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Affirmative Action and Its Mythology

  • Roland G. Fryer, Jr.
  • Glenn C. Loury

For more than three decades, critics and supporters of affirmative action have fought for the moral high ground -- through ballot initiatives and lawsuits, in state legislatures, and in varied courts of public opinion. The goal of this paper is to show the clarifying power of economic reasoning to dispel some myths and misconceptions in the racial affirmative action debates. We enumerate seven commonly held (but mistaken) views one often encounters in the folklore about affirmative action (affirmative action may involve goals and timelines, but definitely not quotas, e.g.). Simple economic arguments reveal these seven views to be more myth than fact.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11464.

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Date of creation: Jul 2005
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Fryer, Roland G., Jr. and Glenn C. Loury. "Affirmative Action and Its Mythology," Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2005, v19(3,Summer), 147-162.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11464
Note: LS PE
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  1. Roland G. Fryer & Glenn C. Loury, 2003. "Categorical Redistribution in Winner-Take-All Markets," NBER Working Papers 10104, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Dennis Epple & Richard Romano & Holger Sieg, 2003. "The Practice and Proscription of Affirmative Action in Higher Education:An Equilibrium Analysis," NBER Working Papers 9799, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Alan Krueger & Jesse Rothstein & Sarah Turner, 2005. "Race, Income and College in 25 Years: The Continuing Legacy of Segregation and Discrimination," Working Papers 94, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Center for Economic Policy Studies..
  4. Roland Fryer & Glenn C. Loury & Tolga Yuret, 2003. "Color-Blind Affirmative Action," NBER Working Papers 10103, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Rajiv Sethi & Rohini Somanathan, 2004. "Inequality and segregation," Indian Statistical Institute, Planning Unit, New Delhi Discussion Papers 04-03, Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi, India.
  6. David Card & Alan B. Krueger, 2005. "Would the elimination of affirmative action affect highly qualified minority applicants? Evidence from California and Texas," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 58(3), pages 416-434, April.
  7. Glenn C. Loury, 1976. "A Dynamic Theory of Racial Income Differences," Discussion Papers 225, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  8. Loury, Glenn C, 1981. "Intergenerational Transfers and the Distribution of Earnings," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(4), pages 843-67, June.
  9. Loury, Glenn C, 1981. "Is Equal Opportunity Enough?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(2), pages 122-26, May.
  10. Coate, Stephen & Loury, Glenn, 1993. "Antidiscrimination Enforcement and the Problem of Patronization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(2), pages 92-98, May.
  11. Jimmy Chan & Erik Eyster, 2003. "Does Banning Affirmative Action Lower College Student Quality?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(3), pages 858-872, June.
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