LSAT: A Testing “Poll Tax” on Minority Law School Applicants

University Testing

African Americans and Hispanics have a significantly lower chance of acceptance at U.S. law schools than white applicants with equivalent college grades due to heavy reliance on Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores in the admissions process, according to articles in two recent legal journals.


Writing in the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism and the Texas Journal of Women and the Law, William C. Kidder of Testing for the Public, a Berkeley, California research group, analyzed the admissions decisions made by more than 175 law schools from 1994 to 1998. Clear racial trends in the data are readily apparent. Among students with undergraduate grade point averages of 3.5 to 3.74, for example, Kidder found acceptance rates of 85% for white applicants but only 76% for African Americans and 80% for Hispanics. Disparities widened at lower college performance levels: in the 2.25 to 2.49 GPA range, 47% of whites but just 28% of African Americans were accepted.


All told, 72% of white applicants were accepted at one or more law schools. The comparable rates were 69% for Asian Americans, 62% for Native Americans, 61% for Chicanos, 60% for Hispanics, and 46% for African Americans. There was also a gender gap with 69% of men but only 66% of women accepted by at least one law school. Females score lower on the LSAT than their male counterparts even though women earn higher average undergraduate grades.


Kidder concluded that the LSAT is a “higher education poll tax” because of its decisive role in excluding otherwise qualified minority applicants. His new studies have already been used by opponents of a so-called “reverse discrimination” challenge to the University of Michigan Law School’s use of affirmative action. Testing for the Public Executive Director David White, an expert witness for civil rights groups intervening in the case, argued that race-conscious admissions practices were justified to compensate for the LSAT’s bias.