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Affirmative Action: One Size Does Not Fit All

  • Kala Krishna
  • Alexander Tarasov

This paper identifies a new reason for giving preferences to the disadvantaged using a model of contests. There are two forces at work: the effort effect working against giving preferences and the selection effect working for them. When education is costly and easy to obtain (as in the U.S.), the selection effect dominates. When education is heavily subsidized and limited in supply (as in India), preferences are welfare reducing. The model also shows that unequal treatment of identical agents can be welfare improving, providing insights into when the counterintuitive policy of rationing educational access to some subgroups is welfare improving.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19546.

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Date of creation: Oct 2013
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Kala Krishna & Alexander Tarasov, 2016. "Affirmative Action: One Size Does Not Fit All," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(2), pages 215-52, May.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19546
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  1. Hector Chade & Gregory Lewis & Lones Smith, 2014. "Student Portfolios and the College Admissions Problem," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 81(3), pages 971-1002.
  2. Roland G. Freyer, Jr. & Glenn C. Loury, . "Affirmative Action in Winner-Take-All Markets," Boston University - Department of Economics - The Institute for Economic Development Working Papers Series dp-132, Boston University - Department of Economics.
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  8. James Fain, 2009. "Affirmative Action Can Increase Effort," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 30(2), pages 168-175, June.
  9. Verónica C. Frisancho Robles & Kala Krishna, 2012. "Affirmative Action in Higher Education in India: Targeting, Catch Up, and Mismatch," NBER Working Papers 17727, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Tolga Yuret, 2008. "An Economic Analysis of Color-Blind Affirmative Action," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(2), pages 319-355, October.
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  12. Qiang Fu, 2006. "A Theory of Affirmative Action in College Admissions," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 44(3), pages 420-428, July.
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