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

By Thomas E. Weisskopf | Go to book overview
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Further evidence on the effects of affirmative action in US universities

The evidence from the US that I have discussed in Chapters 9, 11, and 13 is relevant to claims made by many of the consequentialist arguments for and against positive discrimination in admission policies, but there is yet more evidence to be considered. In this chapter I examine additional evidence relevant to several specific claims about the benefits or costs of affirmative action (AA) in US universities. First I consider evidence on whether certain jobs are better performed when the job-holder is of under-represented ethnic group (UREG) status (claim 2.4). Then I look at evidence on the contributions of unremunerated service to deserving communities on the part of UREG graduates (claim 2.5). I go on to examine whether the available evidence supports the argument (argument 4) that greater ethnic diversity in the composition of students has a positive impact on educational outcomes. Finally, I address evidence bearing on the argument (argument 12) that a system of AA preferences can cause the achievements of UREG students and graduates to be devalued.

UREG status and job performance

There are two circumstances in which it is plausible to suggest that a job is likely to be done better if, other things being equal, it is done by someone belonging to a particular ethnic group. First, if the job involves providing a service to a clientele that is predominantly of a certain ethnicity, then a service provider of the same ethnicity may well be able to deliver more service, or better quality service, than an otherwise similar person because he/she is more oriented to and familiar with the cultural environment of his/her clients; or, at least, he/she is perceived as being more sensitive to their needs. Secondly, if the job involves working with a multicultural set of co-workers, and/or serving a multicultural clientele, then a job-holder from a UREG might work more effectively than an otherwise similar person from the majority group because he/she is much more likely to have had the experience of operating in a culturally heterogeneous environment.

There is little evidence on the second of the above claims, but a considerable variety of evidence supports the first claim. Many educators concerned with the educational progress of UREG children have observed that there are


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