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A Cure for Discrimination? Affirmative Action and the Case of California's Proposition 209

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  • Caitlin Knowles Myers

Abstract

An important claim made for affirmative action programs has been that they need not be permanent: they can be discontinued, the argument runs, once they have transformed employers' attitudes. Proposition 209, enacted in California in 1996 and made effective the following year, represents a natural experiment testing that claim. It ended long-standing state affirmative action programs not only in education, but also in public employment and government contracting. The author uses Current Population Survey data to gauge the labor market effects of this dramatic policy change. The key finding is that employment among women and minorities dropped sharply, almost wholly because of a decline in labor force participation rather than an increase in unemployment. This finding, the author argues, suggests that affirmative action programs in California either had been inefficient-that is, resulted in sub-optimal employee-employer matches-or had failed to create lasting change in employers' prejudicial attitudes.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School in its journal ILR Review.

Volume (Year): 60 (2007)
Issue (Month): 3 (April)
Pages: 379-396

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Handle: RePEc:ilr:articl:v:60:y:2007:i:3:p:379-396

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References

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  1. Harry Holzer & David Neumark, 1996. "Are Affirmative Action Hires Less Qualified? Evidence from Employer-Employee Data on New Hires," NBER Working Papers 5603, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Gruber, Jonathan, 1994. "The Incidence of Mandated Maternity Benefits," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 622-41, June.
  3. Smith, James P & Welch, Finis, 1984. "Affirmative Action and Labor Markets," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 2(2), pages 269-301, April.
  4. Susan Athey & Christopher Avery & Peter Zemsky, 1998. "Mentoring and Diversity," NBER Working Papers 6496, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Orley Ashenfelter & James J. Heckman, 1974. "Measuring the Effect of an Anti-Discrimination Program," NBER Working Papers 0050, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Coate, S. & Loury, G.C., 1992. "Will Affirmative Action Policies Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?," Papers 3, Boston University - Department of Economics.
  7. Ai, Chunrong & Norton, Edward C., 2003. "Interaction terms in logit and probit models," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 123-129, July.
  8. Mincer, Jacob, 1976. "Unemployment Effects of Minimum Wages," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages S87-104, August.
  9. Morris Goldstein & Robert S. Smith, 1976. "The estimated impact of the antidiscrimination program aimed at federal contractors," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 29(4), pages 523-543, July.
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Cited by:
  1. Hélène Périvier-Timbeau, 2007. "Les femmes sur le marché du travail aux Etats-Unis: une mise en perspective avec la France et la Suède," Sciences Po publications 2007-07, Sciences Po.
  2. Sloane, Peter J. & Grazier, Suzanne & Jones, Richard J., 2005. "Preferences, Gender Segregation and Affirmative Action," IZA Discussion Papers 1881, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Hélène Périvier, 2008. "Les femmes sur le marché du travail aux États-Unis," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2008-12, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
  4. Prakash, Nishith, 2008. "Improving the Labor Market Outcomes of Minorities: The Role of Employment Quota," MPRA Paper 11010, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Hélène Périvier-Timbeau, 2008. "Les femmes sur le marché du travail aux Etats-Unis," Sciences Po publications 2008-12, Sciences Po.
  6. Hélène Perivier, 2007. "Les femmes sur le marché du travail aux États-Unis - Une mise en perspective avec la France et la Suède," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2007-07, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
  7. Nick Feltovich & Lata Gangadharan & Michael P. Kidd, 2013. "Implementation and Removal of an Affirmative-Action Quota: The Impact on Task Assignment and Workers' Skill Acquisition," Canadian Public Policy, University of Toronto Press, vol. 39(s1), pages 123-140, May.

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