Research Reports

Location and Law School Matriculation (SSR 16-01)

The purpose of this report is to provide summary information about the distances students traveled from their homes to matriculate at a given ABA-approved law school for the academic years 2010 through 2015 (fall terms only). Using Law School Admission Council data, we were able to obtain students’ United States permanent address to calculate the distance between the home address and the law school where the student matriculated, classifying the results by gender; race/ethnicity; lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBTQ) status; academic credentials; and undergraduate institutional type.

Between 65% and 67% of all students who matriculated chose to remain within their home region to attend law school. Though still a majority, a somewhat smaller percentage (54–57%) chose to remain in their home state for law school. The median distance traveled in miles ranged from a low of about 92 miles in 2013 to a high of about 106 miles in 2010. Nearly 29% of students traveled less than 20 miles to attend law school.

Additional trends:

  • Gender: Male students traveled slightly farther than female students, but the gap narrowed over the time period studied.
  • Race/Ethnicity: Among major racial/ethnic subgroups, Black and Asian students were more likely to leave their home state or region, whereas Hispanic/Latino students were least likely to do so. Black students traveled the farthest for most fall terms.
  • LGBTQ Status: LGBTQ students were less likely to remain in their home state or region than their peers who did not self-identify as LGBTQ.
  • LSAT and UGPA Credentials: Students in the highest quartiles for Law School Admission Test (LSAT) score and undergraduate grade point average (UGPA) traveled notably farther than students with lower qualifications.
  • Undergraduate Institutional Characteristics: Students who graduated from private institutions traveled slightly farther than their counterparts who graduated from public institutions. Graduates of private institutions were more likely to leave their home state or region as well. Students who began their undergraduate education at a 2-year institution were more likely to remain in their home state or region than students who began their education at a 4-year institution.

To effectively evaluate the results of this study, the reader should bear in mind that test takers self-select into these subgroups; they are not randomly assigned to them. In addition, all personally identifiable information, including location, is self-reported. The results reported here must then preclude the assumption that membership in a given subgroup is necessarily the causal agent of a given outcome. In addition, differences among subgroups should not be generalized, as these differences may represent only this self-selected sample and not the overall population. Therefore the analysis presented here is purely descriptive in nature. No regressions or other advanced statistical techniques were utilized, and thus variables were not held constant while other variables were explored. More advanced techniques such as these may prove helpful in untangling the complex relationships among various demographic, scholastic, and distance variables. While these current results cannot suggest specific admission recommendations, we hope to be able to provide more detailed and multifaceted information in the future.

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