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Is Affirmative Action Still Needed?

Two-thirds of Americans support affirmative action and recognize the value of diversity on college and university campuses, according to a new study by Americans for Fair Chance (AFC), a consortium of civil-rights organizations.

    • Among whites, 61 percent supported affirmative action while 27 percent opposed it. The numbers were similar among Latinos, where 63 percent supported the policy while 24 percent opposed it. Among African Americans, however, an overwhelming 83 percent supported affirmative action while only 9 percent opposed it.
    • In addition, 75 percent of Americans agreed or strongly agreed that women and people of color were "not always given equal consideration for job promotions". The same was true for 74 percent of whites, 87 percent of African Americans and 79 percent of Latinos.
    • Of those AFC surveyed from April to March 2001, 2,477 respondents were white, 350 African American and 208 were Latino. The AFC poll phrased the question, "Do you support or oppose affirmative action for women and minorities?"
    • AFC is comprised of civil-rights legal organizations, including the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., National Partnership for Women & Families and the National Women's Law Center.


A series of lab studies have shown that almost all people have trouble detecting a pattern of discrimination unless they are faced with a flagrant example or have access to aggregated data documenting discrimination.


Data indicates that the biases against minorities and women that humans show in lab settings are reflected in real-world practices. Example, according to the March 1995 report of the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission, a large proportion of minorities and women are locked into low-wage, low-prestige, and dead-end jobs. Additional data suggest that these two groups have been disproportionately affected by current trends in workforce downsizing; many service-oriented industries employ women and minorities and are likely to continue downsizing through the year 2002.


Continued disparities in income and career mobility:

    • In 1994, women were earning 72 percent of men's salaries, even after controlling for work experience, education, or merit
    • In 1992, black men with professional degrees earned 79 percent of the salaries of white men holding jobs at comparable levels. Black women with professional degrees earned 60 percent of the salaries of white men at comparable levels.
    • Based on 1992 data, both white females and black males must work about 8 months to earn a salary equal to what white males earn in 6 months. Black females must work 10 months to earn comparable salaries.
    • Fewer women and minorities than white males are promoted to senior levels in organizations.
    • Black people continue to have twice the unemployment rate of White people, half the median family income, and half the proportion who attend four years or more of college.


Persistence of discrimination in hiring:

    • In 1990, a study comparing pairs of black and white job applicants with identical credentials found that unequal treatment of black job seekers was entrenched and widespread, contradicting claims that hiring practices today either favor Blacks or are effectively color blind.
    • A study in 1995 of university faculty hiring practices found that, in many instances, once a minority hiring goal was met, departments stopped seeking minority applicants. Many ceased recruiting minorities regardless of the number of vacancies that occurred from then on.
by Clark, Leslie A. last modified May 16, 2012 11:04 AM