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What Determines Public Support for Affirmative Action?

Author

Listed:
  • Murat F. Iyigun

    () (Department of Economics, University of Colorado)

  • Andrew T. Levin

    () (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System)

Abstract

We present a public higher-education finance model in which demand for education can exceed supply because of indivisibilities in educational investment. In such situations, a screening mechanism—which may exhibit a selection system bias—is required for allocation. We show how changes in the education premium and the test score gap between the minority and the majority might affect political support for affirmative action. When the education premium is relatively low, the matching efficiency gains provided by affirmative action are high compared with the opportunity cost of not acquiring education, and the majority supports affirmative action. When the education premium is high, the opportunity cost of not getting educated is high relative to the matching efficiency gains provided by affirmative action policies, and the majority's support for affirmative action is weaker. In contrast, a higher test score bias has a generally ambigious effect on the majority's political support. If the test score bias is sufficiently large, however, the majority does support affirmative action.

Suggested Citation

  • Murat F. Iyigun & Andrew T. Levin, 2003. "What Determines Public Support for Affirmative Action?," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 69(3), pages 612-627, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:69:3:y:2003:p:612-627
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Shelly J. Lundberg, 1991. "The Enforcement of Equal Opportunity Laws Under Imperfect Information: Affirmative Action and Alternatives," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 106(1), pages 309-326.
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    6. Gradstein, Mark & Justman, Moshe, 1997. "Democratic Choice of an Education System: Implications for Growth and Income Distribution," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 2(2), pages 169-183, July.
    7. Juhn, Chinhui & Murphy, Kevin M & Pierce, Brooks, 1993. "Wage Inequality and the Rise in Returns to Skill," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 101(3), pages 410-442, June.
    8. Glomm, Gerhard & Ravikumar, B, 1992. "Public versus Private Investment in Human Capital Endogenous Growth and Income Inequality," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(4), pages 818-834, August.
    9. David H. Autor & Lawrence F. Katz & Alan B. Krueger, 1998. "Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1169-1213.
    10. Raquel Fernández & Jordi Gali, 1999. "To Each According to …? Markets, Tournaments, and the Matching Problem with Borrowing Constraints," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 66(4), pages 799-824.
    11. Coate, Stephen & Loury, Glenn C, 1993. "Will Affirmative-Action Policies Eliminate Negative Stereotypes?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(5), pages 1220-1240, December.
    12. repec:fth:prinin:377 is not listed on IDEAS
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