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End Affirmative Action, End the Black Upper Class: The Case of Law

Richard Hoste

October 16, 2009

It was with great interest that I read Christopher Donovan’s TOO article on politically incorrect comments at a blog for the lawyerly elite. The field of law prides itself on being a meritocracy. Being made up of educated Westerners, it is also very liberal on racial issues. It’s hard to be both.

The two main academic factors considered in law school admissions are GPA and more importantly, the prospect’s score on the LSAT. Grades aren’t a very good indicator of skill since students choose their own majors, which of course vary in difficulty. That leaves the LSAT as the main determinant of what law schools a student is eligible for. The test is divided into four parts. Three are different forms of reading comprehension, and one is made up of logical games. The latter part gives the student 35 minutes to answer around 28 questions, broken up into four games. Many students don’t even finish three of the four. The LSAT requires no previous knowledge and the only thing that significantly helps improve scores is taking time to learn strategies for the games. It still takes intelligence to know quickly what kind of game you’re looking at, be able to accurately comprehend directions (if (a) then (b) doesn’t necessarily mean if (b) then (a)), make logical inferences (if (a) then (b) and if (b) then not (c) implies that if (a) then not (c)), etc.

Quite clearly, the LSAT is a barely-disguised IQ test.  Those interested can try the June 07 test here.  Mensa takes anybody who scores at the 95th percentile or above.  

Without affirmative action, there is virtually no overlap in student LSAT scores between the very best and the “just good” law schools. At number 4 ranked University of Chicago, a 169 is the 25th percentile — meaning that only 25% of students score 169 or below. At number 20 Boston University, 166 is the 75th percentile. Very few of those who got into Boston University have a good enough score for the University of Chicago. And very few from number 45 University of Utah (75th percentile 162) could’ve gotten into Boston University (25th percentile 163).  (See data here.)

The more high-end firms will only recruit from the best schools and those who go to lower-ranked schools may struggle to find employment. It’s a winner take all system. Many on the internet, such as blogger Half Sigma, argue that law school isn’t worth the time or money if you can’t get into a top 14 school. 

What place does affirmative action have in this system? In 2007–2008, 12,152 Blacks took the LSAT. Their average score was 142.15 and the standard deviation 8.4. In a normal distribution only one in a thousand scores three SDs above the mean. Three SDs over the Black average is 167.35. We’ll round up to 168.  Only a little over one in a thousand Blacks who take the LSAT each year scores that high, or 16 of them in 2007–2008. 

There are six law schools nationwide that have their 25th percentile at 168 or above.  For example, Harvard’s 25th percentile score is 170. We can consider the 25th percentile the minimum required to get into any particular law school for a non-affirmative action beneficiary (i.e. Eurasian). Most below that level are the AA cases or people who have something in their application that stands out and makes up for a low LSAT score (maybe a 4.0 GPA or having a parent in the admissions office).

Since in 2007–2008 there were only 16 Blacks nationwide who scored at 168 or above, that’s the number of Blacks that should’ve entered the top six schools. Here are the numbers from the ABA for actual Black first year enrollment in 2008–2009. 


25th percentile LSAT

Blacks in 1st year class

Blacks as percentage of entering students

















New York University




University of Chicago




That’s 179 Blacks at top law schools. Actual Blacks at top law schools divided by deserving Blacks = 179/16 = 11.2.

So there are about 10 undeserving Blacks at the top six law schools for every one deserving case. This puts things in perspective for people who say that they oppose affirmative action because it stigmatizes African-Americans. Is it more rational to care more about the feelings of one Black out of 11 who gets where he is based on merit than the 10 Whites and Asians who lose their spot to a beneficiary of the system? Only if the self-esteem of one Black is worth more than the livelihoods of 10 non-NAMs!

Let’s look at the rest of the schools that round out the top 14. Among these schools, the one with the lowest 25th percentile score is the University of California-Berkeley at 164. We can take that number as the absolute Ice People minimum needed to get into a T14 school without AA. This number is about 2.6 SDs over the African-American mean. .47% of Blacks, or approximately 57, scored that high in 2007–2008.  


25th percentile LSAT

Blacks in 1st year class

Blacks as percentage of entering students

Northwestern University




Duke University




University of California-Berkley




University of Pennsylvania




University of Michigan-Ann Arbor




University of Virginia




Cornell University




Georgetown University




This makes a grand total of 351 Blacks entering T14 schools a year. The ratio of undeserving to deserving Blacks at these schools overall is about 5:1. 

About 300 Ice People (mostly whites) are locked out of T14 schools every fall to make room for Blacks.

The above table shows that 164 is the bare minimum required for a White or Asian to score at or above the 25th percentile and thus have a reasonable chance of getting into a T14 school. With our numbers we can also figure out the bare minimum if you’re Black. 351 Blacks got into a top law school out of the 12,152 who took the test. That’s 2.89% of African-American test takers, or those who scored 1.9 SDs and over the group average. The Black minimum is thus around 158.


Minimum LSAT score for top 14 law school

Percentile of all LSAT takers







Things are just as interesting if we go back and look at those six schools with a 168 minimum. They took in 179 Blacks, or 1.4% of all African-American test takers, which were those who scored 2.2 SDs above the 142 mean or higher.


Minimum LSAT score for top 6 law school

Percentile of  all LSAT test takers







So if you have a score of 163 (90th percentile) and you’re White forget about the top 14, but if you’re Black expect to get into the top six. 

The Financial Cost

The Internet Legal Research Group records starting salaries for recent law graduates of different schools.  The Black with a score of 158 who gets into Cornell (13) and actually ends up a lawyer can expect to start out making $145,000 a year when he graduates if he gets a job in the private sector. What happens to a White with a score of 158? The best he can hope for is a school like Indiana University-Bloomington (23) or University of Iowa (26). Graduates of those colleges start at $85,000 and $95,000 a year respectively in the private sector. That’s if they can get a job outside of government.  If the University of Iowa graduate can only find work with the state he can expect a starting annual salary of $39,500. Undoubtedly those who graduate from Iowa have a much worse chance of getting a job in the private sector than those from Cornell. The affirmative-action case with the 158 LSAT score (approx. 118 IQ) makes anywhere from an extra $40,000 to $105,500 in his first year out of school for being Black.

Interestingly, the extra money that a Black T14 affirmative action recipient gets isn’t taken from any one White lawyer, but is distributed down the ladder. A White with a score of 158 isn’t getting into an elite school anyway. The African-American who gets into school #4 might kick a White student down to #10, that White student kicks another White student from #10 down to #15, etc. Somewhere down the line there will be an Ice Person who couldn’t get into any law schools thanks to the affirmative action Black at school #4 and maybe another who can’t find a job upon graduation because he went to #80 instead of #60.

It’s pretty much unthinkable that affirmative action will get much worse without destroying the integrity of law. You simply can’t scrape the barrel much lower for Blacks who can do the work. Already, 53% of Blacks who start law school never end up passing the bar exam compared to 24% of Whites.  I figured that if the top 14 law schools wanted Blacks to be 10% of their enrollment, they would need to accept 485 a year and some Blacks with scores of 156. That’s only about half a standard deviation above the overall average for all test-takers. Many of the AA cases would probably drop out, but a few would stick it out and drive their White classmates crazy.

What the Lawocracy Understands

The numbers above explain the comments of the anti-affirmative action law students and professionals described in Christopher Donovan’s article. If each year there are 16 Blacks smart enough to go to a law school in the top six, and if Harvard and Yale between them take 85 Blacks, we must figure that those two schools mop up close to all eligible African-Americans smart enough for the top six. That would mean that at Columbia, Chicago, Stanford, and NYU virtually every single White is smarter than every single Black.  

So if law school students at every level are harmed by affirmative action and must notice Black incompetence, why don’t they rise up against the system? First of all, even with all the affirmative action going on, Blacks are still way underrepresented in law schools and as lawyers. Look at the numbers for the University of Michigan above. Blacks made up less than 4% of the last entering class, a third of their percentage in the American population. The admissions practices of Michigan’s law school were the subject of a Supreme Court case in 2003. Those against affirmative action were justifiably arguing that the few African-Americans that that school admits each year shouldn’t be there. But who wants to be the person who makes a fuss about the only 14 Black students in your graduating class?

At the same time, most Whites probably think that if affirmative action was a significant factor in admissions then Blacks at all law schools would at least have close to proportional representation. But at no top 14 school do Blacks make up 12% of the student body, and at a couple they are half that or less.

That there are so few Blacks in top law schools explains why the incompetence of the ones there isn’t even more noticeable. We all know that humans self-segregate and the typical White student probably has very direct little contact with Blacks.

When reading The Affirmative Action Hoax, I learned that some of the most shamelessly pro-affirmative action people out there are those who control college admissions. The author tells of cases where these bureaucrats held firm in the face of overwhelming political and legal pressures.

Let me suggest that this may be because college admissions officers know what ending affirmative action would entail. No affirmative action means that NYU, Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Chicago would be accepting on average two Blacks a year each. A few would possibly have no Black students at all. So when liberals say that equal standards is a “strategy for locking Blacks out of higher education,” they have a point.

The question of racial preferences is thus a more difficult problem than most people realize. Recently in President Obama’s speech to school children he said “I know that sometimes, you get the sense from TV that...your ticket to success is through rapping or basketball or being a reality TV star, when chances are, you’re not going to be any of those things.” But if affirmative action ever ended, we’d have to tell Black students that they’re probably more likely to be NBA stars than Yale Law graduates.  After all, there are 60 players drafted into the NBA each year, the majority of whom are Black.

Admitting the unpleasant truths about race differences and working towards colorblindness would, after decades of PBS specials, “look how far we’ve comes” and “Yes, we cans!”, bring down nearly the entire already meager Black upper class.

Not to say that I would have any problem with that.  It’s just that the rest of the world needs to be convinced it’s worth it. 


Richard Hoste is a graduate student in anthropology. He runs the website HBD Books. 

Permanent URL: http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/authors/Hoste-AA.html 

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