Affirmative action (AA) addresses individuals' exclusion from opportunities based on group membership by taking into account race, sex, ethnicity, and other characteristics. This chapter reviews sociological, economic, historical, and legal scholarship on AA. We first consider the emergence of group-based remedies, how protected groups are defined, and proportional representation as a standard for inclusion. We then summarize the research on AA in education (including busing) and in employment. The concluding section reviews societal responses to AA, including attitudes, challenges, and political responses. As public and judicial support for AA has waned, employers and educators have increasingly turned toward diversity as a rationale for including underrepresented groups. Despite this change, many employers and educators continue to take positive steps to include minorities and women.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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