NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 3, 1996

When government agencies or other institutions establish racial and gender preferences in hiring, the goal is often "proportional representation" -- that is, increasing the number of women and minority employees so that the demographics of the workforce mirror those of society as a whole. But women and minorities are put at risk if they are over-represented in the workplace and equal employment opportunity officers genuinely believe in proportional representation -- regardless of who is affected.

  • Just such a situation confronted a black California youth counselor, who was passed over for promotion in favor of a less-qualified Hispanic woman -- who didn't show up for an interview because she didn't even want the job.
  • Observers say that in California's public sector, minorities and women are often over-represented, whites and men under-represented.
  • As a result, many state agencies have reportedly established goals and timetables to encourage the hiring of whites and men.

Opponents of the California Civil Rights Initiative, the November ballot measure to abolish preferences, paint it as the product of angry white men intent on protecting their privilege at the expense of women and minorities. But if proportional representation survives the November vote, groups representing white males say they are ready to play the proportional game.

  • Today, African-Americans represent 7.8 percent of California's population -- but 11.6 percent of state employees.
  • So true proportional representation would cost blacks more than 7,300 state jobs.

Critics of proportional representation note therefore that blacks -- the very group affirmative action was designed to help -- may be among those who benefit most from its abolition.

Source: Michael Lynch (Pacific Research Institute), "Reverse Discrimination Works Both Ways," Wall Street Journal, October 3, 1996.


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