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Affirmative action refers to a range of governmental policies designed to foster greater opportunities for racial and ethnic groups that have a traditionally been victims of discrimination. These policies are also frequently extended to women and to individuals who have suffered from socio-economic disadvantage. Affirmative action has generally been less controversial when based on class or gender instead of race. Affirmative action policies have taken the form of quotes for members of previously disadvantaged groups, preferential weighting of applicants for employment and university admissions and governmental pressure to increase recruitment of members of groups that have long suffered from discrimination. In some nations—the United States and the Republic of South Africa are examples—affirmative action occurs in the absence of a history of formal legal discrimination and stigmatization of and often very strong patterns of racially linked class disadvantage (Cottrol). Affirmative action policies are found in a diverse set of nations in the modern world including such nations as Brazil, Colombia, India, Israel, Malaysia, Nigeria, South Africa and the United States (Sowell, 2-22).

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GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 2019-35; GWU Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2019-35

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