Posted on April 17, 2023

Racial Inequality in Bar Exam Scores Reaches an All-Time High in 2022

JD Journal, April 13, 2023

New data from the American Bar Association has shown that the gap in bar pass rates between white and minority law graduates has widened for the second year. The data showed that 83% of white test takers passed their bar exam on their first attempt, compared to 57% of Black examinees – a difference of 26 percentage points. This gap increased from 24 percentage points in 2021. The disparity also held for Hispanic and Asian test takers, with 69% and 75% first-time pass rates, respectively. The gap with white examinees grew from 13 percentage points to 14 for Hispanic test takers and six percentage points to 8 for Asian test takers.

While white first-time bar examinees’ performance declined from an 85% pass rate in 2021 to 83% in 2022, the decline was smaller than the dip among Black, Hispanic and Asian examinees. The national first-time pass rate fell to 78% in 2022 from 80% the previous year.

Critics of the bar exam have long pointed to racial gaps in results as evidence that the attorney licensing exam is biased against minority test takers. {snip}


Racial disparities have also persisted in “ultimate bar pass rates,” which measure pass rates over two years. In 2021, the ultimate pass rate for white bar examinees was 90%, compared to 86% among Asians, 81% among Hispanics, and 72% among Black test takers, according to the new ABA figures.