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


  • Myers, Caitlin Knowles

    () (Middlebury College)


Proposition 209, enacted in California in 1996 and made effective the following year, ended state affirmative action programs not only in education, but also for public employment and government contracting. This paper uses CPS data and triple difference techniques to take advantage of the natural experiment presented by this change in state law to gauge the labor market impacts of ending affirmative action programs. Employment among women and minorities dropped sharply, a change that was nearly completely explained by a decline in participation rather than by increases in unemployment. This decline suggests that either affirmative action programs in California had been inefficient or that they failed to create lasting change in prejudicial attitudes.

Suggested Citation

  • Myers, Caitlin Knowles, 2005. "A Cure for Discrimination? Affirmative Action and the Case of California Proposition 209," IZA Discussion Papers 1674, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1674

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Mincer, Jacob, 1976. "Unemployment Effects of Minimum Wages," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages 87-104, August.
    2. Holzer, Harry & Neumark, David, 1999. "Are Affirmative Action Hires Less Qualified? Evidence from Employer-Employee Data on New Hires," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(3), pages 534-569, July.
    3. Christopher Avery & Susan Athey & Peter Zemsky, 2000. "Mentoring and Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 765-786, September.
    4. 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.
    5. Gruber, Jonathan, 1994. "The Incidence of Mandated Maternity Benefits," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 622-641, June.
    6. Orley Ashenfelter & James J. Heckman, 1974. "Measuring the Effect of an Anti-Discrimination Program," NBER Working Papers 0050, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    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. Morris Goldstein & Robert S. Smith, 1976. "The Estimated Impact of the Antidiscrimination Program Aimed at Federal Contractors," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 29(4), pages 523-543, July.
    9. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. 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).
    2. Prakash, Nishith, 2008. "Improving the Labor Market Outcomes of Minorities: The Role of Employment Quota," MPRA Paper 11010, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    3. 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).
    4. Hélène Périvier, 2008. "Les femmes sur le marché du travail aux Etats-Unis," Sciences Po publications 2008-12, Sciences Po.
    5. Solomon W. Polachek, 2014. "Equal pay legislation and the gender wage gap," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 1-16, May.

    More about this item


    affirmative action; economics of gender and minorities; Proposition 209; discrimination;

    JEL classification:

    • J71 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Hiring and Firing
    • J78 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination - - - Public Policy (including comparable worth)

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