Richard Sander
Professor of Law

Born Washington, D.C., 1956
B.A. Harvard, 1978 
J.D. Northwestern, 1988
Ph.D. Economics, Northwestern, 1990
UCLA Law faculty since 1989


Rick Sander has been working on questions of social and economic inequality for nearly all of his career.  He was born in Washington, D.C., but spent most of his childhood in small towns in northwest Indiana.  He attended Harvard College in the mid-1970s, where he won the Bowdoin Prize for an essay on the ideology of expanding suffrage in early New York State and graduated magna cum laude in Social Studies in 1978.  In 1978-79, Sander served as a Vista volunteer at The Neighborhood Institute, a community organization on Chicago’s south side.  Sander’s responsibilities included organizing tenant unions, fostering receiverships for deteriorating buildings, and developing strategies to stem housing abandonment.  During this work, Sander was struck by the deep and wide-ranging effects of the South Shore Bank, an experimental institution owned by foundations and churches that was seeking to foster coordinated neighborhood investment in Chicago’s South Shore neighborhood.  Working with the Woodstock Institute, Sander secured funding from several federal agencies to conduct a substantial evaluation of the Bank and its institutional parent (the Illinois Neighborhood Development Corporation), which was published in 1982.

Sander attended graduate school at Northwestern University from 1983 to 1988, earning degrees in law (J.D., 1988) and economics (M.A. 1985, Ph.D., 1990).   At the School of Law he served as an articles editor on the Law Review (1987-88).  He studied under Len Rubinowitz, Jack Heinz, John Donohue, Dale Mortensen and Joe Altongi, and sought in his dissertation to explain why fair housing laws had seemingly produced widespread integration in some American metropolitan areas, but very little integration in most.  During much of this period, Sander served on the board of the Rogers Park Tenants Committee, and worked on the election effort and subsequent transition team of Harold Washington, Chicago’s first black mayor.

In 1989, Sander joined the faculty of the UCLA School of Law, where he became a full professor five years later.   During this period, he continued his work on housing segregation, but also pursued two new interests:  the reasons behind the American legal profession’s explosive growth since the mid-1960s, and the structure and effects of law school admissions policies.  In 1990, he designed a new admissions policy (adopted by UCLA’s law school) that sought to calibrate objectively the differences in college quality and grading that most graduate programs take into account in evaluating the college transcripts of applicants.  In 1995, he published (with colleague Kristine Knaplund) a comparative evaluation of seven academic support programs used by the law school to help academically struggling students; the study sought to determine why some programs produced real academic benefits, while others had no measurable effect.  After California voters approved Propostion 209 in 1996 – banning the use of race in various government programs, including admissions at the University of California – Sander successfully argued for the adoption of class-based preferences in the law school’s admissions, and published a study on the results of this experiment in 1997.

From 1990 to 1996, Sander served on the board of the Fair Housing Congress of Southern California, serving the last two years as President.  The Fair Housing Congress had oversight responsibilities over a number of smaller fair housing groups, and Sander worked during this period on methods for evaluating these organizations and, more broadly, on the question of how fair housing agencies could best promote declines in housing discrimination.  This led to a series of fair housing studies for governments across California, and to the founding in 1996 of the Fair Housing Institute, a non-profit that experimented with new service and enforcement strategies.  The Institute won a large grant in 1999 from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to expand its prototype enforcement model, and it successfully combined its activities with what has become the Housing Rights Center LA.

In 1996 Sander was commissioned by the City of Los Angeles to study a proposed living wage ordinance that would require most city contractors to provide higher wages and health benefits to the workers on those contracts.  Sander and economist Doug Williams produced a study recommending a modified proposal that sought to balance projected social benefits with social costs and fiscal impact on the City.  The study won considerable praise as an objective analysis of a controversial topic, and the Los Angeles City Council unanimously adopted an ordinance based on seven of Sander and Williams’ eight recommendations.  Sander did several follow-up analyses on the City’s implementation of the ordinance.  Sander also proposed in January 1997 that the City launch efforts to increase utilization by low-income Los Angeles families of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a kind of negative income tax that has become the federal government’s largest income redistribution program.  The proposal led to the creation of a joint Los Angeles City/County task force, involving over a dozen government agencies and producing, according to a 2000 study, a $34 million annual increase in EITC benefits to Los Angeles households (the outreach and coordination programs cost $140,000 per year).  In 2000, 2002, and 2004, Sander and Williams conducted detailed studies of a high minimum wage proposed for Santa Monica, California.  They argued that high, mandatory minimum wages actually have counter-distributional effects (i.e., low-income households lose more income than they gain) and that local or statewide EITCs that piggyback on the federal EITC are much more effective local strategies for alleviating poverty.

In 1996, Sander was one of seven UCLA faculty members and staff who developed a proposal for a new program in public interest law at UCLA.  The program aimed to create a separate admissions track for students with strong public interest backgrounds, and to provide a set of courses specifically designed to train students in a variety of roles related to public interest work.  The Program in Public Interest Law and Policy began in 1997 and has produced (as of 2004) over one hundred graduates.  Roughly half of program’s graduates go into careers in or related to public interest law, and students in the program tend to outperform projections based on their academic credentials.

In 1998, Sander and others at the School of Law founded the Empirical Research Group (ERG), an entity designed to help faculty members undertake ambitious empirical projects and introduce more quantitative and methodological sophistication into their policy-related work.  ERG has worked with over twenty faculty and has helped to bring to the school some $3 million, from dozens of grants and research contracts.  Sander has served as director of ERG since its inception, though Joe Doherty, the Associate Director, has been its dominant guiding spirit for years.

Sander’s own empirical work increasingly focused on the need to develop larger databases on lawyers and legal education to study a variety of widely-debated but little-understood topics, such as the extent of gender bias in law schools, the utility of the third-year curriculum, and the effects of affirmative action policies.  In 1995 Sander, Knaplund, and Kit Winter enlisted thirty law schools from across the United States in a large-scale study of first-year law students.  The study was replicated with third-year students in 1998-99 (with Mitu Gulati as collaborator), and Gulati and Sander published a detailed study of the third-year of law school in 2001.  In 1998, Sander joined a group of academics and organizations to create “After the JD” (AJD), a large-scale, longitudinal cohort study of the legal profession.  AJD secured funding to track a national sample of young lawyers, and published its first findings in 2004.  The AJD’s databases provide the first detailed, reliable cross-sectional information ever collected on a large sample of attorneys.

Sander teaches courses in Property, Quantitative Methods, Urban Housing, and Policy Analysis.  He is married to astrophysicist Fiona Harrison, and has two children, Robert and Erica.  He lives in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles.


Selected Publications

“A Systemic Analysis of Affirmative Action in American Law Schools,” 57 Stanford Law Review (forthcoming, 2004).

 “Santa Monica’s Minimum Wage: Assessing the Living Wage Movement’s New Frontier” (with E. Douglass Williams), Economic Development Quarterly (forthcoming 2004).

 After the JD:  First Results of a National Study of Legal Careers (with Ronit Dinovitzer, Bryant Garth, Joyce Sterling and Gita Wilder), NALP Foundation and the American Bar Foundation, 2004.

 “The Happy Charade:  An Empirical Examination of the Third Year of Law School,” (with Mitu Gulati and Bob Sockloskie) 51 Journal of Legal Education 235-66 (2001); republished (with extended footnotes) as Chapter 4 of Sherwyn &Yelnosky, editors, NYU Selected Essays on Labor and Employment Law, volume 2 (2003).

 "Housing Segregation and Housing Integration:  The Diverging Paths of Urban America" Miami Law Rev. (1998).

 "Experimenting With Class-Based Affirmative Action," 47 Journal of Legal Education 472 (1997).

 An Empirical Analysis of the Proposed Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance, (with E. Douglass Williams) commissioned and published by the City of Los Angeles (January 1997).

 Fair Housing in Los Angeles County:  An Assessment of Progress and Challenges, 1970-1995, commissioned by the City and County of Los Angeles (1996).

 “The Art and Science of Academic Support,” (with Kristine S. Knaplund), 45 Journal of Legal Education 157 (1995).

 "The Prospects for 'Putting America to Work' in the Inner City," (with E. Douglass Williams) 81 Georgetown Law Journal 2003-72 (1993).

 “Why Are There So Many Lawyers?  Perspectives on a Turbulent Market," (with E. Douglass Williams) 14 Law and Social Inquiry 431-79 (1989).

 "Individual Rights and Demographic Realities: The Problem of Fair Housing," 82 Northwestern University Law Review 874-939 (1988).

 Evaluation of the Illinois Neighborhood Development Corporation (with the Woodstock Institute, a report published by the U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development, 1982).