A QUICK Overview of Affirmative Action Troy Tassier Fordham University
Definition of Affirmative Action • A program that requires pro-active steps to erase differences between women and men or between minority groups and non-minority groups in labor markets or education outcomes. • Example: A law that requires firms to interview a number of women in proportion to the number of women applicants for the job.
Examples (continued) • A law that states that firms cannot discriminate is not an “affirmative action” law although the goals may be similar to an affirmative action law in that it is trying to ensure sufficient opportunities for women or minorities.
Quotas • AA is not the same as a quota (although a hiring quota can be one form of AA.) • Example: At least 10% of a firms employees must be members of group X.
Bakke vs. UC Davis Medical School • Davis accepted 100 students a year and set aside 16 spots for minorities as long as they met minimum requirements. (An example of a quota system.) • Bakke sued for reverse discrimination under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.
Bakke (cont.) • He “won”, sort of… • Supreme court ruled that the UC Davis quota was “too strong” but that race can be used as a “flexible factor” in admissions decisions in order to promote diversity. • In other words AA is “ok” as long as it isn’t too severe. • Similar result in the recent UMich Law School AA case. AA is ok but the UMich policy too heavily weighted race.
Pros and Cons of Affirmative Action • Discrimination exists and it is very hard to police firms and enforce laws. • Incentives for minority groups to attain higher levels of education. (If they have more labor market opportunities they have larger incentives to invest in education.) • AA can even the playing field. • May enable more qualified people to be hired if a talented group of people is being ignored or slighted in regards to employment opportunities. (recall the statistical discrimination examples just mentioned.)
Pros of AA (cont) • Could remove the stigma of being the other: “Of all the vulgar modes of escaping from the consideration of the effect of social and moral influences on the human mind, the most vulgar is that of attributing the diversities of conduct and character to inherent natural differences.” - John Stuart Mill The Bell Curve – Richard Hernstein and Charles Murray The Mis-measure of Man – Stephen Jay Gould The Bell Curve Wars – Steven Frasor (editor)
Pros of AA (cont) • Diversity may be beneficial for its own sake. • Diverse groups often perform better than homogeneous groups in terms of problem solving. • Different perspectives lead to different solutions being tried.
A Game You and an opponent take turns selecting from the numbers 1,2,3,…,9. A number can only be selected once. The goal is to be the first person with three numbers that sum to 15. If either player has three numbers that sum to exactly 15 exactly they win. Otherwise the game is a tie. Everybody play the game three times with a neighbor. Keep track of how many wins you get.
Another Game • Tic-tac-toe • Need three in a row to win. • Play this game three times with the same neighbor. • How many wins?
I lied… They are the same game! • The “right” perspective can make a hard problem an easy problem! • We probably need many perspectives to solve hard problems.
Diversity and Problem Solving • Landscape Example from Scott E. Page • A Logic of Diversity: How Our Individual Differences Produce Collective Benefits (Released by Princeton Press in December)
Your Final Exam A Proposal for Grading: • 20 multiple choice questions • Points will be allocated as follows: • I will grade each question right or wrong. • Then I will look to see which questions the A students on the midterm got right. • I will include those questions in totaling your scores on the exam. • I will ignore the other questions.
Costs of Affirmative Action • If discrimination doesn’t exist it is possible that firms may hire less able workers. • Incentive for minority workers to attain lower levels of education than they would otherwise. (The “I’ll get a job so why study” problem.) • Could further slant the playing field. • May cause less qualified people to be hired.
Cons of Affirmative Action (cont) • Could create or increase racial stigma (I’m only hired because I’m …”) – Glen Loury • Loury – A strong opponent of AA in the 80s. • The Anatomy of Racial Inequality Supportive of AA programs
Some definitions: • Race Blindness: The belief that racial identity should play no role in the way we treat people. • Race Indifference: The practice of not thinking about race when determining the goals and policies of society. • Race Egalitarianism: The belief that because of an unjust history we should endeavor to reduce inequalities of wealth and power between racial groups.
Race Blind Does Not Imply Race Indifference • Suppose that we want to increase minority attendance at US colleges and universities: • Policy 1: • Use AA to give bonuses to minority applicants. • The marginal rejected minority becomes the marginal accepted minority • The marginal accepted majority becomes the marginal rejected majority
Race Blind Does Not Imply Race Indifference (cont) • Policy 2: • All students in the top 10% of their HS get admitted to the state university/ college of their choice (Texas). • Everyone else competes for open spots.
Outcomes • Policy 1 clearly intends to get more minority students admitted to colleges. (Not race blind and not race indifferent.) • Policy 2 does as well. The idea is that poor High Schools get fewer students into college. Poor HS tend to have more minority students. Therefore we’ll get more minority college students with this policy too. (Race blind but not race indifferent.)
Loury’s Argument • Most people are race egalitarian. (Few people argue that we should purposely perpetuate racial inequality.) • Should we be race blind in our policies? • If we have a racial outcome in mind Loury argues that we should consider race in our actions. We shouldn’t be race blind.
Summary • Affirmative action is a tricky subject and we have only touched the tip of the iceberg! • If interested, see the various books cited in today’s lecture or see: “Assessing Affirmative Action” by Harry Holzer and David Neumark http://www.nber.org/papers/w7323