An unfair burden
John Rosenberg of Discriminations had another great post yesterday about the University of Michigan Law School, Diversity Is As Diversity Does. You should read the whole thing; I'm going to focus only on one little segment of it today. Here's what John had to say about the enrollment statistics at Michigan that were reported in the New York Times:
21 of the 346 current first year students at the Michigan law school are black, but of those 21 only 5 are male. I wonder whether Michigan gives greater preferences to black men than black women, and if not, why not. These students are so in demand because of the "diversity" that their presence is said to provide to others that the admissions barrier is lower for them than the other students, with an entirely predictable result: many of them resent it because they "find this role an unfair burden."
While I'm quite certain that Michigan gives greater preferences to black male applicants, it's not hard to find the data to show that this does absolutely nothing to "level the playing field" for black men as a whole. A good place to start is the National Center for Education Statistics.
For example, hereís an NCES table that provides high school dropout rates in 2000, broken down by ethnic group and gender. What we see is that 15.3% of black men drop out of high school, compared to 11.1% of black women (the rates are worse for Hispanics, but the same relationship holds; more men drop out than women). So, right off the bat, fewer black men than black women make it out of high school,and we're already down to only 84.7% of the black male population.
Note: I misread a table earlier. What follows is the corrected post. Sorry for the mixup.
Now, hereís another NCES table, based on U.S. Census reports, that provides years of education by ethnic group and gender, for Americans 25 years and older. Letís assume that a black man isnít going to take the LSAT and apply to law school unless he has an undergraduate degree Ė four or more years of college. 16.8% of all black women aged 25 and older met this qualification in 2000, and 16.2% of black men in the same peer group met it. Black women are more likely to graduate from high school, and slightly more likely to have four or more years of college, although the difference is slight (as a comparison, 30.8% of non-Hispanic white men aged 25 and over meet this qualification).
But then there's this table. In 1999-2000, black Americans earned 107,891 bachelor's degrees from degree-granting institutions. Is that evenly split between men and women? Not even close. Over 66% of the degrees were granted to black women, a margin of 2-to-1. In 1977, men earned 43% of the bachelor's degree awarded to blacks in the US; since then, the number of blacks earning bachelor's has almost doubled, but the percentage of black men in that category has steadily decreased to 34%.
How can this be reconciled with the data on years of education? Simple - the percentages include everyone aged 25 and older, and I'm betting that it's older black men, but younger black women, who have the four or more years of college under their belt. It's obvious that while the number of black men earning bachelor's degrees continues to increase every year, the number of black women doing so is increasing much more rapidly.
Given this, it is understandable that even a law school that aggressively practices affirmative action is going to have many more black female students than black male students. Furthermore, these statistics emphasize the dishonesty and uselessness of post-secondary affirmative action systems based on differential standards, differential point systems, and quotas. How can it possibly do black men any good, as a whole, to lower LSAT standards for those who apply to law school, when that is such a tiny percentage of black men overall? The problems with black men in education obviously begin much, much sooner, and affirmative action at the post-secondary level is an ineffective band-aid measure that doesnít help the black men who really need the help.
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that black men who take the LSATs are a small minority within their peer group, and they are relatively privileged and accomplished men who have beaten the odds to get that far - but, as John Rosenberg points out, affirmative action policies like those at Michigan then tell them, "We have to lower standards for you because you're just not good enough to make it on your own." Insulting, ineffective, harmful - and an "unfair burden," indeed.