Whither the Numbers? The Effects of U.S. News and World Report Law School Rankings on Application and Matriculation Decisions between 2002 and 2007

Open Access
Author:
Gerhardt, William Scott
Area of Honors:
Economics
Degree:
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis
Thesis Supervisors:
  • John Jesse Cheslock, Thesis Supervisor
  • David Shapiro, Honors Advisor
Keywords:
  • signaling
  • U.S. News and World Report
  • lawyers
  • rankings
  • higher education
  • law school
  • labor economics
Abstract:
In recent years there has been an increased media focus and pubic interest in law schools. While there is much speculation on what market indicators attracts students to law schools, there have been few studies attempting to empirically analyze what factors influence applications and matriculations to these schools. Prior research by Sauder and Lancaster (2006) has shown that U.S. News and World Report rankings have a significant impact of the number of applications an individual law school receives, but less is known about how student application decisions are influenced by indicator like advertised post-graduation income, tuition, and post-graduation debt. Using application data from the Law School Admissions Council along with using data obtained from the U.S. News and World Report’s America’s Best Graduate Schools publication I replicate the results of Sauder and Lancaster (2006) for the period between 2002 and 2007. I find that U.S. News rankings influence student decisions to apply to individual law schools. I also find that advertised 75th percentile post-graduation private sector incomes and advertised out-of-state law school tuition have statistically significant effects on law school applications across all law schools, but that these results are less robust when schools are categorized into private and public institutions.