Understanding Affirmative Action : Politics, Discrimination, and the Search for Justice

By J. Edward Kellough | Go to book overview

seven
Evidence on the
Effectiveness of
Affirmative Action

We now turn to a consideration of the impacts of affirmative action on employment and educational opportunities for minorities and women. The question of impact is obviously important. Arguments arrayed in favor of the policy are seriously undermined if it cannot be demonstrated that affirmative action is effective in assisting members of targeted groups. Indeed, evidence that affirmative action is ineffective would substantially strengthen the position of those opposed to the policy whose arguments have been outlined in preceding chapters. As a result, much depends on the empirical evidence that speaks to the impact of affirmative action. Arguments made by proponents and opponents of the policy are inherently testable. Discussions of affirmative action should be informed by such research.

As we embark on a brief review of the relevant research literature, however, readers should bear in mind two contextual issues. First, determining if a policy of interest is effectively reaching its goals might initially appear to be a relatively simple matter. This proposition would seem especially true when the goals themselves are not obscure or unsettled, and certainly, a general clarity about the goals of affirmative action is present—the policy is intended to benefit women and minorities in employment and other contexts. Yet to conclude that affirmative action or any other policy is effective, analysts must first be able to accurately estimate

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