Various countries have forms of reservations (Reservations In India, many employment and educational opportunities are "reserved" for persons of "disadvantaged" birth (i.e. low caste, backward classes etc.)). I understand that the US has Affirmative Action programs, which reward companies hiring people from minority communities. What evidence is there to support that these policies are successful at achieving their goals (i.e. rise in financial conditions/social standing for the target communities)?

  • I take it that the goals you mean are the ones in the title. You might want to copy those into the body of the question. (I'd also like to know, personally, about the effects as those measures continue. It's perfectly possible that Affirmative Action did a great deal of good in the 60s and is doing harm now.) Apr 23, 2011 at 15:47
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    I recommend breaking this into two questions. It seems plausible that the question about reservations, and the the question about hiring practices could have different answers, and be answered by different experts.
    – Oddthinking
    Apr 29, 2011 at 2:36

1 Answer 1


I found some links when browsing the wiki page on reservations in India.

The first link describes a study that uses actual data over decades. The findings have been published in a book titled "The Shape of the River: Long-Term Consequences of Considering Race in College and University Admissions." It was written by two former Ivy League presidents, William Bowen of Princeton University, an economist, and Derek Bok of Harvard University, a political scientist. Some quotes (from the article):

The study begins by documenting the problem clearly: blacks who enter elite institutions do so with lower test scores and grades than those of whites. And as they work their way through liberal arts colleges like Yale and Princeton and state schools like the Universities of Michigan and North Carolina, black students receive lower grades and graduate at a lower rate.

But after graduation, the survey found, these students achieve notable successes. They earn advanced degrees at rates identical to those of their white classmates. They are even slightly more likely than whites from the same institutions to obtain professional degrees in law, business and medicine. And they become more active than their white classmates in civic and community activities.

... the more selective the college, the more likely were blacks who attended it to graduate, obtain advanced degrees and earn high salaries.

A more troubling question, the authors acknowledge, regards the white students whom these black students displaced. Would society have been better off if they had attended instead of the blacks? ... Bowen and Bok point out that if more than half of the blacks accepted at selective colleges had been rejected, the probability of acceptance for another white applicant would rise only 2 percent, to 27 percent from 25 percent.

But not some good news also ...

They found that the black dropout rate for the elite institutions practicing affirmative action was 25 percent, much lower than the national black dropout average of 60 percent.

The seems to be well-founded, so I guess it makes quite a case for academic affirmative action in the US. Since the system in India is quite different, I don't how much accuracy it will have over here.

  • The study compares dropout rates between blacks in different schools. How exactly is that an argument for AA? It also admits that "black students receive lower grades and graduate at a lower rate", without bothering to analyze whether any of the reported successes and dropouts correllate to students who'd have been admitted even without AA.
    – user5341
    Apr 24, 2011 at 11:32
  • Basically, the study finds that black students who DO get a degree from elite school make out better in life. Which is obviously true for ANY students, and has nothing to do with AA. What it did NOT do (and probably couldn't for privace reasons) was examine differences between students that got admitted due to AA vs. those that would have been admitted anyway.
    – user5341
    Apr 24, 2011 at 11:33
  • @DVK:It says they are going to be a little better than their white counterparts. A standard argument against such policies goes that people either drop out or those who do pass, are not successful in life. This study contradicts the second part of this argument.
    – apoorv020
    Apr 28, 2011 at 5:52
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    The better part is that students who were when joining weaker, caught up (or outperformed) the rest after graduation.
    – apoorv020
    Apr 29, 2011 at 20:20
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    theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/10/…, dailysignal.com/2015/12/02/… actually do a great job of discussing the issue
    – user36356
    Jan 14, 2017 at 20:15

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