black applicants scored an average of 110 points lower on the LSAT, Chicanos and Latinos scored 97 points lower, and Native Americans scored 78 points lower [my note: the LSAT score scale then was 200-800].

Recently, a similar analysis was conducted of the applicants to Boalt Hall during 1996, 1997, and 1998. As a highly regarded law school at a major public university, Boalt Hall is similar to the University of Michigan School of Law. Boalt Hall draws the most applicants from the Berkeley campus, next from traditional rivals Stanford and UCLA, and then from Harvard and Yale.

Applicants from the five elite colleges who applied to Boalt in the years 1996-1998 included a total of 1,366 students from minority groups. Each student from a minority group was matched with all white students from the same college who also had four-year UGPAs that were nearly identical with the minority student’s (within ± .10 on a 4.0 scale). The results were remarkably similar to those obtained by Gannon two decades earlier. When compared with white students who graduated from the same elite college with the same GPAs (± .10 on a 4.0 scale), black applicants scored an average of 9.30 points lower on the LSAT, Chicanos and Latinos scored 6.87 points lower, and Native Americans scored 3.77 points lower [my note: score scale 120-180].

...This LSAT gap persists even when applicants are matched with other applicants from the same college with the same GPAs. The LSAT gap apparently has persisted for at least two decades and shows no signs of abating. That gap cannot be dismissed as reflective only of past academic deficiencies, as even the best performing graduates from the most elite undergraduate institutions exhibit this gap among various racial and ethnic groups. “

For the full study, see: Joseph Gannon, College Grades and LSAT Scores: An Opportunity to Examine the “Real Differences” in Minority-Nonminority Performance, in Towards a Diversified Legal Profession 272-283 (D. White, ed. 1981).

So, as you can see, we are not talking about a pipeline problem here. I have been very careful to distinguish a particular kind of disparity that is relevant to admissions at the top rung of law schools and that has nothing to do with general academic achievement.


Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #164 on: July 12, 2006, 12:05:30 PM »
5. You’re calculations are problematic, because you demarcate along broad racial lines instead of narrow ones. For example, if you looked at blacks from Caribbean ancestry you’d probably see little need for affirmative action, but if you looked at whites of Scottish ancestry you’d probably say that minorities need 10-15 point advantages on the LSAT. How would you explain Caribbean blacks “resistance” to the stereotype threat by the way?

Good job in mining my past posts  for this.

First, I have no data on the differences between sub-sections within the black (or within other URM)  populations wrt resistance to stereotype threat and therefore to variations in  the distributions of their LSAT scores.

I do, however, have some intuitions.  My sense is that the distributions may not be identical to the extent that different subpopulations do not recognize the stereotype as applying to them.   A tour of LSN (unscientific, and therefore unreliable) suggests that this could be so.

How would I explain it if there were indeed such a disparate distribution? If they didn’t grow up in an environment in which this stereotype was not as prevalent, and if they believe that the stereotype applies to black Americans rather than to their own group (Africans, Caribbeans, black Americans raised elsewhere, etc), then this disparate LSAT score distribution would buttress the link between the stereotype threat phenomenon and LSAT scores. Would it not? (That’s not a rhetorical question).

It would be good if we had disaggregated data on this, but we don’t.

In its absence, we can only hope for a contextual and holistic approach to the way that adcomms review the files of URMs. If they don’t approach it that way, and if there is indeed a disparity in the way in which the stereotype threat affects different subgroups of URMs, the outcome is likely to be that Black Americans and Mexican Americans get screwed at the expense, for example, of recent African/Caribbean immigrants or Hispanics who self-identify as white. That’s my honest view.

6. I said: 

“Well, it turns out that they do actually look at the files of quite a number of applicants. Here’s how we can tell: Linda Wightman of LSAC did an empirical study and found: “In general, white applicants with higher pre-admission academic credentials had already been denied admission in favor of lower-credentialed white applicants, because of nonacademic factors in their application, or were admitted and decided not to attend that school.” Read that again. It’s important.”

breadboy responded:

“Something tells me “non-academic factors” may have to do with legacy admissions (which aren’t on trial here) and in any case it isn’t clear enough what she means for me to take a definitive stand on it.”



Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #165 on: July 12, 2006, 12:17:52 PM »
BPM commented:

Despite introducing it as a thread, im not convinced the OP has a firm understanding of the stereotype threat.  It is discussed as if it were a mystical force, providing an omnibus generalization for whatever conclusion that he fancies, when in fact the threats can be dissected to individuals internalized beliefs rather than a mechanism of transported racism imposed by one group onto another.

Secondly, he cites LSAT differences as the basis of the stereotype threat, as if the LSAT number differences are substantial proof.  The irony is he then proceeds to identify how useless LSAT scores are when evaluating intra/interstate/women and minority groups.  If the numbers or so meaningless, why would you rely on them so heavily as proof for this nefarious stereotype threat?

Finally, assuming the stereotype threat exists and was present on the LSAT, shouldn't the stereotype fall hardest on Asians?  Most Asian stereotypes are predicated on language dysfunction and poor communication skills, what the LSAT tests heavily.

Don’t refer to me as “he”.

You say that I have not understood the stereotype threat, despite the fact that I have “introduced it as a thread”.

Here is Claude Steele, the primary researcher on the stereotype threat phenomenon, excerpted from his Grutter testimony.  [Everyone else can skip this without losing a thing My apologies]

Gratz, et al. v. Bollinger, et al., No. 97-75321 (E.D. Mich.)
Grutter, et al. v. Bollinger, et al., No. 97-75928 (E.D.Mich.)

    I have been Chair of the Department of Psychology at Stanford University since 1997, and a Professor of Psychology since 1991. Prior to that, I was a Professor of Psychology at the University of Michigan from 1987 to 1991; during the last two years at the University of Michigan, I also served as a Research Scientist for the Institute for Social Research. Before that, I was a member of the faculty at the University of Washington from 1973 to 1987. I have written extensively about the psychology of how minority groups, especially African Americans, contend with negative stereotypes and the role this process can play in their school achievement and standardized test performance.

...    My testimony is based, most generally, on an expertise that has been developed over a 25-year period of research in the areas of social psychology, the social psychology of race and race relations, and the effects of race on standardized test performance. In preparing this testimony I have consulted a broad range of knowledgeable colleagues and experts in these areas, as well as the relevant research liteature. My testimony is also based on a 10-year research program that I have directed, the aim of which has been to understand the role of race and gender stereotypes in shaping test performance and the formation of academic identities.



    Standardized admissions tests such as the SAT, the ACT, and the LSAT are of limited value in evaluating "merit" or determining admissions qualifications of all students, but particularly for African American, Hispanic, and American Indian applicants for whom systematic influences make these tests even less diagnostic of their scholastic potential. The first part of this caution--that the test should not be relied upon too heavily in general admissions--is a standard recommendation of the companies that produce these tests, but is also based on extensive evidence documenting the limited predictiveness of these tests. This is not surprising given that these tests are not designed to measure innate ability nor mastery of a specified curriculum. Instead, standardized tests measure developed skills.

    The second part of the caution with respect to standardized tests--that use of these tests with minority applicants is especially unreliable--is based on longstanding research, including work done in my own laboratory over the past 10 years, showing that experiences tied to one's racial and ethnic identity can artificially depress standardized test performance. Importantly, these effects go beyond any effects of socioeconomic disadvantage, affecting even the best prepared, most invested students from these groups who often come from middle-class backgrounds. Relying on these tests too extensively in the admissions process will preempt the admission of a significant portion of highly qualified minority students. In making this argument, I will address three issues: The nature of the mental capacity measured by these tests; how well these tests predict performance in higher education for all students; and reasons African American, Hispanic, and American Indian students are more likely to underperform on these tests.

continued in next post...


Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #166 on: July 12, 2006, 12:19:05 PM »
    III. Are there significant factors that might cause African American, Hispanic, and American Indian students to perform less well than other groups on these tests?

    The answer to this question is a resounding, "Yes." I describe here what I regard as the two most important such factors.

    Stereotype threat and test performance. My research, and that of my colleagues, has isolated a factor that can depress the standardized test performance of minority students--a factor we call stereotype threat. This refers to the experience of being in a situation where one recognizes that a negative stereotype about one's group is applicable to oneself. When this happens, one knows that one could be judged or treated in terms of that stereotype, or that one could inadvertently do something that would confirm it. In situations where one cares very much about one's performance or related outcomes--as in the case of serious students taking the SAT--this threat of being negatively stereotyped can be upsetting and distracting. Our research confirms that when this threat occurs in the midst of taking a high stakes standardized test, it directly interferes with performance.

    In matters of race we often assume that once a situation is objectively the same for different groups, that it is experienced the same by each group. This assumption might seem especially reasonable in the case of "standardized" cognitive tests. But for Black students, unlike White students, the experience of difficulty on the test makes the negative stereotype about their group relevant as an interpretation of their performance, and of them. Thus they know as they meet frustration that they are especially likely to be seen through the lens of the stereotype as having limited ability. For those Black students who care very much about performing well, this is an extra intimidation not experienced by groups not stereotyped in this way. And it is a serious intimidation, implying, as it does, that they may not belong in walks of life where the tested abilities are important, walks of life in which they are heavily invested. Like many pressures, it may not be fully conscious, but it may be enough to impair their best thinking.

    To test this idea, Joshua Aronson and I asked Black and White Stanford students into our laboratory and, one at a time, gave them a very difficult 30-minute verbal test, the items of which came from the advanced Graduate Record Examination in literature. The bulk of these students were sophomores, which meant that the test would be difficult for them--precisely the feature that we reasoned would make this simple testing situation different for our Black participants than for our White participants. We told each student that we were testing ability.

    Black students performed dramatically worse than White students on the test. As we had statistically equated both groups on ability level, the differences in performance were not because the Black students had weaker skills than the White students. Something else was involved. Before we could confirm that that "something else" was stereotype threat, we had to control for the possibility that the Black students performed worse than the White students because they were less motivated or because their skills could be somehow less easily extrapolated to the advanced material of this test. We concluded that if stereotype threat and not something about these students themselves had caused their poorer test performance, then doing something that would reduce this threat during the test should allow their performance to improve, to go up to the level of equally capable White students. We devised a simple way to test this: We presented another group of Black and White sophomores, again statistically equated on ability level, the same test we had used before--not as a test of ability, but as a "problem-solving" task that had nothing to do with ability. This made the stereotype about Blacks' ability irrelevant to their performance on the task since, ostensibly, the task did not measure ability. A simple instruction, yes, but it profoundly changed the meaning of the situation. It told Black participants that the racial stereotype about their ability was irrelevant to their performance on this particular task. In the stroke of an instruction, the "stereotype spotlight," as psychologist Bill Cross once called it, was turned off.

    As a result, Black students' performance on this test matched the performance of equally qualified Whites. With the stereotype spotlight on, Blacks performed dramatically worse than Whites; with it off, they performed the same. Thus, stereotype threat of the sort that we argue characterizes the daily experiences of Black students on predominantly White campuses and in a predominantly White society, can directly affect important intellectual performances such as standardized test performance.

    But it has broader effects too. Stereotype threat follows its targets onto campus, affecting behaviors of theirs that are as varied as participating in class, seeking help from faculty, contact with students in other groups, and so on. And as it becomes a chronic feature of one's school environment, it can cause what we have called "disidentification"; the realignment of one's self-concept and values so that one's self-regard no longer depends on how well one does in that environment. Disidentification relieves the pain of stereotype threat by breaking identification with the part of life where the pain occurs, which necessarily includes a loss of motivation to succeed in that part of life. When school is the part of life where stereotype threat is felt--as for women in advanced math or African Americans in all areas--disidentification can be a costly and life-altering adaptation.   

continued in the next post...


Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #167 on: July 12, 2006, 12:20:14 PM »
This finding tells us two important things. The first is that the poorer standardized test performance of Black students may have two sources. One is more commonly understood: It is the poorer performance of some among this group who are not well prepared and perhaps not well identified with school achievement. The other, however, has not been well understood: The underperformance among strong, school-identified members of this group whose lower performance reflects the stereotype threat they are under.

    But these findings make a point of some poignance as well: The characteristics that expose this vanguard to the pressure of stereotype threat is not weaker academic identity and skills, but stronger academic identity and skills. They have long seen themselves as good students, better than most other people. But led into the domain by their strengths, they pay an extra tax on their investment there, a "pioneer tax," if you will, of worry and vigilance that their futures will be compromised by the ways society perceives and treats their group. And it is paid everyday, in every stereotype-relevant situation. Recent research from our laboratory shows that this tax has a physiological cost. Black students performing a cognitive task under stereotype threat had elevated blood pressure.

    This finding raises another point: Being a minority student from the middle-class is no escape from stereotype threat and its effect on standardized test performance or performance in higher education more generally. In the American mind we have come to view the disadvantages associated with being Black, for example, as disadvantages of social and economic resources and opportunity. This assumption is often taken to imply its obverse: That is, if you are Black and come from a home that has achieved middle-class status, your experiences and perspectives are no longer significantly affected by race. Our research shows quite clearly that this is not so. In fact, if being middle-class gave you the resources that helped you identify with school achievement, ironically, it may lead you to experience stereotype threat even more keenly. It is investment in the domain of schooling--often aided by the best resources and wishes of middle-class parents--that can make one, at the point of reaching the difficult items on the SAT, experience the distracting alarm of stereotype threat.

    All of these findings then, taken together, constitute a powerful reason for treating standardized tests as having limited utility as a measure of academic potential of students from these groups. But there are other reasons as well.

    Different experiences. The point here is that factors like race, social class, and ethnicity still shape the life trajectories and experiences of individuals in society and as a result, can have profound effects on test performance. For example, consider what being African American, even from the middle-class, can predispose a person to experience: Assignment to lower academic tracks throughout schooling; being taught and counseled with lower expectations by less skilled teachers in more poorly funded schools; attending school in more distressed neighborhoods or in suburban areas where they are often a small, socially isolated minority; living in families with fewer resources; and having peers who--alienated by these conditions--may be more often disinterested in school. Clearly these race-linked experiences are enough to lead students from this group to have lower scores on the SAT at the point of applying to college without any reference to innate ability. A similar scenario could be described for many Hispanic groups in this society and for American Indians (especially those living on reservations).

    If one thinks of all the relationships, experiences, and motivations that underlie good test performance as a river or confluence of influences, it is clear that some groups will have more access to this river than others. Accordingly, those with less access, by dint of the weaker academic and test performance skills this causes, will have lower test scores and thus more limited access to higher education. Of course, to the extent that the skills they lack are critical to success in school, this limitation of access is appropriate under the ideal of sending the most qualified students on to higher education. But it is important to stress, even here, that for these students, their lower test scores may reflect their limited access to the critical confluence of experiences as much as any real limitation in potential for higher education.

There you go.


Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #168 on: July 12, 2006, 12:22:39 PM »
Hank Reardon said:

7. I completely agree with Red that schools should be more holistic and less dependent on the LSAT as an absolute measure of a person's intellect, but nowhere in this whole stereotype threat babble does she say why schools should consider race as any portion of this holistic picture.  Why not consider family background or socioeconomic status instead of race?  The reason of course is that no law school brags about having 30% of their applicants from single-parent homes, but they are careful to have a high enough percentage of minorities as to not embarass themselves.   

But I think you (and possibly red) are showing great naivete about the way affirmative action "as it stands" actually operates.  You may like to think that adcoms are huddled in a room somewhere contemplating the immense suffering of their law school's applicants, but the truth is that elite schools like Harvard are much more likely to admit a URM with borderline numbers above a poor white kid with similar numbers, simply because of the color of the applicants' skin.  You might like to think that the poor white kid will get a "holistic" approach, but in reality the school must maintain a certain percentage of blacks/hispanics and has no such mandate about the percentage of poor people it must admit.       

I understand what you're saying, but you are overlooking the obvious.  If you were really concerned about evening out advantages and disadvantages, you would embrace SES-based AA and not race-based AA.  If adcoms gave more weight to applicants who had underprivileged backgrounds (as I believe they should) and ignored race, blacks would probably still benefit (since more blacks than whites are poor).  But under this system of SES-based AA the unfairness of admitting Colin Powell's grandson over a poor white kid would be removed.

and J’s response:

“However, your argument here, as it's stated, seems to be completely overlooking the basis of red.'s argument: that race, in and of itself, can have a major deleterious effect on an applicant before the cycle even begins (while getting an education, writing the LSAT, etc.).  This is one area that SES-based AA cannot take into account.  This is the basis of the argument put forth in this thread. “

and Hank Reardon again:

MaraudingJ, it seems that everyone (including red) agrees that not all URM's suffer from this stereotype threat; in fact, even assuming the threat is indeed real, the threat obviously affects different blacks in different ways (how else to explain black people getting above 174?).  Once it is established that different URM's are affected differently by the stereotype threat, using the stereotype threat as a valid reason for race-based AA becomes just another stereotype itself.  Also, there is no reason to think that other classes of people (poor people, people from Arkansas, people from community colleges) aren't affected by the stereotype threat as well.  It would be impossible to thoroughly research all the ways different groups of people might be psychologically affected by various generalizations.  Therefore, the best way to assess LSAT scores is not to point to psychological research regarding decreased self-esteem of certain groups, but to take into account SES status and ignore psychological reasons why someone might not score well on the LSAT (since there is a plethora of such reasons, and all the members of a particular race cannot possibly share them all). 

Here is an excerpt from an empirical study that addresses the SES issue:

“One common reaction is to attribute the LSAT gap to the generally lower socioeconomic status of groups that have been the victims of discrimination.This is undoubtedly part of the explanation, as national data indicates that LSAT scores are related to the SES of candidates, while GPAs are not related to the SES of students.

However, SES is not a complete explanation of the racial and ethnic gap on the LSAT, as national data makes clear. White students’ LSAT scores vary according to socioeconomic status, with students from upper class SES scoring an average of 2.07 points higher on the LSAT than white students from lower middle class SES. Likewise, the SES advantage among students who are black or Mexican American over lower-middle class students of the same racial background
is of a similar magnitude. Among black applicants, the SES advantage is 3.32 points on the LSAT, among Mexican American applicants, the SES advantage is 3.54.17

Yet, the same data indicates that upper class black applicants have LSAT scores that average 5.62 points below those of lower middle class white applicants. Similarly, Mexican American applicants from the upper class score 1.46 points below lower-middle class white applicants (score scale 10-48).

In short, the LSAT data indicate that having an advantaged socioeconomic background can help on the LSAT, but so too can being white. More importantly, being advantaged socioeconomically does not offset being born black or Mexican American when it comes to taking the LSAT. What is interesting is the fact that GPAs, although they may reflect ongoing racial discrimination, do
not also display such a dual disadvantage.”

Source: Linda Wightman, The Threat to Diversity in Legal Education: An Empirical Analysis of the Consequences of Abandoning Race as a Factor in Law School Admission Decisions, 72 New York University Law Review 1, 42 (1997).

I ask you Hank Reardon -- you are willing to admit people from scioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds because a socioeconomically disadvantaged background adversely affects their index numbers. Given that being a URM has an even greater adverse impact on one’s numbers (over and above that of socioeconomic disadvantage), why would you not be willing to give the same kind of consideration to blacks, latinos and native americans?


Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified (by red.)
« Reply #169 on: July 12, 2006, 12:26:14 PM »
Southside wrote:

I will continue to make this point. The problem is in societal attitudes about minorities; it is not in the test. There is no evidence that the LSAT is a poor or biased test.

Also note: If you accept red's argument, which I do in part, you realize that the better the LSAT got, the more the stark the so-called "stereotype threat" would become. Presumably, if everyone universally acknowledged that the LSAT was a massive determining factor in law school success, the psychological pressure of stereotypes would be even more pronounced.

Classic Southside.