Amy Wax, Crimethinker
Thumb sailer
March 15, 2018, 05:25 PM
Print Friendly and PDF

Penn law professor Amy Wax is a realist crimethinker who has increasingly come under fire for her honesty. Here are a couple of old pieces about her:

Amy Wax: “The Iron Law of Personnel Selection”

Penn Law School Profs Point ‘n’ Sputter at Amy Wax

Now she’s gotten in trouble for a video discussion with Glenn Loury. From the Washington Post:

Penn Law professor who said black students are ‘rarely’ in top half of class loses teaching duties

By Derek Hawkins March 15 at 8:49 AM Email the author

A University of Pennsylvania law school professor will no longer teach required courses following outcry over a video in which she suggested — falsely, according to the school — that black students seldom graduated high in their class.

Amy Wax, a tenured professor, will continue to teach electives in her areas of expertise but will be removed from teaching first-year curriculum courses, Penn Law Dean Theodore Ruger said in a statement Wednesday.

Ruger said Wax spoke “disparagingly and inaccurately” when she claimed last year that she had “rarely, rarely” seen a black student finish in the top half of their class.

“It is imperative for me as dean to state that these claims are false,” he said, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian, the student newspaper.

“Black students have graduated in the top of the class at Penn Law,” Ruger said.

Hoo, boy, that’s some high level intellectual debate going on here! The Dean counters the claim that black students at Penn “rarely” graduate in the top half of the class by saying black students “have” graduated in the top of the class.

Case dismissed!

So far, Professor Wax’s critics haven’t put forward any actual numbers.

Why not? Because they are a secret.

A few numbers are available about law schools in general. From the New York Times in 2005:

For Blacks in Law School, Can Less Be More? By ADAM LIPTAK FEB. 13, 2005

ONE would have thought, given the decades of ardent debate over affirmative action in higher education, that the main axes of the dispute had been established. Defenders of racial preferences say that they compensate for historical wrongs, ensure vibrant and varied campus discourse and help create minority role models and leaders. Opponents say preferences are nothing but a reverse form of discrimination that stereotypes and stigmatizes minority students.

But a recent study published in The Stanford Law Review by Richard H. Sander, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, has found a new way to inflame the debate. In fact, the study has ignited what may be the fiercest dispute over affirmative action since 2003, when the Supreme Court found some forms of it to be constitutional.

Professor Sander’s study tests a simple, but startling, thesis: Affirmative action actually depresses the number of black lawyers, because many black students end up attending law schools that are too difficult for them, and perform badly. …

The basic numbers are not in serious dispute.

Using a standard 1,000-point scale to reflect both L.S.A.T. scores and undergraduate grade-point averages, Professor Sander writes, the average black student’s score was 130 to 170 points below that of the average white student.

Once at law school, the average black student gets lower grades than white students: 52 percent of black students are in the bottom 10th of their first-year law school classes, while only 8 percent are in the top half. And the grades of black students drop slightly in relative terms from the first year of law school to the third.

Black students are twice as likely as whites to fail to finish law school. Nineteen percent of the black students who started law school in 1991 had failed to graduate five years later; the corresponding figure for whites was 8 percent.

About 88 percent of all law students pass a bar exam on the first attempt; 95 percent pass eventually. For blacks, the corresponding figures are 61 percent and 78 percent.

It’s pretty detrimental to one’s life to go to law school but never be able to pass the bar exam.

On the other hand, most affirmative action admittees to Ivy League law schools like Penn most likely eventually pass the bar. For example, Michelle Obama managed to pass the relatively easy Illinois bar exam on her second opportunity (her superstar husband passed on his first try).

Still, after a couple of years on the job after her affirmative action hire into Big Law, it was clear to all concerned that she would never make partner, so she gave up her law license and went to work for the less IQ-demanding Richie Daley Administration.

(The real parasites are low level law schools who prey on black students’ often inflated self-regard by getting them to pay several years of tuition without much hope they’ll ever get a paying job in the field).

But, Penn is down a notch from Harvard, so perhaps its black students are even less apt than Michelle (much less Barack, who became an instant celebrity at Harvard Law School for being a black student who could compete intellectually in class discussions with the white and Asian students)?

It would seem likely that Penn has all the data somewhere, but you can’t see it because it’s a Secret.

Update: Here’s a discussion of the best law schools for black students who want, perfectly reasonably, to get high paying BigLaw jobs. Surprise revelation: Harvard comes in number one on a combination of high paying jobs and having a fair number of other blacks in its big classes.

Here’s a write-up on a discussion board of black LSAT scores.

Here’s the PDF of the amicus curiae brief submitted to the Supreme Court in Fisher v. Texas by the Law School Admission Council:


A. Minority Law School Applicants Are Significantly Underrepresented In The Highest Ranges Of Numeric Admissions Criteria

… The raw numbers are startling. For the fall 2010 entering class, there were a total of 7,789 law school applicants who had both LSAT scores of 165 or above and UGPA of 3.5 or above. Of that number, just 63 were black. LSAC, National Decision Profiles, 2006- 2010 (2012), isionprofiles.pdf. Only 236 were Hispanic or Puerto Rican. As shown in the below table, the numbers are consistent for preceding years, with the share of African-American applicants in this upper range lingering just under 1%, and the percentage of Hispanic applicants remaining about 2.5%:

Screenshot 2018-03-15 20.02.36

At Penn, the median LSAT is 169 and the median GPA is 3.9. So, once again, in the year 2010 in the whole country there were only 63 black applicants who were at least moderately below average (but not hopeless): call them The Competent.

And Harvard, Yale, and Stanford are going to get a lot of those 63 competent black applicants. If you got accepted to Penn (in downtown Philly) and to Stanford (on 12 square miles in Silicon Valley), which one would you choose?

Here are Penn’s self-reported numbers:

Screenshot 2018-03-15 20.14.14

So, a 165 on the LSAT might be around, roughly, the 33rd percentile at Penn and a 3.5 GPA at about the 23rd percentile. Students at that level would likely fit in but not stand out.

And there were only 63 of them at that level or above in the entire country in 2010 who were black and applying to law school.

People who scored below 165/3.5 are probably quite unlikely to make the top half of the class at Penn.

So, how many did Penn snag out of those 63 black applicants in the USA with a decent chance at making the top half of Penn’s class?

It probably depends upon how many full ride scholarships Penn offers to blacks. For example, Northwestern Law School offered a full tuition scholarship to Barack Obama, but he turned it down for Harvard even though he was stuck paying off student loans for years. (But Harvard turned out to work out okay for Obama in terms of career ambitions.)

There are so few black students at the top of the top law schools that Barack Obama was almost immediately being talked up as America’s First Black President when he showed up at HLS and demonstrated that he could hang intellectually with the better students.

This 63 number could be boosted to, say, 75 or 100 by more full ride scholarships to law school for smart blacks. But, it would mostly be diminishing the number of blacks going to medical or law school or pursuing legit Ph.D.’s.

Commenter Jack D does the arithmetic:

Nineteen percent of the black students who started law school in 1991 had failed to graduate five years later; the corresponding figure for whites was 8 percent.

About 88 percent of all law students pass a bar exam on the first attempt; 95 percent pass eventually. For blacks, the corresponding figures are 61 percent and 78 percent.

So 100 black students start law school. 81 graduate eventually . 50 pass the bar on their first try and eventually another 13 pass. Over 1/3 of those who start NEVER become lawyers and all of the money spent on sending them to law school for 1 to 5 years (I’m guessing mostly scholarship money) is a total waste.

Notice the sleight of hand above – the black vs. WHITE graduation rate is given but for bar exam passage it is black vs. ALL. What is the WHITE bar passage rate – they don’t tell us.

So about 91% of white students who start law school eventually pass the bar exam vs. about 63% of black students.

[Comment at]