Applying Demographic Analysis in Affirmative Action Disputes

An Instructional Case

Published in: Population Research and Policy Review, v. 17, no. 5, 1998, p. 457-478

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 1998

by Peter A. Morrison

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This instructional case study illustrates applications of demographic concepts, data, and techniques in evaluating affirmative action goals for equalizing employment opportunity. Courts of law addressing employment discrimination disputes need an accurate picture of each minority group's proportion in a pool of prospective employees. The demographic and socioeconomic factors conditioning those proportions vary from place to place. In the situation examined here, the court originally used an imperfect population standard to set hiring goals. The case traces the multiple failures to account for those conditioning influences and describes the resulting distortions of legal purpose. In analyzing this failure, students gain experience in clarifying issues in dispute, devising measures to fit legal standards, and delineating qualified labor pools. Specific instructional applications include: using census data to document how local population structure and composition determine each minority group's presence in the workforce; and using administrative data to delineate the relevant labor pools for setting affirmative action goals. Training is broadly suited to assignments where applied demographers must delineate the ethnic and racial composition of a pool of workers eligible to be hired or promoted.

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