Affirmative Action in the United States: A Brief Summary of the Law and Social Science

48 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2014

See all articles by Richard Lempert

Richard Lempert

University of Michigan Law School

Date Written: December 2014


This paper, written for a Brazilian sociology journal, seeks to acquaint readers unfamiliar with affirmative action in the United States with its history, law and social science. It discusses the law of affirmative action as it has developed in the government contracting, employment and educational spheres, and reviews social science research addressing affirmative action in the educational sphere. It specifically addresses and shows the flaws in and/or limitations of research that supports the educational mismatch hypothesis, the empirical case for “science mismatch,” and the claim that class-based affirmative action would be as or almost as effective in promoting racial diversity as race-based affirmative action. Work by Richard Sander, Richard Kahlenberg, Doug Williams and Peter Arcidiacono is specifically addressed. The article also argues that the Bakke case distorted the jurisprudence of educational affirmative action and conversations about it in ways that have had lasting, unfortunate effects.

Keywords: affirmative action, mismatch hypothesis, science mismatch, class-based affirmative, diversity, Richard Sander, Richard Kahlenberg, Bakke

Suggested Citation

Lempert, Richard, Affirmative Action in the United States: A Brief Summary of the Law and Social Science (December 2014). U of Michigan Public Law Research Paper No. 430, Available at SSRN: or

Richard Lempert (Contact Author)

University of Michigan Law School ( email )

625 South State Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1215
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics