A decade ago, in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated the admissions plan of the medical school at the University of California, Davis. The plan reserved sixteen of 100 places in each year's entering class for racial minorities. The ruling generally has been interpreted to mean that schools cannot use quotas but can practice affirmative action. The Bakke case became almost a household word before the decision was reached. In the public's view, the case would go a long way toward symbolically setting the tone and determining the speed of affirmative action in American society. In addition, it would determine the validity of many professional schools' admissions plans and, therefore, the composition of these professional schools' classes in the future. Surprisingly, despite its status as one of the most celebrated cases in many years, the actual impact of Bakke is unknown. No serious scientific study has attempted to determine if Bakke had a significant effect on the crucial path to upward mobility-- professional schools. Drs. Welch and Gruhl will attempt to remedy this gap by assessing the impact of the Bakke decision on minority enrollments in medical and law schools. They will assemble three data sets: (1) aggregate national data on minority enrollments in the first year classes of law and medical schools from 1964 to 1986; (2) time series data on individual medical and law schools; and (3) survey data from admissions officers. Multivariate and interrupted time series analyses will be used to test the general hypotheses that the Court's decision striking down quotas made a significant change in the admissions patterns of several institutions, but that the Court's policy allowing affirmative action made less of a visible change. Not only is this research important because it is the first empirical inquiry into the effects of the widely discussed and controversial Bakke case, but also the Bakke decision offers a relatively rare opportunity to examine systematically the impact of an important Court decision nationwide on both public and private officials. Often, judicial scholars are forced by circumstances to look at only a small portion of those agencies that implement the Court's decision (police departments or schools, for example). This study will examine every law and medical school affected by the decision and will be able to shed light on important theoretical questions about the role courts play as policy makers, the impact court decisions have on behavior nationwide, and how different types of organizations respond to a court decision.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Social and Economic Sciences (SES)
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Lisa Martin
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University of Nebraska-Lincoln
United States
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