The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics

2018 Edition
| Editors: Macmillan Publishers Ltd

Affirmative Action

  • Harry J. Holzer
  • David Neumark
Reference work entry


Affirmative action practices go beyond non-discrimination to enhance employment, education, and business-ownership opportunities for minorities and women. Critics argue that affirmative action does this at the expense of white males who might be more qualified, and so could be both unfair and inefficient. Supporters claim that affirmative action is necessary to overcome the many inherent disadvantages faced by minorities and women, and could enhance efficiency by expanding the pool of available talent or because diversity itself has positive impacts. This article summarizes the evidence for these arguments and claims.


Affirmative action Black–white wage differences Efficiency Labour market discrimination Labour-market institutions National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS) Redistribution Women’s work and wages 

JEL Classifications

J15 J16 J7 
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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harry J. Holzer
    • 1
  • David Neumark
    • 1
  1. 1.