Affirmative action in the United States is a set of laws, policies, guidelines and administrative practices "intended to end and correct the effects of a specific form of discrimination" that include government-mandated, government-sanctioned and voluntary private programs. The programs tend to focus on access to education and employment, granting special consideration to historically excluded groups, specifically racial minorities or women. The impetus toward affirmative action is redressing the disadvantages associated with past and present discrimination. Further impetus is a desire to ensure public institutions, such as universities, hospitals, and police forces, are more representative of the populations they serve.

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  • Affirmative action in the United States is a set of laws, policies, guidelines and administrative practices "intended to end and correct the effects of a specific form of discrimination" that include government-mandated, government-sanctioned and voluntary private programs. The programs tend to focus on access to education and employment, granting special consideration to historically excluded groups, specifically racial minorities or women. The impetus toward affirmative action is redressing the disadvantages associated with past and present discrimination. Further impetus is a desire to ensure public institutions, such as universities, hospitals, and police forces, are more representative of the populations they serve. In the United States, affirmative action included the use of racial quotas until the Supreme Court questioned their constitutionality and mandated more indirect use of race. Affirmative action currently tends to emphasize not specific quotas but rather "targeted goals" to address past discrimination in a particular institution or in broader society through "good-faith efforts ... to identify, select, and train potentially qualified minorities and women." For example, many higher education institutions have voluntarily adopted policies which seek to increase recruitment of racial minorities. Outreach campaigns, targeted recruitment, employee and management development, and employee support programs are examples of affirmative action in employment. Nine states in the US have ever banned the affirmative action: California (1996), Texas (1996), Washington (1998), Florida (1999), Michigan (2006), Nebraska (2008), Arizona (2010), New Hampshire (2012), and Oklahoma (2012). However, Texas's ban with Hopwood v. Texas was reversed in 2003 by Grutter v. Bollinger, leaving eight states that currently ban the policy. Affirmative action policies were developed to address long histories of discrimination faced by minorities and women, which reports suggest produced corresponding unfair advantages for whites and males. They first emerged from debates over non-discrimination policies in the 1940s and during the civil rights movement. These debates led to federal executive orders requiring non-discrimination in the employment policies of some government agencies and contractors in the 1940s and onward, and to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibited racial discrimination in firms with over 25 employees. The first federal policy of race-conscious affirmative action was the Revised Philadelphia Plan, implemented in 1969, which required certain government contractors to set "goals and timetables" for integrating and diversifying their workforce. Similar policies emerged through a mix of voluntary practices and federal and state policies in employment and education. Affirmative action as a practice was partially upheld by the Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), while the use of racial quotas for college admissions was concurrently ruled unconstitutional by the Court in Gratz v. Bollinger (2003). Affirmative action is controversial in American politics. Opponents of affirmative action argue that these policies amount to discrimination against non-minorities which entails favoring one group over another based upon racial preference rather than achievement, and many believe that the diversity of current American society suggests that affirmative action policies succeeded and are no longer required. In particular, policies adopting racial quotas or gender quotas have been criticized as a form of discrimination. Scholars have also questioned whether quota systems and "targeted goals" can be clearly distinguished from each other. (en)
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  • Affirmative action in the United States is a set of laws, policies, guidelines and administrative practices "intended to end and correct the effects of a specific form of discrimination" that include government-mandated, government-sanctioned and voluntary private programs. The programs tend to focus on access to education and employment, granting special consideration to historically excluded groups, specifically racial minorities or women. The impetus toward affirmative action is redressing the disadvantages associated with past and present discrimination. Further impetus is a desire to ensure public institutions, such as universities, hospitals, and police forces, are more representative of the populations they serve. (en)
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  • Affirmative action in the United States (en)
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