Stereotype threat, role models, and demographic mismatch in an elite professional school setting
Ten years of administrative data from a diverse, private, top-100 law school are used to examine the ways in which female and nonwhite students benefit from exposure to demographically similar faculty in first-year required law courses. Arguably causal impacts of exposure to same-sex and same-race instructors on course-specific outcomes such as course grades are identified using a two-way (student and classroom) fixed effects strategy. Impacts of faculty representation on long-run, student-specific outcomes such as graduation are identified using an instrumental variables (IV) strategy that exploits transitory variation in the demographic makeup of the faculty. Having an other-sex instructor reduces the likelihood of receiving a good grade (A or A-) by one percentage point (3%) and having an other-race instructor reduces the likelihood of receiving a good grade by three percentage points (10%). The effects of student-instructor demographic mismatch are particularly salient for nonwhite female students. The IV estimates suggest that the share of first-year courses taught by nonwhite instructors increases the probabilities that nonwhite students persist into the second year and graduate on time. These results provide novel evidence of the pervasiveness of role-model effects in elite settings and of the graduate-school education production function.