Law School Discussion

Why Affirmative Action is Justified

Miss P

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified
« Reply #570 on: September 05, 2007, 10:12:41 AM »
I'm too lazy to look it up right now, but is there any significant gap in the bar passage rates of minorities compared to whites? 

Yes, actually.  It depends on whether you analyze eventual passage or first-time passage and whether you look at bar-takers or all people who matriculated at law schools, but any way you slice it, there's a big gap.  The LSAT tends to overpredict black performance when it is not entirely stochastic.  The best solution is to evaluate applicants according to better metrics and to do the things we know help people pass the bar (like special mentoring and academic support programs).

Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified
« Reply #571 on: September 05, 2007, 10:19:33 AM »

Miss P

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified
« Reply #572 on: September 05, 2007, 07:25:25 PM »
The best approach for law schools would be to diminish the weight of the LSAT, specifically with respect to African American and Latino admissions, since it is not an accurate measure of their likelihood to pass the bar.

Best approach in order to achieve what?  The LSAT doesn't have anything to do with predicting bar passage rates; I don't think anyone at LSAC would purport that it did. 

Huh?  I thought the whole point was to try to make lawyers out of us.  In any case, one of the chief conclusions of the National Longitudinal Bar Passage Study (one affirmative action opponents cite frequently) is that LSAT score tends to predict both LGPA and bar passage.  The relationship is not as strong as opponents claim, particularly with respect to URM applicants/students/graduates.

Miss P

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified
« Reply #573 on: September 05, 2007, 09:23:23 PM »
Just because the LSAT correlates with bar passage rates and just because affirmative action opponents use that correlation doesn't mean the LSAT is intended to predict bar passage rates. 

No, you're wrong. :)

EDIT: not your logic, which was impeccable.  You must have had a fine LSAT score.  I meant simply that you're wrong about how LSAC and others urge the LSAT to be used.   

H4CS

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified
« Reply #574 on: September 05, 2007, 10:14:58 PM »
Just because the LSAT correlates with bar passage rates and just because affirmative action opponents use that correlation doesn't mean the LSAT is intended to predict bar passage rates. 

No, you're wrong. :)


If being wrong is wrong then I never want to be right.  Wait.

Miss P

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified
« Reply #575 on: September 05, 2007, 11:15:28 PM »
You must have had a fine LSAT score.

You don't remember what my LSAT score was?

 ??? :'(

Of course I do.  I believe it was just a point below mine. :D

PNym

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified
« Reply #576 on: September 10, 2007, 03:53:16 AM »
The Wax piece alleged a pretty severe flaw in the study that established the existence of the "stereotype threat." If her criticism is valid, then the case for the existence of such a threat is weakened.

Did you even read her piece?  She acknowledges the existence of stereotype threat.  All she says, based on decent, peer reviewed research (Sackett et al. 2004), is that stereotype threat alone does not account for the difference between black and white test scores.  All agree that stereotype threat does depress black (and other targeted group) test scores -- the disputes are matters of degree and pervasiveness.  In response, Steele and Aronsen 2004 acknowledged that stereotype threat does not account for all inter-group differences in test scores and described this as a misreading of their original 1995 article.  They went on to demonstrate, inter alia, that real-life testtaking conditions were most often tainted by stereotype threat, and that these conditions produce larger group differences than you would see under no-threat conditions.  There are, in fact, no credible researchers I've encountered on the subject (including right-wingers like Wax) who fail to acknowledge the existence of stereotype threat at all.

The Wax piece I was referring to was the op-ed located at http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110004973.

She cites Sackett as someone else who noted that the way the study reported the results hid the performance gap between the groups of black and white undergraduates. She later cites Sackett's work in showing that various media and scholarly journals had misreported how the "stereotype threat" condition provided in the original study affected the ability of black students to perform at the level of their white peers.

She doesn't cite Sackett in an effort to prove that there are factors other than "stereotype threat" that affect black students. If the Wax piece you are referring to is the same one I'm referring to, then I can't see where you're drawing that conclusion.

Wax's article acknowledged that the group of black undergrads was affected by the "stereotype threat" prompt to a greater degree than the group of white undergrads, but argued that the extent of this effect is not large enough to draw any definitive conclusions, especially in light of the flaws in the study's design.

She argues that the original 1995 study is flawed because its control groups didn't control for variables other than the one being tested (the "stereotype threat" condition), as control groups are supposed to do. Since the black undergrad group had an average SAT score 40 points lower than the white undergrad group, and prior application of the test utilized in that study showed that SAT scores were strongly correlated with how a student did on the test, you can't really argue that the control groups controlled for non-experimental variables very well.

A study that compared the test scores of black and white Stanford undergrads with similar SAT scores when exposed to the "stereotype threat" condition versus when they were not would be a study validly supporting the conclusion that Aronson was trying to draw. According to Wax, the 1995 study, as it was designed, does not do this.

It may very well be that undergrads whose SATs fall below a certain threshold will be more negatively affected by the "stereotype threat" prompt than undergrads whose SATs do not. Or it may very well be that this effect only applies to black undergrads whose SATs are below a certain threshhold, and black undergrads whose SATs are above that threshhold and white undergrads in general are not affected. I don't know.

But according to how Wax described the study, it doesn't allow anyone to conclude that the presence of the "stereotype threat" prompt disproportionately affects black students. To do that would require the study's control group to control all non-experimental variables that would have an effect on the measured outcomes, and the 1995 study does not do this.

It would be most helpful if I had a copy of the original study to look over to see if Wax's criticisms are valid. I admittedly don't have access to much of the work that has been done studying this issue. It may very well be that "stereotype threat" does affect black students, but I hesitate to conclude that based on what I've read so far.

FWIW, I wouldn't rush to tar Wax as a mere right-winger. Someone with an MD from Harvard and a JD from Columbia is unlikely to have their empirical sense and intellectual discipline blinded by ideology.

Miss P

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified
« Reply #577 on: September 10, 2007, 07:32:01 AM »
The Wax piece I was referring to was the op-ed located at http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110004973.

She cites Sackett as someone else who noted that the way the study reported the results hid the performance gap between the groups of black and white undergraduates. She later cites Sackett's work in showing that various media and scholarly journals had misreported how the "stereotype threat" condition provided in the original study affected the ability of black students to perform at the level of their white peers.

She doesn't cite Sackett in an effort to prove that there are factors other than "stereotype threat" that affect black students. If the Wax piece you are referring to is the same one I'm referring to, then I can't see where you're drawing that conclusion.

I'm afraid I don't understand your criticism.  I'm looking at the column again, since, admittedly, I hadn't read it for months if not a year before my last post, and this is precisely what she says.*  Her argument is: (1) There is a substantial black-white test gap; (2) stereotype threat may account for a tiny part of this gap, but not for the whole thing; (3) therefore, factors other than "stereotype threat" produce the black-white test gap.  Wax seems most inclined to explain the gap as a reflection of the black testtakers' "real deficiencies in knowledge and ability," "abilities undeveloped and learning forgone." 

She also brings up (1) two limitations of Steele and Aronson's data and (2) some tests (one a "job selection test") where no stereotype-threat effect appeared in real-world conditions.  Some of her questions about when, how, and how much stereotype threat depresses performance are good ones.  She does not, however, deny the existence of the stereotype threat or weaken the case for the existence of the stereotype threat (how you described the column in your previous post). 

As an aside, I've read in this thread and elsewhere that you are frustrated that you can't read the studies because they are not freely available online.  Are you abroad?  If not, any mid-sized library, and every academic library, will have the original journals, and many will provide you access to J*Stor so you can get a digital copy.



* "Yet the belief that stereotype threat is the sole or even the chief cause of the differences is without foundation."
"Although the studies to date suggest that stereotype threat may sometimes depress minorities' academic performance, they do not show that stereotype threat is responsible for most--let alone all--of the test-score gap."

Miss P

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified
« Reply #578 on: September 10, 2007, 07:39:02 AM »
FWIW, I wouldn't rush to tar Wax as a mere right-winger. Someone with an MD from Harvard and a JD from Columbia is unlikely to have their empirical sense and intellectual discipline blinded by ideology.

Heh.  I didn't say she was a "mere right-winger," though.  I identified her as a right-winger only in the context of establishing that even the most rabid affirmative action opponents, and ones with true right-wing chops, acknowledge the existence of the stereotype threat.  Thus, I described her not as having been blinded by ideology, as you suggest, but rather as not having been blinded by ideology (at least not enough to deny the existence of the stereotype threat).  Her "empirical sense" is not at issue here, though, given that she did not actually do any primary or peer-reviewed secondary research on the topic.

Also, you're going to have your anti-AA troll card pulled if you fail to recognize that someone who received her advanced degrees at Harvard and Columbia can be an ideologue.  Your friends won't like this argument one bit. ;)


ETA: FWIW, I agree with Wax that the stereotype threat is not the magic bullet some commentators would like it to be.  For one, I don't know how much it accounts for the test gap.  More important, even if it is a significant factor in testing disparities, I don't know how we can do away with it in order to make sure the same results aren't reproduced down the line.  I think the encouragement and reassurance Wax allows is a good start; in the law school context, academic support resources for struggling students and pre-orientation, skills-based training programs are other fine ideas.

PNym

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Re: Why Affirmative Action is Justified
« Reply #579 on: September 10, 2007, 10:39:43 AM »
The Wax piece I was referring to was the op-ed located at http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110004973.

She cites Sackett as someone else who noted that the way the study reported the results hid the performance gap between the groups of black and white undergraduates. She later cites Sackett's work in showing that various media and scholarly journals had misreported how the "stereotype threat" condition provided in the original study affected the ability of black students to perform at the level of their white peers.

She doesn't cite Sackett in an effort to prove that there are factors other than "stereotype threat" that affect black students. If the Wax piece you are referring to is the same one I'm referring to, then I can't see where you're drawing that conclusion.

I'm afraid I don't understand your criticism.  I'm looking at the column again, since, admittedly, I hadn't read it for months if not a year before my last post, and this is precisely what she says.*  Her argument is: (1) There is a substantial black-white test gap; (2) stereotype threat may account for a tiny part of this gap, but not for the whole thing; (3) therefore, factors other than "stereotype threat" produce the black-white test gap.  Wax seems most inclined to explain the gap as a reflection of the black testtakers' "real deficiencies in knowledge and ability," "abilities undeveloped and learning forgone." 

Hmm, I see where you're coming from. A closer reading shows that she allows that the "stereotype threat" condition may hamper black students from achieving their potential:

Quote
Does this mean that stereotype threat plays no role? Not necessarily. Fear of fulfilling negative expectations may be one factor that leads black students to exert less effort over the long haul.

My original post in this threat focused on the methodological flaw she pointed out in the 1995 study (which is a pretty big flaw, if you think about how studies are supposed to be designed):

The Wax piece alleged a pretty severe flaw in the study that established the existence of the "stereotype threat." If her criticism is valid, then the case for the existence of such a threat is weakened.

Your response didn't really address that point, but brought up another issue (that she allowed for the idea that the threat could have some effects on black student performance). I then overlooked THAT issue in MY response.  :-\

I guess we're both right. Wax's criticism, if valid, weakens the conclusions draw-able from the 1995 study, but she does allow for the suggestion that "stereotype threat" may play a role in depressing black student performance.

She also brings up (1) two limitations of Steele and Aronson's data and (2) some tests (one a "job selection test") where no stereotype-threat effect appeared in real-world conditions.  Some of her questions about when, how, and how much stereotype threat depresses performance are good ones.  She does not, however, deny the existence of the stereotype threat or weaken the case for the existence of the stereotype threat (how you described the column in your previous post). 

I thought her criticism of the Steele and Aronson study weakened the case for the threat. If in Wax's article, she points out that the difference in test scores between the black and white undergrad groups was exaggerated by the flaw (control groups not really controlling for non-experimental variables) in the study's design, and she cites other studies cast doubt on the existence and magnitude of the reported effects ("For example, a 2002 paper in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology showed that stereotype threat had no statistically significant effect on blacks' performance on a commonly used nonverbal test of cognitive ability."), then it seems safe to say that her article weakens the case that stereotype threat exists, even though she allows that it may exist.

(As I mentioned earlier, it may be that the groups studied in the 1995 study will be affected by the suggestion posed by the "stereotype threat" verbal prompt only if their SAT scores fall below a certain threshhold. If Wax's characterization of the study is accurate, this conclusion would be as consistent with the study's data as the study's conclusion that the threat only affects black students.)

As an aside, I've read in this thread and elsewhere that you are frustrated that you can't read the studies because they are not freely available online.  Are you abroad?  If not, any mid-sized library, and every academic library, will have the original journals, and many will provide you access to J*Stor so you can get a digital copy.

Yep, you hit the nail on the head. I'm actually living overseas right now, so I don't have access to the library resources that would enable me to read the articles being cited by both sides of this debate.