This paper examines the roles of biological sex, race, racist and sexist attitudes, social class, education, political ideology, and partisanship in forming individual attitudes toward affirmative action in the employment (AAE) of women and Black people. Unlike previous research, our empirical approach treats these attitudes as jointly determined, which affords the opportunity to assess previously unexamined, salient joint probabilities necessary for fully evaluating the extent to which such gender- and race-based AAE policies will be supported by the public. Results suggest the joint probability of supporting both affirmative action in employment of women and affirmative action in employment of Black people is less than 25 percent for the average person, regardless of racist/sexist attitudes, educational achievement, political ideology, party affiliation, or social class. More granular analyses predict even smaller probabilities for average White males and average White females. For Black females and Black people overall, predicted joint probabilities of support, though considerably higher, remain well below 50 percent. Overall, our results strongly suggest that garnering widespread public support for the preferential hiring and promotion of women and/or Black people will continue to be an uphill struggle.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Baunach DM. Progress, opportunity, and backlash: explaining attitudes toward gender-based affirmative action. Sociol Focus. 2002;35(4):345–62. https://doi.org/10.1080/00380237.2002.10570708.
Burns AB, Darity W Jr. A blurred case: the diversity defense for affirmative action in the U.S. Du Bois Rev. 2019;16(2):341–56. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1742058X19000262.
Bowles S, Gintis H. Schooling in captalist America. Sociol Educ. 2002;75(1):1–8. https://doi.org/10.2307/3090251.
Connor RA, Glick P, Fiske ST. Ambivalent sexism in the twenty-first century. In: Sibley CG, Barlow FK, editors. The Cambridge handbook of the psychology of prejudice, Part II. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2016. pp. 295–320. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316161579.013.
Embrick DG. The diversity ideology in the business world: a new oppression for a new age. Crit Sociol. 2011;37(5):541–56. https://doi.org/10.1177/2F0896920510380076.
Engle RF. Wald, likelihood ratio, and Lagrange multiplier tests in econometrics. In: Intriligator MD, Griliches Z, editors. Handbook of econometrics, Volume 1. Amsterdam: North Holland; 1984. pp. 775–826. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1573-4412(84)02005-5.
Faniko K, Lorenzi-Cioldi FA, Buschini F, Chatard A. The influence of education on attitudes toward affirmative action: the role of the policy’s strength. J Appl Soc Psychol. 2012;42(2):387–413.
Fraser G, Osborne D, Sibley CG. “We want you in the workplace, but only in a skirt!” Social dominance orientation, gender-based affirmative action and the moderating role of benevolent sexism. Sex Roles. 2015;73:231–44. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-015-0515-8.
Glick P, Fiske ST. The ambivalent sexism inventory: differentiating hostile and benevolent sexism. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1996;70(3):491–512. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35126.96.36.1991.
Greene WH, Hensher DA. Modeling ordered choices: a primer. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2010. https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511845062.
Harris GLA. Revisiting affirmative action in leveling the playing field: who have been the true beneficiaries anyway? Rev Public Pers Adm. 2009;29(4):354–72. https://doi.org/10.1177/0734371X09348911.
Harrison DA, Kravitz DA, Mayer DM, Leslie LM, Lev-Arey D. Understanding attitudes toward affirmative action programs in employment: summary and meta-analysis of 35 years of research. J Appl Psychol. 2006;91(5):1013–36. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.91.5.1013.
Heilman ME, Block CJ, Lucas JA. Presumed incompetent? Stigmatization and affirmative action efforts. J Appl Psychol. 1992;77(4):536–44. https://doi.apa.org/doi/10.1037/0021-9010.77.4.536.
Henningsen A, Toomet O. maxLik: a package for maximum likelihood estimation in R. Comput Stat. 2011;26:443–58. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00180-010-0217-1.
Herring C, Collins SM. Retreat from equal opportunity? The case of affirmative action. In: Smith MP, Feagin JR, editors. The bubbling cauldron: race, ethnicity and the urban crisis. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press; 1995. p. 163–81.
Herring C, Henderson L. From affirmative action to diversity: toward a critical diversity perspective. Crit Sociol. 2012;38(5):629–43. https://doi.org/10.1177/0896920511402701.
Holzer H, Neumark D. Are affirmative action hires less qualified? Evidence from employer-employee data on new hires. J Labor Econ. 1999;17(3):534–69. https://doi.org/10.1086/209930.
Holzer H, Neumark D. Assessing affirmative action. J Econ Lit. 2000;38(3):483–568.
James EH, Brief AP, Dietz J, Cohen RR. Prejudice matters: understanding the reactions of Whites to affirmative action programs targeted to benefit Blacks. J Appl Psychol. 2001;86(6):1120–8. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.86.6.1120.
Kalev A, Dobbin F, Kelly E. Best practices or best guesses? Assessing the efficacy of corporate affirmative action and diversity policies. Am Sociol Rev. 2006;71(4):589–617. https://doi.org/10.1177/2F000312240607100404.
Kane EW, Whipkey KJ. Predictors of public support for gender-related affirmative action: interests, gender attitudes, and stratification beliefs. Public Opin Q. 2009;73(2):233–54. https://doi.org/10.1093/POQ%2FNFP019.
Kluegel JR, Smith ER. Affirmative action attitudes: effects of self-interest, racial affect, and stratification beliefs on Whites’ views. Soc Forces. 1983;61(3):797–824. https://doi.org/10.2307/2578135.
Konrad AM, Spitz J. Explaining demographic group differences in affirmative action attitudes. J Appl Soc Psychol. 2003;33(8):1618–42. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1559-1816.2003.tb01966.x.
Konrad AM, Hartmann L. Gender differences in attitudes toward affirmative action programs in Australia: effects of beliefs, interests, and attitudes toward women. Sex Roles. 2001;45:415–32. https://doi.org/10.1023/A%3A1014317800293.
Kravitz DA, Klineberg SL. Reactions to two versions of affirmative action among whites, blacks, and Hispanics. J Appl Psychol. 2000;85(4):597–611. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.85.4.597.
Kunovich S, Slomczynski KM. Systems of distribution and a sense of equity: a multilevel analysis of meritocratic attitudes in post-industrial societies. Eur Sociol Rev. 2007;23(5):649–63. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4621253. Accessed 10 Nov 2022.
Krings F, Tschan F, Bettex S. Determinants of attitudes toward affirmative action in a Swiss sample. J Bus Psychol. 2007;21:585–611. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-007-9042-0.
Mangum M, Block R Jr. Perceived racial discrimination, racial resentment, and support for affirmative action and preferential hiring and promotion: a multi-racial analysis. Polit Groups Identities. 2022;10(4):674–95. https://doi.org/10.1080/21565503.2021.1892781.
Moscoso S, García-Izquierdo AL, Bastida M. A mediation model of individual differences in attitudes toward affirmative actions for women. Psychol Rep. 2012;110(3):764–80. https://doi.org/10.2466/01.07.17.pr0.110.3.764-780.
Neumark D. Experimental research on labor market discrimination. J Econ Lit. 2018;56(3):799–866. https://doi.org/10.1257/jel.20161309.
Prokos AH, Baird CL, Keene JR. Attitudes about affirmative action for women: the role of children in shaping parents’ interests. Sex Roles. 2010;62:347–60. https://doi.org/10.1007/S11199-009-9739-9.
Quillian L, Pager D, Hexel O, Midtbøen AH. Meta-analysis of field experiments shows no change in racial discrimination in hiring over time. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2017;114(41):10870–5. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1706255114.
Sidanius J, Pratto F, Bobo L. Racism, conservatism, affirmative action, and intellectual sophistication: a matter of principled conservatism or group dominance? J Pers Soc Psychol. 1996;70(3):476–90. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-35188.8.131.526.
Slaughter JE, Sinar EF, Bachiochi PD. Black applicants’ reactions to affirmative action plans: effects of plan content and previous experience with discrimination. J Appl Psychol. 2002;87(2):333–44. https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-9010.87.2.333.
Smith CW, Mayorga-Gallo S. The new principle-policy gap: how diversity ideology subverts diversity initiatives. Sociol Perspect. 2017;60(5):889–911. https://doi.org/10.1177/2F0731121417719693.
Smith TW, Davern M, Freese J, Morgan SL. General social surveys, 1972–2018. Chicago: National Opinion Research Center; 2019.
Steinbugler AC, Press JE, Dias JJ. Gender, race, and affirmative action: operationalizing intersectionality in survey research. Gend Soc. 2006;20(6):805–25. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243206293299.
Thomas R, Cooper M, Cardazone G, Urban K, Cardazone G, Bohrer A, Mahajan S. Women in the workplace 2020. New York: McKinsey & Company; 2021. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/women-in-the-workplace. Accessed 10 Nov 2022.
Wilkins VM, Wenger JB. Belief in a just world and attitudes toward affirmative action. Policy Stud J. 2014;42(3):325–43. https://doi.org/10.1111/PSJ.12063.
Wilson TC. Whites’ opposition to affirmative action: rejection of group-based preferences as well as rejection of blacks. Soc Forces. 2006;85(1):111–20. https://doi.org/10.1353/sof.2006.0148.
Conflict of Interests
The authors declare no competing interests.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.
About this article
Cite this article
Yen, S.T., Zampelli, E.M. A Bivariate Probit Model of Attitudes Toward the Preferential Hiring and Promotion of Women and Black People. J Econ Race Policy 6, 82–101 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41996-022-00110-y