Affirmative Action in the United States and India: A Comparative Perspective

By Thomas E. Weisskopf | Go to book overview
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8

Toward an empirical assessment of claims of benefits and costs from positive discrimination
Before examining empirical evidence on positive discrimination (PD) policies available from the US and India, one needs to understand how such evidence can and should be used to test the validity of claims made about the consequences of such policies. In this chapter I begin by discussing briefly the larger benefit-cost framework of my approach to the empirical evidence, and then I consider what kind of evidence is required to assess the benefits and costs claimed by each of the consequentialist arguments for and against positive discrimination in higher educational admissions.
Evaluating the benefits and costs of PD policies in university admissions
In order to evaluate the net benefits-and hence the overall worth-of any given PD policy, we should in principle undertake a comprehensive benefit-cost analysis. Such an analysis would involve the following steps:
1 identify which of the possible beneficial and costly consequences of the PD policy are actually realized;
2 measure the extent to which each such consequence is realized;
3 identify which valued societal goals are affected, positively or negatively, by each consequence of the PD policy;
4 determine how much each consequence contributes, positively or negatively, to each relevant societal goal; and
5 decide on the relative importance of each societal goal, so that positive and negative contributions of the PD policy to the various goals can be aggregated together into a single overall measure of net societal benefits.

In the next section of this chapter I will discuss how steps (1) and (2) can in principle best be achieved. Step (2) is considerably more difficult than step (1), because many of the consequences of a PD policy cannot easily be quantified. In Chapter 3, pp. 56-8, I addressed step (3) by identifying a set of four valued societal goals potentially served or disserved by policies of positive discrimination: social harmony, democracy, productive efficiency and distributive equity. The fact

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