June 16, 2023

“Freedom Is Not Enough…”: Affirmative Action and J.D. Completion Among Underrepresented People of Color

Diversity Programs
Research and Data


In fall 2022, the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the future of race-conscious affirmative action in higher education. Initially, these policies were adopted to give equal opportunity to communities who have been and continue to be excluded and marginalized by discriminatory systems and practices. As we await the Court’s decision, it is crucial to understand the extent to which existing statewide affirmative action bans affect underrepresented people of color’s (uPOC) graduate/professional degree attainment. To this end, we use publicly available data and a staggered difference-in-difference estimation method to compare pre- and post-ban rates of J.D. completion (and graduate school enrollment, where applicable) in states that implemented a ban on race-conscious affirmative action in college admissions to those without such a ban. Using this technique, we find that the implementation of a ban decreases the proportion of uPOC completing their law degrees and enrolling in graduate programs. These effects are both practically and statistically significant. Despite the partisan controversy surrounding race-conscious admissions, our findings add to empirical research demonstrating the detrimental impact of eliminating affirmative action in college and university admissions.

View our interactive dashboard and download the working paper.

Executive Summary