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How Costly Is Affirmative Action? Government Contracting and California's Proposition 209


  • Justin Marion

    (Department of Economics, University of California, Santa Cruz)


This paper investigates the effect of disadvantaged business enterprise subcontractor goals on the winning bids for highway construction contracts using California's Proposition 209, which prohibited the consideration of race or gender in awarding state-funded contracts. After Proposition 209, prices on state-funded contracts fell by 5.6% relative to federally funded projects, for which preferences still applied. Most of the price decline after Proposition 209 resulted from the mix of subcontractors employed, which seems to arise from the higher costs of firms located in high-minority areas. Finally, short-run barriers to entry and expansion may increase the cost of affirmative action. Copyright by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Suggested Citation

  • Justin Marion, 2009. "How Costly Is Affirmative Action? Government Contracting and California's Proposition 209," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 91(3), pages 503-522, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:restat:v:91:y:2009:i:3:p:503-522

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    Cited by:

    1. Gil, Ricard & Marion, Justin, 2009. "The Role of Repeated Interactions, Self-Enforcing Agreements and Relational [Sub]Contracting: Evidence from California Highway Procurement Auctions," University of California Transportation Center, Working Papers qt66z0w84p, University of California Transportation Center.
    2. Aaron K. Chatterji & Kenneth Y. Chay & Robert W. Fairlie, 2014. "The Impact of City Contracting Set-Asides on Black Self-Employment and Employment," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(3), pages 507-561.
    3. Decarolis, Francesco & Giorgiantonio, Cristina, 2015. "Local public procurement regulations: The case of Italy," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(C), pages 209-226.
    4. Laura Rondi & Paola Valbonesi, 2017. "Pre- and post-award outsourcing: Temporary partnership versus subcontracting in public procurement," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0211, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
    5. repec:kap:sbusec:v:49:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s11187-017-9860-z is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Daniel P. Miller, 2014. "Subcontracting and competitive bidding on incomplete procurement contracts," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 45(4), pages 705-746, December.
    7. Georgia Kosmopoulou & Carlos Lamarche & Xueqi Zhou, 2016. "Price Adjustment Policies And Firm Size," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 54(2), pages 895-906, April.
    8. Francesco Decarolis & Cristina Giorgiantonio, 2014. "Qualificazione, aggiudicazione e subappalti nei lavori pubblici: cosa insegnano le riforme locali?," ECONOMIA PUBBLICA, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2014(1), pages 28-64.
    9. Justin Marion, 2009. "Firm racial segregation and affirmative action in the highway construction industry," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 33(4), pages 441-453, December.
    10. Wong, Maisy, 2014. "Estimating the distortionary effects of ethnic quotas in Singapore using housing transactions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 115(C), pages 131-145.
    11. Mares, Vlad & Swinkels, Jeroen M., 2011. "Near-optimality of second price mechanisms in a class of asymmetric auctions," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 218-241, May.
    12. Elena Krasnokutskaya & Katja Seim, 2011. "Bid Preference Programs and Participation in Highway Procurement Auctions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(6), pages 2653-2686, October.
    13. Rosa, Benjamin, 2016. "Subcontracting Requirements and the Cost of Government Procurement," MPRA Paper 77392, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. De Silva, Dakshina G. & Hubbard, Timothy P. & Kosmopoulou, Georgia, 2013. "Efficacy of a Bidder Training Program: Lessons from LINC," MPRA Paper 51329, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Luigi Moretti & Paola Valbonesi, 2012. "Subcontracting in Public Procurement: An Empirical Investigation," "Marco Fanno" Working Papers 0154, Dipartimento di Scienze Economiche "Marco Fanno".
    16. De Silva, Dakshina G. & Dunne, Timothy & Kosmopoulou, Georgia & Lamarche, Carlos, 2012. "Disadvantaged business enterprise goals in government procurement contracting: An analysis of bidding behavior and costs," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 377-388.
    17. repec:bla:jomstd:v:54:y:2017:i:6:p:823-853 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. repec:eee:jeborg:v:137:y:2017:i:c:p:113-131 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Leonardo M. Giuffrida & Gabriele Rovigatti, 2017. "Can the Private Sector Ensure the Public Interest? Evidence from Federal Procurement," CEIS Research Paper 411, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 20 Jul 2017.
    20. Vlad Mares & Jeroen Swinkels, 2014. "Comparing first and second price auctions with asymmetric bidders," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 43(3), pages 487-514, August.
    21. Robert Fairlie & Justin Marion, 2012. "Affirmative action programs and business ownership among minorities and women," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 39(2), pages 319-339, September.
    22. Marion, Justin, 2007. "Are bid preferences benign? The effect of small business subsidies in highway procurement auctions," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(7-8), pages 1591-1624, August.

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