In this tab, we provide an overview and links to supplemental materials on several of the key controversies in the debate over affirmative action. Affirmative Action vs. Preferential Treatment examines the debate over what to call the debate. Supporters of policies that give special consideration to race (and, much less commonly, gender) prefer to characterize these policies as “benign,” forms of “affirmative” action. However, critics argue that a sharp distinction should be drawn between procedures, like outreach and improved selection criteria, which are generally uncontroversial, and explicit preferences, which they claim are forms of discrimination.
Class vs. Race captures a parallel controversy. Opponents of racial preferences generally believe that socioeconomic preferences are fairer and are too often given short-shift. Supporters of racial preferences often argue that the fundamental problem to be rectified by these policies are racial ones, and that preferences should focus on race.
Are Preferences Disappearing? examines the claim that colleges and universities are actually reducing their reliance on racial preferences, as is often assumed or urged.
Do Preferences Work? Admissions explores whether preferences actually achieve the goal of in increasing the number of individuals who would not otherwise be admitted.
Do Preferences Work? Outcomes considers whether preferences, and their professed goal, student body diversity, actually achieve the positive results that supposedly justify their use.
University Transparency and Data Policies examines the degree to which we have good information about the use of preferences, and how university policies in sharing data have changed over the past generation.
The Effects of Prop. 209 examines a debate over whether California’s 1996 ban on the state’s use of racial preferences was harmful or helpful to underrepresented minorities in California. Particular attention is paid to the University of California.