Affirmative action refers to efforts to provide equal opportunities for all in employment and education. This entry focuses on affirmative action in the United States because it has been the primary site for social science research on the issue. Affirmative action policies and programs take measures to increase the representation of women and racial/ethnic minorities in employment and higher education through the use of targeted recruiting and training, formalizing personnel practices, preferential treatment in hiring and educational admissions, and sometimes the use of quotas. The motivation for affirmative action is to redress historical inequalities between social groups by “leveling the playing field” for groups that are disadvantaged by past and current discrimination. Affirmative action has led to important changes in intergroup relations, and its history ...

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