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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

An Empirical Study of Race and Law School Hiring

Ming M. Zhu (J.D. 2009, Harvard; Law Clerk to Harry T. Edwards, U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit) has posted An Empirical Study of Race and Law School Hiring on SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

Does race matter in the law school hiring process? Do minority candidates benefit from affirmative action or are they hurt by racial discrimination? Is the lack of minority law professors the result of a lack of qualified minority candidates? And more broadly, what do law schools look for when making hiring decisions? These questions have been asked for decades; now, in this ground-breaking empirical analysis of law school hiring, some answers are finally offered. This paper takes an in-depth look at the candidates applying for law teaching jobs in the 2004-2005 academic year to measure how much a candidate’s race affected his or her chances of being hired as a law professor. Two findings emerge, both surprising and thought-provoking. First, being a minority had a statistically significant positive effect on a candidate’s chances of being hired, suggesting that affirmative action has a place in law school hiring. However, being a minority also had a statistically significant negative effect on where the candidate was hired, suggesting that discrimination is also present. In the realm of law school hiring, race appears to cut both ways. The article closes by reviewing potential explanations for these seemingly contradictory findings. Regardless of the why and how, it is clear that traditional qualifications and academic pedigree alone cannot explain law school hiring decisions.

From page 4:

While being a minority resulted in a positive bump in getting a tenure-track law teaching job, minority status also had a statistically significant negative effect on the prestige of the hiring law school. As an anecdote, every single hire made by the top 16 schools from the FAR of 2004-2005 was of a white candidate; not a single minority candidate was hired by any of the top 16 law schools. Based on these findings, race only seems to help if the minority candidate is willing to teach in a lower-ranked school. One could imagine that minority status is simply a proxy variable that is masking one a host of other factors, but regardless of the explanation, it is clear that traditional law school hiring credentials and academic pedigree alone are unable to predict a candidate’s success or failure on the law teaching market. Race, or some set of factors that happen to align with race, is a definite factor in law school hiring decisions.

(Hat Tip: The Faculty Lounge.)

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Track race and gender, and the results are even worse. Men of color rarely get jobs at top schools, even when they have long records of scholarship.Most of the hires at top schools of persons of color are women.

Posted by: tony smith | Apr 1, 2010 5:12:09 AM