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The origins of affirmative action lie in a 1965 executive order issued by U.S. President Lyndon Johnson that required federal contractors to develop policies to combat discrimination. Since this order, several U.S. policies and laws have encouraged or required corporations and other institutions to advertise jobs fairly and to promote the hiring and promotion of members of groups formerly discriminated, most notably women and minority ethnic groups. Implementation of both the letter and the spirit of these federal requirements has often involved employment goals and targeted employment outcomes intended to eliminate the vestiges of discrimination. These goals and policies are the core of affirmative action.

Target goals, timetables, and quotas were originally initiated to ensure more equitable opportunities by counterbalancing apparently intractable prejudice and systemic favoritism. ...

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