Empirically Derived Compelling State Interests in Affirmative Action Jurisprudence

Meera E. Deo

Volume 65, Issue 3, 661-712

Educational diversity has long been the only compelling state interest that satisfies strict
scrutiny in affirmative action challenges absent prior institutional discrimination.
However, as educational diversity may be losing favor, it is time to consider viable
alternatives. This Article provides empirical support for the benefits of educational
diversity and proposes three additional compelling state interests for courts to consider.
Support for these compelling state interests comes directly from detailed quantitative and
qualitative analyses of data collected from an empirical study of students at the University
of Michigan Law School, relating to their preferences for diversity, perceptions of
campus climate, and professional aspirations. Study findings indicate that educational
diversity should remain a compelling state interest, and that courts should also consider
the importance of (1) avoiding racial isolation, (2) promoting service to underserved
communities, and (3) facilitating diversity in American leadership.

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