Affirmative action, also known as reservation in India and Nepal, positive discrimination / action in the United Kingdom, and employment equity (in a narrower context) in Canada and South Africa, is the policy of promoting the education and employment of members of groups that are known to have previously suffered from discrimination. Historically and internationally, support for affirmative action has sought to achieve goals such as bridging inequalities in employment and pay, increasing access to education, promoting diversity, and redressing apparent past wrongs, harms, or hindrances.
The nature of affirmative action policies varies from region to region. Some countries use a quota system, whereby a certain percentage of government jobs, political positions, and school vacancies must be reserved for members of a certain group; an example of this is the reservation system in India. In some other regions where quotas are not used, minority group members are given preference or special consideration in selection processes. In the United States, affirmative action in employment and education has been the subject of legal and political controversy; in 2003, a pair of decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States (Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger) permitted educational institutions to consider race as a factor when admitting students while prohibiting the use of quotas. In other countries, such as the UK, affirmative action is rendered illegal because it does not treat all races equally. This approach to equal treatment is described as being "color blind". In such countries, the focus tends to be on ensuring equal opportunity and, for example, targeted advertising campaigns to encourage ethnic minority candidates to join the police force. This is sometimes described as "positive action".
The term "affirmative action" was first used in the United States in "Executive Order No. 10925", signed by President John F. Kennedy on 6 March 1961, which included a provision that government contractors "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin". It was used to promote actions that achieve non-discrimination. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued Executive Order 11246 which required government employers to take "affirmative action" to "hire without regard to race, religion and national origin". This prevented employers from discriminating against members of disadvantaged groups. In 1967, gender was added to the anti-discrimination list.
Affirmative action is intended to promote the opportunities of defined minority groups within a society to give them equal access to that of the majority population.
It is often instituted for government and educational settings to ensure that certain designated "minority groups" within a society are able to participate in all provided opportunities including promotional, educational, and training opportunities.
The stated justification for affirmative action by its proponents is that it helps to compensate for past discrimination, persecution or exploitation by the ruling class of a culture, and to address existing discrimination.
Several different studies investigated the effect of affirmative action on women. Kurtulus (2012) in her review of affirmative action and the occupational advancement of minorities and women during 1973-2003 showed that the effect of affirmative action on advancing black, Hispanic, and white women into management, professional, and technical occupations occurred primarily during the 1970s and early 1980s. During this period, contractors grew their shares of these groups more rapidly than noncontractors because of the implementation of affirmative action. But the positive effect of affirmative action vanished entirely in the late 1980s, which Kurtulus says may be due to the slowdown into advanced occupation for women and minorities because of the political shift of affirmative action that started by President Reagan. Becoming a federal contractor increased white women's share of professional occupations by 0.183 percentage points, or 7.3 percent, on average during these three decades, and increased black women's share by 0.052 percentage points (or by 3.9 percent). Becoming a federal contractor also increased Hispanic women's and black men's share of technical occupations on average by 0.058 percent and 0.109 percentage points respectively (or by 7.7 and 4.2 percent). These represent a substantial contribution of affirmative action to overall trends in the occupational advancement of women and minorities over the three decades under the study. A reanalysis of multiple scholarly studies, especially in Asia, considered the impact of four primary factors on support for affirmative action programs for women: gender; political factors; psychological factors; and social structure. Kim and Kim (2014) found that, "Affirmative action both corrects existing unfair treatment and gives women equal opportunity in the future."
Law regarding quotas and affirmative action varies widely from nation to nation. Caste-based quotas are used in India for reservation. However, they are illegal in the United States, where no employer, university, or other entity may create a set number required for each race.
In 2012, the European Union Commission approved a plan for women to constitute 40% of non-executive board directorships in large listed companies in Europe by 2020. In Sweden, the Supreme Court has ruled that "affirmative action" ethnic quotas in universities are discrimination and hence unlawful. It said that the requirements for the intake should be the same for all. The justice minister said that the decision left no room for uncertainty.
In some countries that have laws on racial equality, affirmative action is rendered illegal because it does not treat all races equally. This approach of equal treatment is sometimes described as being "color blind", in hopes that it is effective against discrimination without engaging in reverse discrimination.
In such countries, the focus tends to be on ensuring equal opportunity and, for example, targeted advertising campaigns to encourage ethnic minority candidates to join the police force. This is sometimes described as "positive action".
The apartheid government, as a matter of state policy, favoured white-owned, especially Afrikaner-owned companies. The aforementioned policies achieved the desired results, but in the process they marginalised and excluded black people. Skilled jobs were also reserved for white people, and blacks were largely used as unskilled labour, enforced by legislation including the Mines and Works Act, the Job Reservations Act, the Native Building Workers Act, the Apprenticeship Act and the Bantu Education Act, creating and extending the "colour bar" in South African labour. Then the whites successfully persuaded the government to enact laws that highly restricted the blacks' employment opportunities.
Since the 1960s the apartheid laws had been weakened. Consequently, from 1975 to 1990 the real wages of black manufacturing workers rose by 50%, while those of whites rose by 1%.
The economic and politically structured society during the apartheid ultimately caused disparities in employment, occupation and income within labour markets, which provided advantages to certain groups and characteristics of people. This in due course was the motivation to introduce affirmative action in South Africa, following the end of apartheid.
Following the transition to democracy in 1994, the African National Congress-led government chose to implement affirmative action legislation to correct previous imbalances (a policy known as employment equity). As such, all employers were compelled by law to employ previously disenfranchised groups (blacks, Indians, and Coloureds). A related, but distinct concept is Black Economic Empowerment.
The Employment Equity Act and the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Act aim to promote and achieve equality in the workplace (in South Africa termed "equity"), by advancing people from designated groups. The designated groups who are to be advanced include all people of colour, women (including white women) and people with disabilities (including white people). Employment Equity legislation requires companies employing more than 50 people to design and implement plans to improve the representativity of workforce demographics, and report them to the Department of Labour.
Employment Equity also forms part of a company's Black Economic Empowerment scorecard: in a relatively complex scoring system, which allows for some flexibility in the manner in which each company meets its legal commitments, each company is required to meet minimum requirements in terms of representation by previously disadvantaged groups. The matters covered include equity ownership, representation at employee and management level (up to board of director level), procurement from black-owned businesses and social investment programs, amongst others.
The policies of Employment Equity and, particularly, Black Economic empowerment have been criticised both by those who view them as discriminatory against white people, and by those who view them as ineffectual.
These laws cause disproportionally high costs for small companies and reduce economic growth and employment. The laws may give the black middle-class some advantage but can make the worse-off blacks even poorer. Moreover, the Supreme Court has ruled that in principle blacks may be favored, but in practice this should not lead to unfair discrimination against the others.
As mentioned previously affirmative action was introduced through the Employment Equality Act, 55 in 1998, 4 years after the end of apartheid. This act was passed to promote the constitutional right of equality and exercise true democracy. This idea was to eliminate unfair discrimination in employment, to ensure the implementation of employment equity to redress the effects of discrimination, to achieve a diverse workforce broadly representative of our people, to promote economic development and efficiency in the workforce and to give effects to the obligations of the Republic as a member of the International Labour Organisation.
Many embraced the Act; however some concluded that the act contradicted itself. The act eliminates unfair discrimination in certain sectors of the national labour market by imposing similar constraints on another.
With the introduction of Affirmative Action, Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) rose additionally in South Africa. The BEE was not a moral initiative to redress the wrongs of the past but to promote growth and strategies that aim to realize a country's full potential. The idea was targeting the weakest link in economics, which was inequality and which would help develop the economy. This is evident in the statement by the Department of Trade and Industry, "As such, this strategy stresses a BEE process that is associated with growth, development and enterprise development, and not merely the redistribution of existing wealth". Similarities between the BEE and affirmative action are apparent; however there is a difference. BEE focuses more on employment equality rather than taking wealth away from the skilled white labourers.
The main goal of Affirmative Action is for a country to reach its full potential. This occurrence would result in a completely diverse workforce in economic and social sectors. Thus broadening the economic base and therefore stimulating economic growth.
Once applied within the country, many different outcomes arose, some positive and some negative. This depended on the approach to and the view of The Employment Equality Act and affirmative action.
Positive: Pre-Democracy, the apartheid governments discriminated against non-white races, so with affirmative action, the country started to redress past discriminations. Affirmative action also focused on combating structural racism and racial inequality, hoping to maximize diversity in all levels of society and sectors. Achieving this would elevate the status of the perpetual underclass and to restore equal access to the benefits of society.
Negative: Though affirmative action had its positives, negatives arose. A quota system was implemented, which aimed to achieve targets of diversity in a work force. This target affected the hiring and level of skill in the work force, ultimately affecting the free market. Affirmative action created marginalization for coloured and Indian races in South Africa, as well as developing and aiding the middle and elite classes, leaving the lower class behind. This created a bigger gap between the lower and middle class, which led to class struggles and a greater segregation. Entitlement began to arise with the growth of the middle and elite classes, as well as race entitlement. Many believe that affirmative action is discrimination in reverse. With all these negatives, much talent started to leave the country. Many negative consequences of affirmative action, specifically the quota system, drive skilled labour away, resulting in bad economic growth. This is due to very few international companies wanting to invest in South Africa.
With these negative and positive outcomes of affirmative action, it is evident that the concept of affirmative action is continually evolving.
There is affirmative action in education for minority nationalities. This may equate to lowering minimum requirements for the National University Entrance Examination, which is a mandatory exam for all students to enter university. Some universities set quotas for minority (non-Han) student intake. Further, minority students enrolled in ethnic minority-oriented specialties (e.g. language and literature programs) are provided with scholarships and/or pay no tuition, and are granted a monthly stipend.
A class-based affirmative action policy was incorporated into the admission practices of the four most selective universities in Israel during the early to mid-2000s. In evaluating the eligibility of applicants, neither their financial status nor their national or ethnic origins are considered. The emphasis, rather, is on structural disadvantages, especially neighborhood socioeconomic status and high school rigor, although several individual hardships are also weighed. This policy made the four institutions, especially the echelons at the most selective departments, more diverse than they otherwise would have been. The rise in geographic, economic and demographic diversity of a student population suggests that the plan's focus on structural determinants of disadvantage yields broad diversity dividends.
Israeli citizens who are; Women, Arabs, Blacks or people with disabilities are entitled to Affirmative Action in the civil service employment. Also Israeli citizens who are Arabs, Blacks or people with disabilities are entitled for Affirmative Actions are entitled for full University tuition scholarships by the state.
In her study of gender politics in Israel, Dafna Izraeli showed that the paradox of affirmative action for women directors is that the legitimation for legislating their inclusion on boards also resulted in the exclusion of women's interested as a legitimate issue on the boards' agendas. "The new culture of the men's club is seductive token women are under the pressure to become "social males" and prove that their competence as directors, meaning that they are not significantly different from men. In the negotiation for status as worthy peers, emphasizing gender signals that a woman is an "imposter", someone who does not rightfully belong in the position she is claiming to fill." And once affirmative action for women is fulfilled, and then affirmative action shares the element, as Izraeli put it, the "group equality discourse," making it easier for other groups to claim for a fairer distribution of resources. This suggests that affirmative action can have applications for different groups in Israel.
Reservation in India is a form of affirmative action designed to improve the well-being of backward and under-represented communities defined primarily by their caste. Reservation in India favors the majority of the population with more than 90% of Indian Citizens eligible for reservation benefits. 59.5% of all college admissions and government jobs are reserved for this 90% majority but they can also compete for the remaining 40.5% unreserved quota as well. Before the year of 2019 only 0.7% of scholarships disbursed by the government were given on the basis of merit, with over 94% of the scholarships given on basis of Reservation instead.
The Malaysian New Economic Policy or NEP serves as a form of affirmative action. Malaysia provides affirmative action to the majority because in general, the Malays have lower incomes than the Chinese, who have traditionally been involved in businesses and industries, but who were also general migrant workers. Malaysia is a multi-ethnic country, with Malays making up the majority of close to 52% of the population. About 23% of the population is of Chinese descent, while those of Indian descent comprise about 7% of the population.
(See also Bumiputra) The mean income for Malays, Chinese and Indians in 1957/58 were 134, 288 and 228 respectively. In 1967/68 it was 154, 329 and 245, and in 1970 it was 170, 390 and 300. Mean income disparity ratio for Chinese/Malays rose from 2.1 in 1957/58 to 2.3 in 1970, whereas for Indians/Malays the disparity ratio also rose from 1.7 to 1.8 in the same period. The Malays viewed Independence as restoring their proper place in their own country's socioeconomic order while the non-Malays were opposing government efforts to advance Malay political primacy and economic welfare.
In 1981 the Standardization policy of Sri Lankan universities was introduced as an affirmative action program for students from areas which had lower rates of education than other areas due to missionary activity in the north and east, which essentially were the Tamil areas. Successive governments cultivated a historical myth after the colonial powers had left that the British had practised communal favouritism towards Christians and the minority Tamil community for the entire 200 years they had controlled Sri Lanka. However, the Sinhalese in fact benefitted from trade and plantation cultivations over the rest of the other groups and their language and culture as well as the religion of Buddhism was fostered and made into mediums for schools over the Tamil language, which did not have the same treatment and Tamils learned English instead as there was no medium for Tamil until near independence. Tamils' knowledge of English and education came from the very American missionary activity by overseas Christians that the British were concerned will anger the Sinhalese and destroy their trading relationships, so they sent them to the Tamil areas instead to teach, thinking it would have no consequences and due to their small numbers. The British sending the missionaries to the north and east was for the protection of the Sinhalese and in fact showed favouritism to the majority group instead of the minorities to maintain trading relationships and benefits from them. The Tamils, out of this random benefit from learning English and basic education excelled and flourished and were able to take many civil service jobs to the chagrin of the Sinhalese. The myth of Divide and Rule is untrue. The 'policy of standardisation' was typical of affirmative action policies, in that it required drastically lower standards for Sinhalese students than for the more academic Tamils who had to get about ten more marks to enter into universities. The policy, were it not implemented would have prevented the civil wars ahead as the policies had no basis and in fact is an example of discrimination against the Tamil ethnic group.
A 2004 legislation requires that, for a firm with 100 employees or more wishing to compete for government contracts, at least 1 per cent of its employees must be Taiwanese aborigines. Ministry of Education and Council of Aboriginal Affairs announced in 2002 that Taiwanese Aboriginal students would have their high-school or undergraduate entrance exams boosted by 33% for demonstrating some knowledge of their tribal language and culture. The percentage of boost have been revised several times, and the latest percentage is 35% in 2013.
In certain university education programs, including legal and medical education, there are quotas for persons who reach a certain standard of skills in the Swedish language; for students admitted in these quotas, the education is partially arranged in Swedish. The purpose of the quotas is to guarantee that a sufficient number of professionals with skills in Swedish are educated for nationwide needs. The quota system has met with criticism from the Finnish speaking majority, some of whom consider the system unfair. In addition to these linguistic quotas, women may get preferential treatment in recruitment for certain public sector jobs if there is a gender imbalance in the field.
No distinctions based on race, religion or sex are allowed under the 1958 French Constitution. Since the 1980s, a French version of affirmative action based on neighborhood is in place for primary and secondary education. Some schools, in neighborhoods labeled "Priority Education Zones", are granted more funds than the others. Students from these schools also benefit from special policies in certain institutions (such as Sciences Po).
The French Ministry of Defence tried in 1990 to make it easier for young French soldiers of North-African descent to be promoted in rank and obtain driving licenses. After a strong protest by a young French lieutenant in the Ministry of Defence newspaper (Armées d'aujourd'hui), the driving license and rank plan was cancelled. After the Sarkozy election, a new attempt in favour of Arab-French students was made, but Sarkozy did not gain enough political support to change the French constitution. However, some French schools do implement affirmative action in that they are obligated to take a certain number of students from impoverished families.
Additionally, following the Norwegian example, after 27 January 2014, women must represent at least 20% of board members in all stock exchange listed or state owned companies. After 27 January 2017, the proportion will increase to 40%. All appointments of males as directors will be invalid as long as the quota is not met, and monetary penalties may apply for other directors.
Article 3 of the German Basic Law provides for equal rights of all people regardless of sex, race or social background. There are programs stating that if men and women have equal qualifications, women have to be preferred for a job; moreover, the disabled should be preferred to non-disabled people. This is typical for all positions in state and university service as of 2007, typically using the phrase "We try to increase diversity in this line of work". In recent years, there has been a long public debate about whether to issue programs that would grant women a privileged access to jobs in order to fight discrimination. Germany's Left Party brought up the discussion about affirmative action in Germany's school system. According to Stefan Zillich, quotas should be "a possibility" to help working class children who did not do well in school gain access to a Gymnasium (University-preparatory school). Headmasters of Gymnasien have objected, saying that this type of policy would "be a disservice" to poor children.
Seierstad & Opsahl in their study of the effects of affirmative action on presence, prominence, and social capital of women directors in Norway found that there are few boards chaired by a woman, from the beginning of the implementation of affirmative action policy period to August 2009, the proportion of boards led by a woman has increased from 3.4% to 4.3%. This suggests that the law has had a marginal effect on the sex of the chair and the boards remain internally segregated. Although at the beginning of our observation period, only 7 of 91 prominent directors were women. The gender balance among prominent directors has changed considerable through the period, and at the end of the period, 107 women and 117 men were prominent directors. By applying more restrictive definitions of prominence, the proportion of directors who are women generally increases. If only considering directors with at least three directorships, 61.4% of them are women. When considering directors with seven or more directorships, all of them are women. Thus, affirmative action increase the female population in the director position.
A 2016 study found no effect of the ASA representation requirement on either valuation or profits of the affected companies, and also no correlation between the requirement and the restructuring of companies away from ASA.
Quotas for access to university education, offices in the Soviet system and the Communist Party existed: for example, the position of First Secretary of a Soviet Republic's (or Autonomous Republic's) Party Committee was always filled by a representative of this republic's "titular ethnicity".
Modern Russia retains this system partially. Quotas are abolished, however, preferences for some ethnic minorities and inhabitants of certain territories remain.
In the UK, any discrimination, quotas or favouritism due to sex, race and ethnicity among other "protected characteristics" is generally illegal for any reason in education, employment, during commercial transactions, in a private club or association, and while using public services. The Equality Act 2010 established the principles of equality and their implementation in the UK.
Specific exemptions include:
In 2019, an employment tribunal ruled that positive discrimination had been directly discriminatory, in a case where a "well prepared white heterosexual male" candidate seeking to join the police was passed over by a police force. The ruling stated that the organization "had used 'positive action' to recruit people with different characteristics, but in a discriminatory way", and that "while positive action can be used to boost diversity, it should only be applied to distinguish between candidates who were all equally well qualified for a role".
The equality section of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms explicitly permits affirmative action type legislation, although the Charter does not require legislation that gives preferential treatment. Subsection 2 of Section 15 states that the equality provisions do "not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability".
The Canadian Employment Equity Act requires employers in federally-regulated industries to give preferential treatment to four designated groups: Women, persons with disabilities, aboriginal peoples, and visible minorities. Less than one-third of Canadian Universities offer alternative admission requirements for students of aboriginal descent. Some provinces and territories also have affirmative action-type policies. For example, in Northwest Territories in the Canadian north, aboriginal people are given preference for jobs and education and are considered to have P1 status. Non-aboriginal people who were born in the NWT or have resided half of their life there are considered a P2, as well as women and people with disabilities.
The concept of affirmative action was introduced in the early 1960s in the United States, as a way to combat racial discrimination in the hiring process, with the concept later expanded to address gender discrimination. Affirmative action was first created from Executive Order 10925, which was signed by President John F. Kennedy on 6 March 1961 and required that government employers "not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, creed, color, or national origin" and "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin".
On 24 September 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Executive Order 11246, thereby replacing Executive Order 10925 and affirming Federal Government's commitment "to promote the full realization of equal employment opportunity through a positive, continuing program in each executive department and agency". Affirmative action was extended to women by Executive Order 11375 which amended Executive Order 11246 on 13 October 1967, by adding "sex" to the list of protected categories. In the U.S. affirmative action's original purpose was to pressure institutions into compliance with the nondiscrimination mandate of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Civil Rights Acts do not cover veterans, people with disabilities, or people over 40. These groups are protected from discrimination under different laws.
Affirmative action has been the subject of numerous court cases, and has been questioned upon its constitutional legitimacy. In 2003, a Supreme Court decision regarding affirmative action in higher education (Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 US 244 – Supreme Court 2003) permitted educational institutions to consider race as a factor when admitting students. Alternatively, some colleges use financial criteria to attract racial groups that have typically been under-represented and typically have lower living conditions. Some states such as California (California Civil Rights Initiative), Michigan (Michigan Civil Rights Initiative), and Washington (Initiative 200) have passed constitutional amendments banning public institutions, including public schools, from practicing affirmative action within their respective states. Conservative activists have alleged that colleges quietly use illegal quotas to increase the number of minorities and have launched numerous lawsuits to stop them.
Individuals of Māori or other Polynesian descent are often afforded improved access to university courses, or have scholarships earmarked specifically for them. Affirmative action is provided for under section 73 of the Human Rights Act 1993 and section 19(2) of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.
Some Brazilian universities (state and federal) have created systems of preferred admissions (quotas) for racial minorities (blacks and Amerindians), the poor and people with disabilities. There are also quotas of up to 20% of vacancies reserved for people with disabilities in the civil public services. The Democrats party, accusing the board of directors of the University of Brasília for "resurrecting nazist ideals", appealed to the Supreme Federal Court against the constitutionality of the quotas the University reserves for minorities. The Supreme Court unanimously approved their constitutionality on 26 April 2012.
The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination stipulates (in Article 2.2) that affirmative action programs may be required of countries that ratified the convention, in order to rectify systematic discrimination. It states, however, that such programs "shall in no case entail as a consequence the maintenance of unequal or separate rights for different racial groups after the objectives for which they were taken have been achieved".
The United Nations Human Rights Committee states that "the principle of equality sometimes requires States parties to take affirmative action in order to diminish or eliminate conditions which cause or help to perpetuate discrimination prohibited by the Covenant. For example, in a State where the general conditions of a certain part of the population prevent or impair their enjoyment of human rights, the State should take specific action to correct those conditions. Such action may involve granting for a time to the part of the population concerned certain preferential treatment in specific matters as compared with the rest of the population. However, as long as such action is needed to correct discrimination, in fact, it is a case of legitimate differentiation under the Covenant."
The principle of affirmative action is to promote societal equality through the preferential treatment of socioeconomically disadvantaged people. Often, these people are disadvantaged for historical reasons, such as oppression or slavery. Historically and internationally, support for affirmative action has sought to achieve a range of goals: bridging inequalities in employment and pay; increasing access to education; enriching state, institutional, and professional leadership with the full spectrum of society; redressing apparent past wrongs, harms, or hindrances, in particular addressing the apparent social imbalance left in the wake of slavery and slave laws.
A 2017 study found that affirmative action in the United States "increases the black share of employees over time: in 5 years after an establishment is first regulated, the black share of employees increases by an average of 0.8 percentage points. Strikingly, the black share continues to grow at a similar pace even after an establishment is deregulated. One could argue that this persistence is driven in part by affirmative action inducing employers to improve their methods for screening potential hires."
According to a poll taken by USA Today in 2005, the majority of Americans support affirmative action for women, while views on minority groups were more split. Men are only slightly more likely to support affirmative action for women; though a majority of both do. However, a slight majority of Americans do believe that affirmative action goes beyond ensuring access and goes into the realm of preferential treatment. More recently, a Quinnipiac poll from June 2009 finds that 55% of Americans feel that affirmative action in general should be discontinued, though 55% support it for people with disabilities. A Gallup poll from 2005 showed that 72% of black Americans and 44% of white Americans supported racial affirmative action (with 21% and 49% opposing), with support and opposition among Hispanics falling between those of blacks and whites. Support among blacks, unlike among whites, had almost no correlation with political affiliation.
A Leger poll taken in 2010 found 59% of Canadians opposed considering race, gender, or ethnicity when hiring for government jobs.
A 2014 Pew Research Center poll found that 63% of Americans thought affirmative action programs aimed at increasing minority representation on college campuses were "a good thing", compared to 30% who thought they were "a bad thing". The following year, Gallup released a poll showing that 67% of Americans supported affirmative action programs aimed at increasing female representation, compared to 58% who supported such programs aimed at increasing the representation of racial minorities.
Critics of affirmative action offer a variety of arguments as to why it is counterproductive or should be discontinued. For example, critics may argue that affirmative action hinders reconciliation, replaces old wrongs with new wrongs, undermines the achievements of minorities, and encourages individuals to identify themselves as disadvantaged, even if they are not. It may increase racial tension and benefit the more privileged people within minority groups at the expense of the least fortunate within majority groups.
Some opponents of affirmative action argue that it is a form of reverse racism, that any effort to cure discrimination through affirmative action is wrong because it, in turn, is another form of discrimination. Some critics claim that court cases such as Fisher v. University of Texas, which held that colleges have some discretion to consider race when making admissions decisions, demonstrate how discrimination occurs in the name of affirmative action.
Some critics of affirmative action argue that that affirmative action devalues the actual accomplishments of people who are chosen based on the social group to which they belong rather than their qualifications, thus rendering affirmative action counterproductive.
Some argue that affirmative action policies create an opportunity for fraud, by encouraging non-preferred groups to designate themselves as members of preferred groups (that is, members of groups that benefit from affirmative action) in order to take advantage of group preference policies.
Critics of affirmative action suggest that programs may benefit the members of the targeted group that least need the benefit, that is those who have the greatest social, economic and educational advantages within the targeted group. Other beneficiaries may be described as wholly unqualified for the opportunity made available through affirmative action. They may argue that at the same time the people who lose the most to affirmative action are the least fortunate members of non-preferred groups.
Another criticism of affirmative action is that it may reduce the incentives of both the preferred and non-preferred to perform at their best. Beneficiaries of affirmative action may conclude that it is unnecessary to work as hard, and those who do not benefit may perceive hard work as futile.
Mismatching is the term given to the supposed negative effect that affirmative action has when it places a student into a college that is too difficult for him or her. For example, according to the hypothesis, in the absence of affirmative action, a student will be admitted to a college that matches his or her academic ability and have a good chance of graduating. However, according to the mismatching hypothesis, affirmative action often places a student into a college that is too difficult, and this increases the student's chance of dropping out. Thus, according to the hypothesis, affirmative action hurts its intended beneficiaries, because it increases their dropout rate.
Evidence in support of the mismatching theory was presented by Gail Heriot, a professor of law at the University of San Diego and a member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, in a 24 August 2007 article published in the Wall Street Journal. The article reported on a 2004 study that was conducted by UCLA law professor Richard Sander and published in the Stanford Law Review. The study concluded that there were 7.9% fewer black attorneys than there would have been if there had been no affirmative action. The study was titled, "A Systemic Analysis of Affirmative Action in American Law Schools". The article also states that because of mismatching, blacks are more likely to drop out of law school and fail bar exams.
Sander's paper on mismatching has been criticized by several law professors, including Ian Ayres and Richard Brooks from Yale who argue that eliminating affirmative action would actually reduce the number of black lawyers by 12.7%. A 2008 study by Jesse Rothstein and Albert H. Yoon confirmed Sander's mismatch findings, but also found that eliminating affirmative action would "lead to a 63 percent decline in black matriculants at all law schools and a 90 percent decline at elite law schools". These high numbers predictions were doubted in a review of previous studies by Peter Arcidiacono and Michael Lovenheim. Their 2016 article found a strong indication that affirmative action results in a mismatch effect. They argued that the attendance by some African-American students to less-selective schools would significantly improve the low first attempt rate at passing the state bar, but they cautioned that such improvements could be outweighed by decreases in law school attendance.
A 2011 study proposed that mismatch can only occur when a selective school possesses private information that, had this information been disclosed, would have changed the student's choice of school. The study found that this is in fact the case for Duke University, and that this information predicts the student's academic performance after beginning college.
Proposition 209 (also known as the California Civil Rights Initiative or CCRI) is a California ballot proposition which, upon approval in November 1996, amended the state constitution to prohibit state governmental institutions from considering race, sex, or ethnicity, specifically in the areas of public employment, public contracting, and public education. Modeled on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the California Civil Rights Initiative was authored by two California academics, Glynn Custred and Tom Wood. It was the first electoral test of affirmative action policies in America.Affirmative action in the United States
Affirmative action in the United States is a set of laws, policies, guidelines and administrative practices "intended to end and correct the effects of a specific form of discrimination" that include government-mandated, government-sanctioned and voluntary private programs. The programs tend to focus on access to education and employment, granting special consideration to historically excluded groups, specifically racial minorities or women. The impetus toward affirmative action is redressing the disadvantages associated with past and present discrimination. Further impetus is a desire to ensure public institutions, such as universities, hospitals, and police forces, are more representative of the populations they serve.In the United States, affirmative action tends to emphasize not specific quotas but rather "targeted goals" to address past discrimination in a particular institution or in broader society through "good-faith efforts ... to identify, select, and train potentially qualified minorities and women." For example, many higher education institutions have voluntarily adopted policies which seek to increase recruitment of racial minorities. Outreach campaigns, targeted recruitment, employee and management development, and employee support programs are examples of affirmative action in employment.Affirmative action policies were developed to address long histories of discrimination faced by minorities and women, which reports suggest produced corresponding unfair advantages for whites and males. They first emerged from debates over non-discrimination policies in the 1940s and during the civil rights movement. These debates led to federal executive orders requiring non-discrimination in the employment policies of some government agencies and contractors in the 1940s and onward, and to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibited racial discrimination in firms with over 25 employees. The first federal policy of race-conscious affirmative action was the Revised Philadelphia Plan, implemented in 1969, which required certain government contractors to set "goals and timetables" for integrating and diversifying their workforce. Similar policies emerged through a mix of voluntary practices and federal and state policies in employment and education. Affirmative action as a practice was partially upheld by the Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), while the use of racial or gender quotas for college admissions was concurrently ruled unconstitutional by the Court in Gratz v. Bollinger (2003).
Affirmative action is controversial in American politics. Opponents of affirmative action argue that these policies amount to discrimination against non minorities which entails favoring one group over another based upon racial preference rather than achievement, and many believe that the diversity of current American society suggests that affirmative action policies succeeded and are no longer required. In particular, policies adopting racial quotas or gender quotas have been criticized as a form of reverse discrimination. Scholars have also questioned whether quota systems and "targeted goals" can be clearly distinguished from each other.Angry white male
"Angry white male" is a pejorative expression for white males holding conservative to reactionary views in the context of U.S. politics, typically characterized by "opposition to liberal anti-discriminatory policies" and beliefs. In particular, angry white males stereotypically oppose affirmative action policies and feminism.BAMN
The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights, and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary, commonly shortened to By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), is a militant American far-left group that participates in protests and litigation to achieve its aims.Black Economic Empowerment
Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) is a racially inclusive programme launched by the South African government to redress the inequalities of Apartheid by giving black people(African, Coloureds and Indians) South African citizens economic privileges that are already available to Whites. It is a form of Affirmative action. Although race is the overriding factor, it includes measures such as Employment Preference, skills development, ownership, management, socioeconomic development, and preferential procurement. By 2015 around R350 billion (equivalent to US$24 billion) worth BEE deals had been done by the top 100 companies on the JSE with an additional R50 billion by private South African companies indicating that 10 percent of South Africa's GDP had been transferred to 20 percent of the population in the 15 years since 2000.Chinese for Affirmative Action
Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) is a San Francisco-based advocacy organization. Founded in 1969, its initial goals were equality of access to employment and the creation of job opportunities for Chinese Americans. The group broadened its mission in the subsequent decades. As of 2007, its stated mission is "to defend and promote the civil and political rights of Chinese and Asian Americans within the context of, and in the interest of, advancing multiracial democracy in the United States"Cutting the Mustard
Cutting the Mustard: Affirmative Action and the Nature of Excellence is a 1987 non-fiction book by civil libertarian and United States lawyer Marjorie Heins about Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and its relationship to affirmative action and sexism. Heins discusses the case of Nancy Richardson, dean of student affairs at the Boston University School of Theology, who was removed from her position by the school's administration in 1981. Heins represented Richardson in an unsuccessful lawsuit against Boston University for wrongful termination and sexism. Cutting the Mustard recounts the case, interspersing reflections on the lawsuit with a discussion of relevant case law, decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States related to affirmative action and multiple criticisms of contradictory court decisions in affirmative-action cases.
The book was positively received by the Harvard Law Review which recommended From Midterms to Ministry for further information. It was also reviewed by the Women's Review of Books, Women's Rights Law Reporter and California Lawyer. A review in Library Journal by a Harvard Law School librarian criticized the book for lacking a substantive analysis of the case.Diversity (politics)
In sociology and political studies, diversity is the degree of differences in identifying features among the members of a purposefully defined group, such as any group differences in racial or ethnic classifications, age, gender, religion, philosophy, physical abilities, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, gender identity, intelligence, mental health, physical health, genetic attributes, personality, behavior or attractiveness.
When measuring human diversity, a diversity index exemplifies the likelihood that two randomly selected residents have different ethnicities. If all residents are of the same ethnic group it's zero by definition. If half are from one group and half from another, it is .50. The diversity index does not take into account the willingness of individuals to cooperate with those of other ethnicities.Executive Order 10925
Executive Order 10925, signed by President John F. Kennedy on March 6, 1961, required government contractors to "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed and that employees are treated during employment without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin." It established the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity (PCEEO), which was chaired by then Vice President Lyndon Johnson. Vice Chair and Secretary of Labor Arthur Goldberg was in charge of the Committee's operations. This first implementation of affirmative action was intended to give equal opportunities in the workforce to all U.S. citizens, not to give special treatment to those discriminated against.Following passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (which went into effect a year later on July 2, 1965) and President Johnson's Executive Order 11246 (which was signed on September 24, 1965), the Committee's functions were divided between the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance (which in 1975 was renamed the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs).Opponents of the PCEEO and Executive Order 10925 included Senator J. Lister Hill, a segregationist Democrat from Alabama, who claimed that the committee and the executive order were overreaches by the federal government into the private business' of America.Executive Order 11246
Executive Order 11246, signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson on September 24, 1965, established requirements for non-discriminatory practices in hiring and employment on the part of U.S. government contractors. It "prohibits federal contractors and federally assisted construction contractors and subcontractors, who do over $10,000 in Government business in one year from discriminating in employment decisions on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." It also requires contractors to "take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, color, religion, sex or national origin." The phrase affirmative action had appeared previously in Executive Order 10925 in 1961.Fisher v. University of Texas (2016)
Fisher v. University of Texas, 579 U.S. ___ (2016) (commonly referred to as Fisher II) is a United States Supreme Court case which held that the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit correctly found that the University of Texas at Austin's undergraduate admissions policy survived strict scrutiny, in accordance with Fisher v. University of Texas (2013), which ruled that strict scrutiny should be applied to determine the constitutionality of the University's race-sensitive admissions policy.Grutter v. Bollinger
Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), was a landmark case in which the United States Supreme Court upheld the affirmative action admissions policy of the University of Michigan Law School. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, writing for the majority in a 5–4 decision and joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, ruled that the University of Michigan Law School had a compelling interest in promoting class diversity. The Court held that a race-conscious admissions process that may favor "underrepresented minority groups", but that also took into account many other factors evaluated on an individual basis for every applicant, did not amount to a quota system that would have been unconstitutional under Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. The Court applied strict scrutiny that it claimed was made "no less strict" when it followed a "tradition of giving a degree of deference" "within constitutionally prescribed limits" to the university regarding the compelling nature of its interest in diversity.
Justices Ginsburg and Breyer concurred in judgment, but stated that they did not subscribe to the Court's belief that the affirmative measures in question would be unnecessary in 25 years.
Chief Justice Rehnquist, joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas, dissented, arguing that the university's "plus" system was, in fact, a thinly veiled and unconstitutional quota system. Rehnquist cited that the percentage of African American applicants closely mirrored the percentage of African American applicants that were accepted.
Justice Kennedy also dissented separately, arguing that the Court failed to apply, in fact, strict scrutiny as required by Justice Powell's opinion in Bakke. Both Scalia and Thomas also dissented separately.Michigan Civil Rights Initiative
The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative (MCRI), or Proposal 2 (Michigan 06-2), was a ballot initiative in the U.S. state of Michigan that passed into Michigan Constitutional law by a 58% to 42% margin on November 7, 2006, according to results officially certified by the Michigan Secretary of State. By Michigan law, the Proposal became law on December 22, 2006. MCRI was a citizen initiative aimed at stopping discrimination based on race, color, sex, or religion in admission to colleges, jobs, and other publicly funded institutions – effectively prohibiting affirmative action by public institutions based on those factors. The Proposal's constitutionality was challenged in federal court, but its constitutionality was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States.Racial quota
Racial quotas in employment and education are numerical requirements for hiring, promoting, admitting and/or graduating members of a particular racial group. Racial quotas are often established as means of diminishing racial discrimination, addressing under-representation and evident racism against those racial groups or, the opposite, against the disadvantaged majority group (see numerus clausus or bhumiputra systems).
It has been argued that such quotas are a form of racial discrimination.
These quotas may be determined by governmental authority and backed by governmental sanctions. When the total number of jobs or enrollment slots is fixed, this proportion may get translated to a specific number.Regents of the Univ. of Cal. v. Bakke
Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978), was a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States. It upheld affirmative action, allowing race to be one of several factors in college admission policy. However, the court ruled that specific racial quotas, such as the 16 out of 100 seats set aside for minority students by the University of California, Davis School of Medicine, were impermissible.
Although the Supreme Court had outlawed segregation in schools, and had even ordered school districts to take steps to assure integration, the question of the legality of voluntary affirmative action programs initiated by universities remained unresolved. Proponents deemed such programs necessary to make up for past discrimination, while opponents believed they were illegal and a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. An earlier case that the Supreme Court had taken in an attempt to address the issue, DeFunis v. Odegaard (1974), was dismissed on procedural grounds.
Allan P. Bakke (), an engineer and former United States Marine Corps officer, sought admission to medical school, but was rejected for admission by several due in part to his age. Bakke was in his early 30s while applying, and therefore considered too old by at least two institutions. After twice being rejected by the University of California, Davis, he brought suit in state court challenging the constitutionality of the school's affirmative action program. The California Supreme Court struck down the program as violative of the rights of white applicants and ordered Bakke admitted. The U.S. Supreme Court accepted the case amid wide public attention.
The case fractured the court; the nine justices issued a total of six opinions. The judgment of the court was written by Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr.; two different blocs of four justices joined various parts of Powell's opinion. Finding diversity in the classroom to be a compelling state interest, Powell opined that affirmative action in general was allowed under the Constitution and the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Nevertheless, UC Davis's program went too far for a majority of justices, and it was struck down and Bakke admitted. The practical effect of Bakke was that most affirmative action programs continued without change. Questions about whether the Bakke case was merely a plurality opinion or binding precedent were answered in 2003 when the court upheld Powell's position in a majority opinion in Grutter v. Bollinger.Reservation in India
The system of reservation in India consists of a series of measures, such as reserving access to seats in the various legislatures, to government jobs, and to enrollment in higher educational institutions. The reservation nourishes the historically disadvantaged castes and tribes, listed as Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes (SCs and STs) by the Government of India, also those designated as Other Backwards Classes (OBCs) and also the economically backward general. The reservation is undertaken to address the historic oppression, inequality, and discrimination faced by those communities and to give these communities a place. It is intended to realise the promise of equality enshrined in the Constitution.
The Constitution prohibits untouchability and obligates the state to make special provision for the betterment of the SCs and STs. Over the years, the categories for affirmative action, also known as positive discrimination, have been expanded beyond those to the OBCs.
Reservation is governed by the Constitution, statutory laws and local rules and regulations. The SCs, STs and OBCs, and in some states Backward Classes among Muslims under a category called BC(M), are the primary beneficiaries of the reservation policies. There have been protests from groups outside the system who feel that it is inequitable.Reverse discrimination
Reverse discrimination is discrimination against members of a dominant or majority group, in favor of members of a minority or historically disadvantaged group. Groups may be defined in terms of disability, ethnicity, family status, gender identity, nationality, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation, or other factors.This discrimination may seek to redress social inequalities under which minority groups have had less access to privileges enjoyed by the majority group. In such cases it is intended to remove discrimination that minority groups may already face. Reverse discrimination can be defined as the unequal treatment of members of the majority groups resulting from preferential policies, as in college admissions or employment, intended to remedy earlier discrimination against minorities.Conceptualizing affirmative action efforts as reverse discrimination began to become popular in the early- to mid-1970s, a time period that focused on underrepresentation and action policies intended to remedy the effects of past discrimination in both government and the business world.The law in some countries, such as the UK, draws a distinction between "equality of provision" and "equality of outcome", based on the idea that identical treatment may sometimes act to preserve inequality rather than eliminate it. Opponents of this distinction may label it as an example of reverse discrimination.Reverse racism
Reverse racism or reverse discrimination is a concept often associated with conservative social movements that portrays affirmative action and similar color-conscious programs for redressing racial inequality as a form of anti-white racism, whereby gains by racial minorities result in harms to the white majority.Belief in reverse racism is widespread in the United States; however, there is little to no empirical evidence that white Americans suffer systemic discrimination, Racial and ethnic minorities generally lack the power to damage the interests of whites, who remain the dominant group in the U.S. Claims of reverse racism tend to ignore such disparities in the exercise of power and authority, which scholars argue constitute an essential component of racism.Allegations of reverse racism by opponents of affirmative-action policies began to emerge prominently in the 1970s. While the U.S. dominates the debate over the issue, the concept of reverse racism has been used internationally to some extent wherever white supremacy has diminished, such as in post-apartheid South Africa. Allegations of reverse racism therefore form part of a racial backlash against gains by people of colour.Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action
Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, 572 U.S. 291 (2014), was a case before the United States Supreme Court questioning whether a state violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by enshrining a ban on race- and sex-based discrimination on public university admissions in its state constitution.The case was argued on October 15, 2013, on appeal from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit which had ruled in 2012 that the Michigan ban, approved by the state's voters in 2006, was unconstitutional. The Sixth Circuit was reversed and the state ban upheld.
The case did not result in a majority opinion; Justice Kennedy wrote a plurality opinion. Justice Kagan took no part in the consideration or decision of the case, presumably because she had worked on the case during her time as United States Solicitor General.
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