The Impact of Affirmative Action on the Employment of Minorities and Women

Award Year


Grant Type

Early Career Research Award


The proposed research will examine the role affirmative action has played in the employment of women and minorities in the U.S. since the Civil Rights Movement using newly available data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The first part of the research will use confidential employer reports from over 100,000 firms over the three decades spanning 1973-2003 (EEO-1 files) to measure the long-term impact of affirmative action in federal contracting on minority and female employment growth. The second part of the research will examine the other side of the coin, namely the effect of eliminating affirmative action on the employment of minorities and women by utilizing the state-level law changes banning affirmative action in public employment over the past 15 years in California, Washington, Michigan, Nebraska and Arizona as a natural experiment, using state and local government agency public employment files covering nearly two decades (EEO-4 files). There has been strikingly little research done quantifying the impact of affirmative action legislation, and the few existing studies were conducted three decades ago (cf. Heckman and Wolpin 1976, Ashenfelter and Heckman 1976, Smith and Welch 1984, Leonard 1984). Motivated by this knowledge gap, the proposed research will make several important contributions to economic and policy research. First, it will constitute the first research to present large-scale evidence using detailed controls and longitudinal methods on the long-term effects of affirmative action on the U.S. employment landscape. Second, it will be the first study to provide a breakdown of affirmative action effects for Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, whites and blacks individually. Third, the data on which the analysis is based have heretofore never been studied by scientific researchers (EEO-4 data) or, in the case of the EEO-1 data, have not been available to researchers since the 1980s.