Affirmative Action

Free Essay Database Online

Affirmative Action

Affirmative action was established as part of society’s efforts to address
continuing problems of discrimination; the empirical evidence presented in the
preceding chapter indicates that it has had some positive impact on remedying
the effects of discrimination. Whether such discrimination lingers today is a
central element of an analysis of affirmative action. The conclusion is clear:
discrimination and exclusion remain all too common. 4.1. Evidence of Continuing
Discrimination There has been undeniable progress in many areas. Nevertheless,
the evidence is overwhelming that the problems affirmative action seeks to
address — widespread discrimination and exclusion and their ripple effects —
continue to exist. Minorities and women remain economically disadvantaged: the
black unemployment rate remains over twice the white unemployment rate; 97
percent of senior managers in Fortune 1000 corporations are white males; (28) in
1992, 33.3 percent of blacks and 29.3 percent of Hispanics lived in poverty,
compared to 11.6 percent of whites. (29) In 1993, Hispanic men were half as
likely as white men to be managers or professionals; (30) only 0.4 percent of
senior management positions in Fortune 1000 industrial and Fortune 500 service
industries are Hispanic. (31) Blatant discrimination is a continuing problem in
the labor market. Perhaps the most convincing evidence comes from
“audit” studies, in which white and minority (or male and female) job
seekers are given similar resumes and sent to the same set of firms to apply for
a job. These studies often find that employers are less likely to interview or
offer a job to minority applicants and to female applicants. (32) Less direct
evidence on discrimination comes from comparisons of earnings of blacks and
whites, or males and females. (33) Even after adjusting for characteristics that
affect earnings (such as years of education and work experience), these studies
typically find that blacks and women are paid less than their white male
counterparts. The average income for Hispanic women with college degrees is less
than the average for white men with high school degrees. (34) Last year alone,
the Federal government received over 90,000 complaints of employment
discrimination. Moreover 64,423 complaints were filed with state and local Fair
Employment Practices Commissions, bringing the total last year to over 154,000.

Thousands of other individuals filed complaints alleging racially motivated
violence and discrimination in housing, voting, and public accommodations, to
name just a few. 4.2 Results from Random Testing The marked differences in
economic status between blacks and whites, and between men and women, clearly
have social and economic causes in addition to discrimination. One respected
method to isolate the prevalence of discrimination is to use random testing, in
which individuals compete for the same job, apartment, or other goal. For
example, the Fair Employment Council of Greater Washington, Inc., conducted a
series of tests between 1990 and 1992. The tests revealed that blacks were
treated significantly worse than equally qualified whites 24 percent of the time
and Latinos were treated worse than whites 22 percent of the time. Some examples
document the disparities: Two pairs of male testers visited the offices of a
nationally-franchised employment agency on two different days. The black tester
in each pair received no job referrals. In contrast, the white testers who
appeared minutes later were interviewed by the agency, coached on interviewing
techniques, and referred to and offered jobs as switchboard operators. A black
female tester applied for employment at a major hotel chain in Virginia where
she was told that she would be called if they wished to pursue her application.

Although she never received a call, her equally qualified white counterpart
appeared a few minutes later, was told about a vacancy for a front desk clerk,
later interviewed, and offered the job. A black male tester asked about an ad
for a sales position at a Maryland car dealership. He was told that the way to
enter the business would be to start by washing cars. However, his white
counterpart, with identical credentials, was immediately interviewed for the
sales job. A suburban Maryland company advertised for a typist/receptionist.

When a black tester applied for the position, she was interviewed but heard
nothing further. When an identically qualified white tester was interviewed, the
employer offered her a better position that paid more than the receptionist job
and that provided tuition assistance. Follow up calls by the black tester
elicited no response eventhough the white tester refused the offer. A GAO audit
study uncovered significant discrimination against Hispanic testers. Hispanic
testers received 25 percent fewer job interviews, and 34 percent fewer job
offers than other testers. In one glaring example of discrimination,