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What Does Affirmative Action Do?


  • H. J. Holzer
  • D. Neumark


We use data from a survey of employers to investigate how Affirmative Action in recruiting and hiring influences hiring practices, personnel policies, and ultimately employment out- comes. Our results show that Affirmative Action increases the number of recruitment and screening practices used by employers, raises their willingness to hire stigmatized applicants, increases the number of minority and female applicants as well as employees, and increases employers’ tendencies to provide training and to formally evaluate employees. When Affirmative Action is used in recruiting, it does not lead to lower credentials or performance of women and minorities hired. When it is also used in hiring, it yields female and minority employees whose credentials are somewhat weaker, though performance generally is not. Overall, then, the more intensive search, evaluation, and training that accompany Affirmative Action appear to offset any tendencies of the policy to lead to hiring of less-qualified or less-productive women and minorities.

Suggested Citation

  • H. J. Holzer & D. Neumark, "undated". "What Does Affirmative Action Do?," Institute for Research on Poverty Discussion Papers 1169-98, University of Wisconsin Institute for Research on Poverty.
  • Handle: RePEc:wop:wispod:1169-98

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Harry J. Holzer, 1998. "Why Do Small Establishments Hire Fewer Blacks Than Large Ones?," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 33(4), pages 896-914.
    2. Barron, John M & Bishop, John & Dunkelberg, William C, 1985. "Employer Search: The Interviewing and Hiring of New Employees," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(1), pages 43-52, February.
    3. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1986:76:9:1144-1146_6 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Holzer, Harry J, 1987. "Informal Job Search and Black Youth Unemployment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(3), pages 446-452, June.
    5. Leonard, Jonathan S, 1985. "Affirmative Action as Earnings Redistribution: The Targeting of Compliance Reviews," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(3), pages 363-384, July.
    6. Gregory Attiyeh & Richard Attiyeh, 1997. "Testing for Bias in Graduate School Admissions," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 32(3), pages 524-548.
    7. Holzer, Harry J. & Reaser, Jess, 2000. "Black Applicants, Black Employees, and Urban Labor Market Policy," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(3), pages 365-387, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Volker Ziemann, 2015. "Towards more gender equality in Austria," OECD Economics Department Working Papers 1273, OECD Publishing.
    2. Maarten Vendrik & Christiane Schwieren, 2010. "Identification, screening and stereotyping in labour market discrimination," Journal of Economics, Springer, vol. 99(2), pages 141-171, March.
    3. David Neumark, 2016. "Experimental Research on Labor Market Discrimination," NBER Working Papers 22022, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Linda Barrington & Kenneth R. Troske, 2001. "Workforce Diversity and Productivity: An Analysis of Employer-Employee Match Data," Economics Program Working Papers 01-02, The Conference Board, Economics Program.
    5. David Neumark & Harry Holzer, 2000. "Assessing Affirmative Action," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 38(3), pages 483-568, September.
    6. Dragos BIGU, 2009. "Discrimination and Profit," REVISTA DE MANAGEMENT COMPARAT INTERNATIONAL/REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL COMPARATIVE MANAGEMENT, Faculty of Management, Academy of Economic Studies, Bucharest, Romania, vol. 10(5), pages 1021-1027, December.
    7. World Bank, 2017. "Republic of Armenia Leveling the STEM Playing Field for Women," World Bank Other Operational Studies 26766, The World Bank.
    8. Stewart, Frances, 2006. "Policies towards Horizontal Inequalities in Post-Conflict Reconstruction," WIDER Working Paper Series 149, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    9. Ashwini Deshpande & Rajesh Ramachandran, 2016. "The Changing Contours of Inter group Disparities and the Role of Preferential Policies in a Globalizing World: Evidence from India," Working Papers id:11519, eSocialSciences.
    10. World Bank, 2012. "Toward Gender Equality in East Asia and the Pacific : A Companion to the World Development Report," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 12598, June.
    11. Michael A. Stoll & Steven Raphael & Harry J. Holzer, 2001. "Why Are Black Employers More Likely to Hire African Americans than White Employers?," JCPR Working Papers 228, Northwestern University/University of Chicago Joint Center for Poverty Research.
    12. Ashwini Deshpande & Rajesh Ramachandran, 2016. "The Changing Contours of Intergroup Disparities and the Role of Preferential Policies in a Globalizing World- Evidence from India," Working papers 267, Centre for Development Economics, Delhi School of Economics.
    13. Antoine Rebérioux & Gwenael Roudaut, 2017. "Gender Quota and Inequalities inside the Boardroom," Working Papers hal-01618949, HAL.
    14. Vivian Price, 2002. "Race, Affirmative Action, and Women's Employment in US Highway Construction," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(2), pages 87-113.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J16 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Gender; Non-labor Discrimination


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