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Affirmative Action as Earnings Redistribution: The Targeting of Compliance Reviews


  • Jonathan S. Leonard


Affirmative action may be broadly conceived of as pursuing either the goal of reducing discrimination or that of redistributing jobs and earnings. I attempt to infer the ends of affirmative action policy by analyzing the historical record of enforcement. Optimal enforcement strategies are developed for both the anti-discrimination and the earnings redistribution models, and then compared with new data on the actual targeting of affirmative action compliance reviews during the late 1970s. I find that establishments with very low proportions of minority or female workers are not significantly more likely to be reviewed, but that white-collar intensive establishments are more likely to be reviewed. This indicates the shortcomings of the anti-discrimination model inexplaining the OFCCP's behavior, and suggests the potential usefulness of the earnings redistribution model.

Suggested Citation

  • Jonathan S. Leonard, 1984. "Affirmative Action as Earnings Redistribution: The Targeting of Compliance Reviews," NBER Working Papers 1328, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:1328
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Welch, Finis, 1981. "Affirmative Action and Its Enforcement," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(2), pages 127-133, May.
    2. James J. Heckman & Kenneth I. Wolpin, 1976. "Does the Contract Compliance Program Work? An Analysis of Chicago Data," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 29(4), pages 544-564, July.
    3. Straszheim, Mahlon R., 1980. "Discrimination and the spatial characteristics of the urban labor market for black workers," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(1), pages 119-140, January.
    4. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bertrand, Marianne & Hanna, Rema & Mullainathan, Sendhil, 2010. "Affirmative action in education: Evidence from engineering college admissions in India," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 94(1-2), pages 16-29, February.
    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. Harry J. Holzer & David Neumark, 2000. "What Does Affirmative Action Do?," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 53(2), pages 240-271, January.
    4. Mary E. Graham & Julie L. Hotchkiss, 2008. "Elimination of gender-related employment disparities through statistical process control," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2008-24, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
    5. David Neumark & Harry Holzer, 2000. "Assessing Affirmative Action," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(3), pages 483-568, September.
    6. repec:aea:aejapp:v:9:y:2017:i:3:p:152-90 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Graham, Mary E. & Hotchkiss, Julie L., 2009. "A More Proactive Approach to Addressing Gender-related Employment Disparities in the United States," MPRA Paper 44795, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Tim Callan & Anne Wren, 1992. "An Economy-Wide Investigation of Sex Differences in Wage Rates," Papers WP034, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    9. Stephen Pudney, "undated". "On the Impact of Anti-Discrimination Legislation," Discussion Papers in Public Sector Economics 99/3, Department of Economics, University of Leicester.
    10. Michael A. Leeds, 1992. "Who Benefits from Affirmative Action? The Case of the AEA Summer Minority Program 1986-1990," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(2), pages 149-156, Spring.
    11. H. J. Holzer, "undated". "Why do small establishments hire fewer blacks than large ones," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1119-97, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.

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