Women Law Students Less Likely to Drop-Out

by Angela N. Johnson

Having previously analyzed ABA data on law student attrition rates (in terms of raw numbers) and on total enrollment individually, I came to the conclusion that my spreadsheet on attrition rates would yield much greater insight if I could convert the raw numbers (for example, x male students discontinued their law studies in year x) into actual percentages (x% of male students and x% of female students discontinued their law studies). The reason this was important to me was because women have never made up an equal percentage of law students.  In fact, my data analysis reflects that the disparity is increasing! So its nearly worthless to know x number of male students and x number of female students discontinued their studies without knowing the actual portion (or, percentage).  In other words, I compared the total 1L male enrollment vs. 1L male attrition and then separately compared the total 1L female enrollment vs. the 1L female attrition.

I was pleased to find that my hypothesis was correct; when accounting for male enrollment v. male attrition and female enrollment v. female attrition, women are more likely than men to continue their legal studies.  In fact, from 1981-2008 there were no years in which women 1L law student attrition rates (in percentages) were higher than male 1L law students. Moreover, there were just four total occurrences from 1981-2008 in which women’s attrition was higher than male students (3L attrition for females was higher than males in the 2005-2006 school year; 4L (part-time students in their final year) attrition for females was higher than males in the 2006-2007, 2005-2006, and 1986-1987 school years. However, these rates represent raw numbers and do not take into consideration the total proportion of male and female law students individually since total enrollment for 2L, 3L, and 4L is not available.  So it is extremely likely that the percentage of males maintaining a higher attrition rate stands across the board.

Below is the graph I created based on the ABA data:


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