Female Law Student Demographics; Don’t Buy The Hype!

by Angela N. Johnson

A report published by the American Bar Association (“ABA”) yields insight into the gender disparity of law students for the years 1947-2008. It becomes clear in studying the charts of first year male enrollment and first year female enrollment, that women have never comprised one-half of 1L law students. This isn’t to say that women have not comprised half of 1L law students at any particular law school; in fact I’m sure this is likely. However, just one year (the 1992-1993 academic year) females comprised slightly more than half of all law students (49.6% men to 50.4% female (with a numerical difference of 1,076)).  However, the following year, the divide was sharp, with male law students comprising 56.9% and female law students at 43.1%.  Since then, women have continued to lag behind men in law school enrollment. What is further troubling is that the gap narrowed once again in the years 2000-2002, only to widen in the 2002-2003 academic year. In the 2000-2001 academic year total first year male enrollment was 22,019, compared to total first year female enrollment at 21,499; representing just a 520 person difference. The following year was also promising, with just a 562 person difference. However, in the 2002-2003 academic year the gap was blown wide open once again with a 1,259 disparity. It appears that while female enrollment jumped significantly (female first year enrollment increased by 1,333 from the previous year) first year male enrollment increased by 1.5x the rate of female enrollment (male first year enrollment increased by 2,030 from the previous year). Even more alarming is the fact that from 2002-2003, the gap continues to widen significantly, spiking in the 2006-2007 academic year.

Below are two graphs I created based on the ABA Data to further demonstrate the disparity:

Source: American Bar Association. “Enrollment and Degrees Awarded (1947-2008 Academic Years).” 2009.

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