Some new historical evidence on the impact of affirmative action: Detroit, 1972 (Hyclak et al. 1992)
Hyclak, T., Taylor, L., & Stewart, J. (1992). Some new historical evidence on the impact of affirmative action: Detroit, 1972. The Review of Black Political Economy, 21(2), 81-98.
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- The study’s objective was to examine the effect of federal affirmative action reporting requirements on Detroit firms’ hiring of minorities into managerial positions in 1972.
- The authors compared the probability that minority candidates applied to and were hired for managerial positions at firms that were and were not subject to affirmative action reporting requirements. The sample comprised 99 Detroit firms that fully responded to the 1972 Detroit Area Study survey.
- The study found that firms subject to affirmative action reporting requirements were significantly more likely to hire African American males than firms not subject to the requirements.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not adequately control for existing differences between firms that were and were not subject to affirmative action reporting requirements. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to affirmative action reporting requirements. Other factors are likely to have contributed.
Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employers may not discriminate against their employees on the basis of race, sex, color, religion, or national origin. The law prohibits discrimination in terms, compensation, working conditions, and other aspects of employment; mandates enforcement by courts, rather than juries; and provides civil penalties for violations, including mandatory remedial hiring policies for employers and reinstatement with back pay awards to victims.
Title VII also created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to bring class action litigation against employers for discrimination. Employers meeting certain size requirements must submit EEO-1 or Employer Information Report files to the EEOC and the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. These reports are establishment-level responses to annual workforce surveys. Before 1982, private employers with at least 50 employees and federal contractors with at least 25 employees were required to file EEO-1 reports; since then, the size requirements have risen to 100 or 50 employees, respectively.
Features of the Study
The authors applied multinomial logistic regression models to data from 99 Detroit firms providing complete data in the 1972 Detroit Area Study. One model estimated the probability that race and gender subgroups applied for managerial positions at each firm. A second model estimated the probability that an applicant belonged to a race or gender subgroup, given that he or she was ultimately hired. All regression models controlled for organizational characteristics, including revenue growth, corporation size, management position characteristics, and whether the firm’s workforce was unionized. The models also controlled for attributes of the current workforce, including the employment share of females and African American males in the managerial workforce. Because the hiring of these workers depended partly on whether they applied, the hiring model included as additional controls the log of the ratio of the probability that an applicant was African American to the probability that an applicant was white, for both men and women.
- The study found that firms subject to affirmative action reporting requirements were significantly more likely to hire African American males than were uncovered firms. Specifically, given that an applicant was ultimately hired, the probability that the new hire was an African American male was higher among regulated than unregulated firms.
- Women were significantly more likely to apply for managerial positions at covered firms than at uncovered firms, but the probability of hiring female managers did not differ by coverage status.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors did not establish the baseline comparability of the firms that were and were not subject to affirmative action reporting requirements in terms of minority application and hiring. Although they controlled for existing differences in race and gender managerial employment, it is not clear that these differences predated the firm’s coverage by these requirements. In addition, differential response rates to the survey might have caused differences between the two types of firms. The sample design was based on 212 Detroit area firms; 132 responded to the survey and only 99 provided complete data. If firms subject to affirmative action reporting requirements were more likely to respond to the survey when they were in compliance with the requirements, the findings would reflect this difference between the two groups of firms as well as the effect of the requirements.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is low because the authors did not adequately control for existing differences between firms that were and were not subject to affirmative action reporting requirements. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to affirmative action reporting requirements. Other factors are likely to have contributed.