The article, "Do Rankings Matter? The Effects of U.S. News & World Report Rankings on the Admissions Process of Law Schools," was co-authored by Michael Sauder, an assistant professor at the University of Iowa, and Ryon Lancaster, an assistant professor at the University of Chicago. Sauder and Lancaster found that the U.S. News rankings have particularly strong effects on the decisions of students who receive high scores on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), and these effects are greatest for schools ranked in the top 50, although schools of all ranks experience the effect to some degree. Furthermore, the authors found that USN ranks have effects on how selective schools are--that is, the number of applicants they choose to accept--in their efforts to fill their incoming classes. Again, these effects were strongest for schools ranked in the top 50.
In addition, the authors found evidence that rankings can become a self-fulfilling prophecy for some schools, as the effects of rankings alter the profile of the schools' student bodies and, in turn, change their future rank. This can result in a "negative spiral" that results in small differences becoming bigger over time because of the effects of rankings.
Cumulatively, the findings by Sauder and Lancaster suggest that the rankings help create rather than simply reflect differences among law schools through the magnification of the small, and statistically random, distinctions produced by the measurement apparatus.
Media wishing to receive a PDF, please contact JournalNews@bos.blackwellpublishing.net. For more information on the study itself, reporters may contact Michael Sauder.
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