Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action
Public Policy Institute of California Working Paper No. 2002-07
Posted: 27 Feb 2003
Date Written: December 2002
This essay presents an overview of EEO laws designed to outlaw employment discrimination, as well as Affirmative Action efforts to actively raise the status of minorities and women in employment, university admissions, and government procurement. We review the laws, court decisions, and practices, as well as the empirical evidence on their effects.
The evidence is most consistent with the conclusion that EEO laws have contributed to the improvement in relative economic status of blacks that occurred during the mid-1960's. On the other hand, it is also clear that discrimination persists in some parts of the labor market, and contributes to persistent wage/employment gaps between white males and other groups.
Turning to Affirmative Action, the evidence clearly shows that these programs tend to redistribute employment, university admissions, and government procurement away from white males towards minorities and females, as expected. On the more controversial issue of whether the beneficiaries of Affirmative Action are less qualified than white males, our review of the evidence paints a more complex picture. There is virtually no evidence that the qualifications or performance of females lags behind that of males within any racial group. In contrast, the credentials of minorities often lag behind those of their white counterparts - in part because they lag behind in the population, and in part because of the preferential admission and hiring policies generated by Affirmative Action. But evidence of weaker performance in the labor market on the part of minorities who benefit from Affirmative Action is much more limited. While the classroom performance of minorities in colleges and universities lags behind that of whites, and their noncompletion rates are substantially higher, minority students still seem to benefit overall from their higher rates of admission to better schools after they leave. Finally, there is some evidence of weaker performance of minority-led companies that receive government procurement contracts, but also evidence that these difficulties can be avoided with the proper credentialing and technical assistance.
JEL Classification: J1, J7
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation