Document Type

Honors Thesis

Publication Date

Spring 5-2018


For the purpose of this research, minorities are defined as both racial and ethnic categories that are numerically inferior than the majority racial or ethnic group. Historical social inferiority is an arguable consequence of numerical inferiority, but is not included in this research’s definition of a minority. In this research, we see how women are numerically inferior in certain legal occupations, however gender/sex is also incorporated within the broader category of racial and ethnic minorities.

Current literature utilizing census bureau data, goes into some detail about the underrepresentation of racial and ethnic minority lawyers. However, this research project reaches greater depth concerning the representation of racial/ethnic groups as lawyers in addition to other legal occupations such as: judges, paralegals, legal support workers, legal assistants, and judicial clerks. The goal is to see how racial and ethnic representation has changed over time spanning back almost forty years. Variables such as age, race, average earnings, regional placement, and sex/gender are used in this paper to see how they influence occupational representation. The American Community Survey(ACS) and decennial census provide data to be collected and studied from the Integrated Public Use Microdata Series(IPUMS) website.

Major findings from this research indicate that the portion of both minority and White populations seeking undergraduate or higher education attainment levels are growing at equal speeds. All races are increasing educational attainment beyond high school, but the percentage of employed minorities compared to their total population is greater than for Whites. It would make sense, then that legal occupations might also be rapidly increasing diversity; however, this is not the case. The representation of minorities in most U.S. states have stayed unchanging for the last 36 years. When looking at the ten most common jobs according to the census, minority representation tends to increase as average earnings decrease, meaning that despite the increase in educational attainment, average incomes of minorities are not increasing. Moreover, minorities compose only 13.25% of all legal occupations but 21.88% of all other occupations. When compared to strictly professional occupations, legal occupations continue to lack in diversity. One factor that might be causing this underrepresentation problem is how minorities tend to choose degrees in undergrad and graduate school that do not correlate to what those employed in legal occupations are choosing. Lastly, the data showed age and sex/gender variables have very different effects depending on which occupation within the legal field is being studied, and also which race is being affected.

Included in

Economics Commons