Is affirmative action meritocratic?


Over the last couple of days I noticed that a couple of people directly opposed ‘meritocracy’ with ‘affirmative action’, as if they were polar opposites.

Whilst I take issue with many aspects of AA, I believe that is a meritocratic process because it creates equal opportunities between individuals, allowing employers and universities to distinguish between the skill and talent of the candidate and the privileges they have received.

What do you think?


I have my own grievances with AA programs, mostly surrounding the fact that I prefer other solutions to the issue of a lack of equality of opportunity and see such programs as a band-aid solution (especially when they’re applied poorly in the real world), but I don’t think I’d argue that it’s non-meritocratic when framed with other policies. In and of itself, potentially, but if it’s working towards a wider ideal of a meritocratic society then no. If it’s used to correct existing inequalities so that a meritocratic society can be established, then I’d say it fits in with a wider meritocratic ideology.

One has to place certain caveats on AA programs in order to maximise societal utility and gains from it though, although this is detracting from the meritocracy arguments and just into a wider analysis of how it can function. Obviously you still need to have stringent tests for sectors to ensure the best quality workers and those who are capable to get in rather than hiring them to fill certain quotas, but allocating resources to at least allow for an equality of opportunity is desirable. Plus, it depends on the sector too. Being more lenient on allowing people with weaker skill-sets to advance into one field in the name of giving them a better quality of life is different to allowing someone with the same problems to advance into the medical sector for example.


I agree with OP.
I used to be firmly against affirmative action but as I read more widely I realised it is positive. Whether we like it or not we do not live in a world with equal opportunities so AA is needed to level the playing field.
I don’t think it disadvantages anyone, because if you are truly good you would still find a place.
That being said I agree with th repost above that it is a bandaid solution and I hope that eventually it will be obsolete


What inequalities in opportunities will AA help equalize?


Would it be preferrable to solve the issues that cause the disparity in opportunity instead? I.e, income inequality, urban poverty, fatherless/motherless homes, poor education, etc? It’s an issue to place people with less opportune backgrounds in areas beyond their normal reach in which it will be very difficult to succeed.


For example people from working class backgrounds are less likely to have books around the house growing up s it is harder to achieve top grades.


Then do it (AA) by class rather than just giving places to every Jose and Tyrone who wants it (regardless of their actual background).


I think that there’s no difference between the accrued skill and talent that comes with being raised in a good environment and the skill/talent that comes “naturally” or through will, and that a lot of the under-performance is a bit permanent by the time of college. Affirmative action intrinsically undermines the confidence of both fellow students and employers in the abilities of the recipients- especially when it’s widely known to be racially-based, and therefore has readily visible targets. I think that offering scholarships for poorer students who do compete at the same level, and funneling resources farther down the line into high schools and middle schools where the resource difference in terms of public/private, wealthy/poor neighborhoods seems more pertinent, would be a much better alternative and wouldn’t cause nearly as much public resentment. The alienation of poor whites being shafted by metropolitans giving handouts to blacks based on race is a godsend for far-right recruitment.

TL-DR: it’s not meritocratic because the problems people who are raised in shitty environments carry around with them are not just temporary


It really depends.

I don’t mind measures aimed at helping groups that are disadvantaged within society or lack equality in certain areas. So, for example, I don’t mind measures aimed at encouraging minority / women participation in politics or business, but I would draw a line at mandatory measures such as quotas, shortlists, etc.


To develop this a little bit further, I’ll support measures that treat the root causes of inequality, as opposed to treating the symptoms of it via measures like quotas.


Here is already AA by class, at least in the U.K.


Irrelevant example. This is easily solved by public libraries, which we have. Furthermore, few kids would read books lying around the house…


It’s actually a stat that correlates nicely with academic achievement. If the child grows up in an environment without books it’s less likely to study, it affects the motivation. Another factor is how rich the vocabulary of the parents is and how much they talk to their children when they are little


He’s just trying to make a point about how the poor have less access to the standards of living/ education we are used to and that they would preform worse in an environment foreign to them; like going to some advanced technical school whilst being a standard deviation lower than average grades.


Affirmative Action is perhaps the most evil government policy ever instated in my opinion.

Whoever preforms the best, gets the best. Period. There is nothing stopping anyone from achieving anything in this country if you actually work hard for it.

Slavery was ended many many years ago. Reparations have gone on for long enough; we have plenty of successful minority groups.




Affirmative action has existed for 55 years and we already have seen successful minority groups all over the place. It’s run it’s course.


The only reason factors other than qualifications/grades should come into whether someone gets a job/scholarship/whatever is if the applicants are equal in qualifications/grades.


The median black household income is still many many times smaller than the average white income. Unless you think it’s due to some intrinsic blackness, it suggests that they are still structurally disadvantaged


It does not.

If you take a bunch of poor white people and a bunch of rich while people does one group being richer than the other suggest the other is structurally disadvantaged?

Black people may have been in the past but they are not any more. There are a lot of problems for black communities but many of them cannot be blamed on structural disadvantage.