“When I call myself an affirmative action baby, I’m talking about the essence of what affirmative action was when it started.”
Sonia Sotomayor, Judge
Advantages & Disadvantages of Affirmative Action
Affirmative action is a term that describes benefits that are meant to improve employment, housing and educational opportunities of minorities or other groups that had been discriminated in the past due to various reasons.
Although the concept of affirmative action has many important advantages, there are still some issues related to it.
In this article, the pros and cons of affirmative action are discussed.
Advantages of Affirmative Action
- Affirmative action can help to reduce the wealth and income gap
- Better education opportunities for minorities
- Can be an effective measure against homelessness
- Better chances in the corporate world
- Lower unemployment rates for minorities
- Higher salaries for minorities on average
- May help to lower the risk for conflicts in our society
- Affirmative action can help people to climb the socioeconomic ladder
- May also help from a legal perspective
- Minorities may feel like valued members of our society
- Better integration of minorities
- Can help people to get out of poverty
- Affirmative action can help to promote diversity
- Overall increase in tolerance in our society
- More equal chances in life
- Can be regarded as compensation for discriminative behavior in the past
- Affirmative action can also make sense from a moral standpoint
Affirmative action can help to reduce the wealth and income gap
One important advantage of affirmative action is that it can help to lower the income and wealth gap in our society.
In many countries, there is still a huge gap between the poor and the rich and without proper policy measures, chances are that this problem will become even worse in the future.
Affirmative action can help in this regard since it can provide better job opportunities to minorities through certain quotas.
In turn, the average family income of those minorities would increase and the wealth and income gap could be lowered to a certain extent.
Better education opportunities for minorities
Education is crucial for success in various parts of our lives.
It is therefore also crucial to improve overall education levels in our society.
This is especially important for families who currently only have rather low education levels.
In order to provide the kids of those families with better opportunities in life, we also have to give those children the opportunity to get proper education.
One way to improve the education levels of those people is through affirmative action.
This can give certain groups of people the opportunity to get a college education, even if they could not afford to pay for it since the government can pay for their education.
In turn, by improving overall education levels, chances are that children that belong to certain minorities would get much better chances in various areas of their future life.
Can be an effective measure against homelessness
Another benefit of affirmative action is that it can also help us to get more people out of homelessness.
Homelessness is still a big problem in many cities and in order to solve this problem, we have to figure out what drives homelessness.
In many cases, homelessness is caused by a mix of bad luck, irresponsible decisions and poor education levels.
While bad luck cannot be influenced, we can improve the decision-making and education skills of people so that they can make better decisions and also earn more money.
In turn, those people would have much lower risks to end up homeless in the streets.
Since people are especially at risk for homelessness when they belong to a certain minority group, affirmative action can also greatly help to reduce homelessness in many regions all over the world.
Better chances in the corporate world
In general, if you have a higher education level, chances are that you will also be more successful in the corporate world.
In fact, for many jobs that pay high salaries, proper college education is required.
However, many people are not able to send their kids to college since they can simply not afford it.
This is especially true for children from minority groups.
Hence, in order to give those children better chances to succeed in the corporate sector and to earn really good money, affirmative action can also help in this regard since it provides certain groups financial support for college education.
Lower unemployment rates for minorities
Due to better education opportunities for minorities through affirmative action programs, chances are that also the risk to become unemployed will be lowered.
In fact, many studies have shown that a lack of education is a main driver to get stuck in unemployment and therefore, if we want to reduce unemployment on a global scale, we should also aim to improve our overall education levels as much as possible.
We also know that certain minority groups have a much harder time to get proper education.
Hence, especially for those minorities, the concept of affirmative action can greatly help to reduce the risks of unemployment since it provides better education opportunities for minorities.
Higher salaries for minorities on average
Not only unemployment rates could be lowered, but also the average salary for people who belong to certain minorities can be increased significantly.
Quite often, people who belong to certain minorities also work in jobs that pay only quite poorly.
However, if those people get the chance for proper education, they will be able to get better jobs and will also earn much more money on average.
This is not only beneficial for themselves, but it can also give those people the opportunity to send their kids to college.
In turn, also their children will have better chances in life.
This can lead to a positive reinforcement cycle that can help to improve the overall chances of people who belong to minorities in the long run.
May help to lower the risk for conflicts in our society
Another upside of affirmative action is that this concept can also help to lower the risk of serious conflicts in our society.
If the income and wealth gap between the poor and the rich becomes too high, chances are that poor people get quite frustrated since they feel they have no chance to get out of their misery.
In turn, those people may be more eager to start conflicts.
Hence, in order to assure peace in our society, it is crucial that we try to close the income and wealth gap.
One way to do so is through affirmative action since more people will have better chances for a better income.
Affirmative action can help people to climb the socioeconomic ladder
In general, one major goal of affirmative action is to help people who belong to minorities to climb the social ladder.
Many people who belong to minority groups are still on the lower end of the social ladder of our society.
In order to give them the opportunity to get into the middle class, we have to provide those people with proper education opportunities so that they can get a good job and can work their way up the social ladder.
May also help from a legal perspective
In many regions all over the world, our laws are still written and altered by people who belong to the majority class of the local population and minorities often have no chance to influence those changes in laws to their favor.
Consequently, those laws often favor the majority groups and may discriminate against certain minorities.
Therefore, in order to also improve the chances of minorities from a legal standpoint, the concept of affirmative action can also make sense in this regard.
Minorities may feel like valued members of our society
People who belong to certain minorities often also claim that they don’t feel like valued members of our society.
Quite often, those people get verbally or even physically attacked.
Hence, in order to protect those people and to give them the feeling that they are important, affirmative actions can also help to accomplish this.
Better integration of minorities
In general, affirmative action measures also aim to assure a better integration of minority groups into our society.
Quite often, the concentration of people who belong to certain minorities is much higher in certain neighborhoods compared to others.
However, this can lead to serious social isolation of minorities since they will often just interact with each other and not with the general public.
Therefore, affirmative action can also help to lower this problem since it will give people who belong to certain minority groups the opportunity to get better housing and also to get better education.
Can help people to get out of poverty
Affirmative action also aims to get as many people as possible out of poverty.
Poverty is still a big problem in many countries across the planet.
Studies have shown that people who belong to certain minorities are at much greater risk to get stuck in poverty due to their lower average education levels.
Hence, if we want to get people out of poverty, we have to provide them with proper education opportunities so that they are able to help themselves in the long run.
Affirmative action can help to promote diversity
Through the concept of affirmative action, we can also accomplish a higher level of diversity in the corporate world as well as in our schools.
Diversity is quite important since we can learn from each other quite a lot about different cultures and social values and therefore, by providing more people from minority groups with better education levels, we can also accomplish a state with high diversity levels in various parts of our daily life.
Overall increase in tolerance in our society
Moreover, also the level of tolerance towards minorities in our society could be increased.
Quite often, people are still not aware of the fact that people who belong to certain minority groups are discriminated in various parts of their lives.
Hence, the concept of affirmative action can also be important to raise awareness of this important topic and to increase the overall level of tolerance in our society.
More equal chances in life
In general, affirmative action aims to make chances in life more equal for everyone of us.
In our current state of the world, money still plays a crucial role when it comes to educational opportunities.
In turn, money also decides who will get a good job later on.
In order to break this cycle and to give also poor people the chance to improve their living standards, affirmative action can also help in this regard since it provides more children from poor families with better education opportunities and therefore with better overall chances in life.
Can be regarded as compensation for discriminative behavior in the past
Affirmative action is also a concept that is meant to compensate certain minority groups for discriminative actions in the past.
While there is still some level of discrimination right now, the level of discrimination towards certain minority groups had even been much higher in former times.
Therefore, many people think that we should compensate those minority groups for unfair treatment in the past through the concept of affirmative action.
Affirmative action can also make sense from a moral standpoint
As humans, we should also feel the inner obligation to improve the living conditions of as many people as possible.
Apart from welfare programs, affirmative action schemes can also help in this regard since they provide better chances for people who belong to certain minorities in various parts of their lives.
Disadvantages of Affirmative Action
- Affirmative action prefers certain minority groups
- May not be in line with the principle of “everyone is equal”
- Better chances for one group mean worse chances for others
- Opponents claim that this concept doesn’t make sense
- Affirmative action may be an expensive policy
- People may become frustrated
- Affirmative action promotes stereotypes
- Incentive to work hard might get lost
- Can also be harmful to companies
- May lead to a lack of respect
- Affirmative action may increase social tensions
- May not be sustainable as long-term concept
Affirmative action prefers certain minority groups
Apart from the many advantages of affirmative action, there are still some downsides related to this concept.
For instance, one problem of affirmative action is that certain minority groups may be preferred in an excessive manner.
Opponents of affirmative action often claim that all the benefits minorities receive cannot be justified from an objective standpoint and that those minority groups simply get too much support compared to other people in our society who would need help as well.
May not be in line with the principle of “everyone is equal”
In fact, the concept of affirmative action is also not in line with the concept that everyone should be equal in our society.
If certain minority groups are preferred in several parts of our daily life, there is simply no equality.
In fact, while some minorities get certain benefits, the general public may in turn suffer from those measures since they will have to pay for those benefits through tax money, yet they will not get any return from it.
Better chances for one group mean worse chances for others
Opponents of the concept of affirmative action often also claim that this concept even discriminates the general public since better chances for minorities in turn also mean worse chances for everyone else who doesn’t belong to those minorities.
Consequently, affirmative action can be regarded as a kind of discriminative concept which may not be justifiable.
Opponents claim that this concept doesn’t make sense
There are also many people out there who claim that the concept of affirmative action does not make too much sense at all.
In fact, many people claim that minorities should not be preferred but the overall conditions for the general public should be improved in general, but those improvements should not depend on whether someone belongs to a certain minority group or not.
Affirmative action may be an expensive policy
Another disadvantage of affirmative action is that it can also be a rather expensive policy measure.
The amount of money that has to be spent on those programs can be significant and in the end, the taxpayer will have to pay for it.
Especially in regions where a high number of people would be eligible for affirmative action programs, those policies can become extremely expensive for the state.
In turn, also the overall sovereign debt may increase significantly.
People may become frustrated
Although the concept of affirmative action aims to lower frustration among the general public, it may in fact translate into the opposite.
Many people who are poor but do not belong to minority groups who get this kind of support will become quite frustrated since they will not understand why they are not supported while other people get financial help.
In turn, the level of frustration of those people may greatly increase and the chances for social conflicts may increase as well due to that.
Hence, affirmative action may do more harm than good in this regard if other people who also urgently need help are excluded from financial support programs.
Affirmative action promotes stereotypes
Another downside of affirmative action programs is that they still promote stereotypes.
Moreover, people who belong to certain minorities may not be accepted in certain corporate positions.
In fact, if people think that their colleagues only got promoted due to their gender or their race, they will often not accept them since they will consider this process to be unfair.
Incentive to work hard might get lost
Many people may also lose their incentive and their motivation to work hard in their jobs.
If they feel that promotions do no longer depend on the individual performance but rather on whether they belong to a certain minority group or not, chances are that employees will just do the bare minimum since they don’t see any sense in working hard anymore.
Can also be harmful to companies
If employees lose the incentive to work hard due to affirmative action schemes, this also means that the productivity of those employees will drop as well.
In turn, this can be quite harmful to companies since this also implies that the profits of companies will decrease as well.
Moreover, if companies have to promote people due to their gender or their race instead of promoting them for their performance, chances are that many people who are not qualified for leading positions will be quite overwhelmed with their jobs, which can in turn further decrease profits or even lead to a state where some companies will have to go out of business.
May lead to a lack of respect
Affirmative action may also lead to a general lack of respect in the workplace.
Employees may simply not respect people who just got promoted due to characteristics that are independent of individual performance.
In turn, employees who had been promoted into leading positions in a company may have a quite hard time to lead other employees who don’t respect them.
Affirmative action may increase social tensions
Rather than to lower social tensions, the concept of affirmative action may even increase those tensions in our society.
In fact, many people just don’t believe in affirmative action and don’t want to support this concept.
Hence, too many people don’t support this concept, chances are that also the social tensions in society will increase since the general public will become increasingly frustrated over time.
May not be sustainable as long-term concept
Since affirmative action can be quite costly, it may also not be sustainable from a long-term perspective.
Sooner or later, those programs will have to be ended and there might be better measures to provide equal opportunities for people from certain minorities.
Top 10 Affirmative Action Pros & Cons – Summary List
|Affirmative Action Pros
|Affirmative Action Cons
|Affirmative Action can reduce poverty
|Affirmative Action may be costly
|Can give minorities better chances in life
|Affirmative Action may not be fair
|Can improve job opportunities
|Can lead to plenty of frustration
|May help to reduce the wealth gap
|Can contribute to stereotyping
|Affirmative Action may lead to higher wages
|Affirmative action may be discriminative
|Better chances for promotions
|Not in line with “everyone is equal” concept
|Concept of Affirmative Action may feel right
|Concept of Affirmative Action may be obsolete
|Increase of tolerance in our society
|Can lead to a lack of respect
|Affirmative Action helps to promote diversity
|May reduce motivation of many employees
|Better integration of minorities
|Can hurt companies in the long run
Does Affirmative Action Make Sense?
As we have seen from the previous discussion, there are several advantages and disadvantages to affirmative action.
While a certain level of support for minorities can make quite a lot of sense, governments should be careful not to take it too far in order to avoid an increasing level of frustration among the general public.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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