This entry outlines the history of affirmative action policy in the United States and discusses its current institutional design and enforcement, as well as its interaction with U.S. antidiscrimination policy. While some such policies have also been implemented in other countries, the United States has the earliest and most extensive version, particularly with regard to women as opposed to ethnic and racial minorities, and as such provides an important case study of how such policies might affect women's relative standing to men.

In the United States, equal opportunity implies equal treatment under a selection mechanism, and also implies attempts to equalize qualifications relevant to selection prior to entering the selection process. Thus, antidiscrimination policies can be seen as ways to ensure equal treatment.

Affirmative action is a ...

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