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A Simple Theoretical Argument for Affrmative Action

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  • Laurence Kranich

Abstract

We consider a society which is jointly committed to the principle of equal opportunity and to increasing aggregate wealth. However, the society faces the vestiges of past discrimination in the form of a historically skewed distribution of social resources. We consider the problem of allocating the existing quantity of social inputs, and we contrast two policy instruments to redress past differences: redistributing resources in order to compensate for, or offset, the effect of the asymmetry on productive abilities, or granting preferential treatment in employment to members of the disadvantaged group (affirmative action). We show that society is generally better off with affirmative action than without it, and, indeed, that a socially optimal policy may rely solely on affirmative action.

Suggested Citation

  • Laurence Kranich, 2012. "A Simple Theoretical Argument for Affrmative Action," Discussion Papers 12-05, University at Albany, SUNY, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:nya:albaec:12-05
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    File URL: http://www.albany.edu/economics/research/workingp/2012/lk.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Qiang Fu, 2006. "A Theory of Affirmative Action in College Admissions," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 44(3), pages 420-428, July.
    2. Calsamiglia, Caterina & Franke, Jörg & Rey-Biel, Pedro, 2013. "The incentive effects of affirmative action in a real-effort tournament," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 98(C), pages 15-31.
    3. Roland G. Fryer, Jr. & Glenn Loury, 2010. "Valuing Identity," NBER Working Papers 16568, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Kim-Sau Chung, 2000. "Role Models and Arguments for Affirmative Action," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 640-648, June.
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