The Asian Australian Lawyers Association has produced a study that purports to show that Asians are underrepresented as partners in law firms. The key numbers are these:

9.6% of Australia’s population is Asian
3.1% of partners in law firms are Asian

Asian-Australian are underrepresented as partners in law firms by 67%.

But those data are problematic because they assume that the population of Asian-Australians are as capable as White Australians at becoming partners in a law firm. Clearly being a partner in a law firm requires a very high level of English proficiency. Is Australia’s Asian population as capable at English as Australia’s White population? Given that the majority of Asian-Australian were born overseas, that is very unlikely to be true.

7%* of Australia’s population is “overseas-born Asian.” That means that 9.6%-7%=2.6% is the number of Australian-born Asians.

If we make the reasonable assumption that those Asians born in Australia are as equally proficient in English as White Australians, and that those Asians born overseas are not, then, crudely, the two numbers under comparison are:

2.6% of Australia’s population is Australian-born Asian
3.1% of partners in law firms are Asian

According to those two numbers, Asians are overrepresented by 16%.

*The Australian article says 6%, but it also says that the 6% does not include 295,000 Indians. When one adds in the 295,000 Indians, the percentage increases from 6% to 7%.

Also note that the numbers from the Australian article come from the 2011 census, so it’s not clear to what degree they accord with 2015’s Asian share of the population.

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