Modern affirmative action, then, was established as policymakers groped for a way to address continuing problems of discrimination. Has it worked to help eradicate or prevent such discrimination? In a fundamental sense the question must be posed for the broader society-wide effort of which federal programs are only an element and, ideally, a model.

3.1 Review of the Empirical Literature, in Summary

Over the past three decades, minorities and women have made real, undisputable economic progress. Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the median black male worker earned only about 60 percent as much as the median white male worker; (10) by 1993, the median black male earned 74 percent as much as the median white male. (11) The male-female wage gap has also narrowed since the 1960s: median female earnings relative to median male earnings rose from about 60 percent during the 1960s to 72 percent in 1993. (12)

This section of the Report addresses three issues: (1) Why has there been an earnings gap between black and white workers, and what role did anti-discrimination legislation and affirmative action play in the reduction of that gap? (Earnings gaps for Hispanics and Asians also exist which have been linked to discrimination. The wage gaps for African Americans and women are examined here in detail in order to illustrate the relationship between the problems and historic solutions.) (2) Why has there also been an earnings gap between men and women, and what role did government policies play in the reduction of that gap? (3) Is there any evidence that affirmative action boosted minority or female employment?

3.2 Effect on Earnings

3.2.1 Anti-Discrimination Policy, the Minority-White Earnings Gap

3.2.2 Anti-Discrimination Policy and the Male-Female Earnings Gap

3.3 Effect on Employment