Skip to main content

Affirmative action and the occupational advancement of minorities and women during 1973-2003 (Kurtulus 2012)

Citation

Kurtulus, F. (2012). Affirmative action and the occupational advancement of minorities and women during 1973-2003. Industrial Relations, 52(2), 213-246.

Highlights

    • The study’s objective was to examine the effect of affirmative action requirements for federal contractors on the occupational employment shares of minorities and women at federal contractors and noncontractors from 1973 to 2003.
    • The author used a nonexperimental design to examine establishments’ employment share of race, ethnicity, and gender groups in seven occupational categories over time using data from annual EEO-1 Employer Information Report files.
    • The study found that, among firms that became federal contractors from 1973 to 2003, the share of Hispanic women, white women, African American women, and African American men significantly increased in some skilled occupational categories compared with firms that did not become federal contractors in that period. The study also found that the share of African American men and women increased significantly in manual jobs at federal contractor firms, compared with nonfederal contractor firms in that period.
    • The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a strong non-experimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to affirmative action requirements for federal contractors, but other factors might also have contributed.

Intervention Examined

Affirmative Action Legislation

Features of the Intervention

In 1961, President Kennedy signed Executive Order 19025, which prohibited discrimination by race, creed, color, and national origin among federal contractors and required that employers take “affirmative action” to ensure fair hiring and advancement. Affirmative action Executive Order 11246, signed by President Johnson in 1965, reinforced prohibitions in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and earlier executive orders against discrimination based on race, color, religion, and national origin; subsequent Orders and revisions have added sex (1967) and sexual orientation and gender identity (2014) as protected classes. Order 11246 required the federal government and federal contractors with 50 or more employees or $50,000 in contracts to develop written affirmative action plans and ensure equal opportunities for all workers. The Order authorized the Secretary of Labor to establish the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to enforce federal contractors’ compliance.

The number of employer discrimination lawsuits and class action lawsuits declined in the 1980s. In the 1990s, there was renewed focus on affirmative action policies following the Civil Rights Act of 1991 that allowed plaintiffs the option of a trial by jury to recover damages and established the Federal Glass Ceiling Commission to prepare recommendations on the advancement of protected groups. In addition, the administration of President Clinton accelerated enforcement of affirmative action and nondiscrimination laws, leading to a rising number of debarments for contractors because of noncompliance. In subsequent years, many states rescinded affirmative action policies.

Features of the Study

The study used a nonexperimental design. The author estimated regression models comparing the employment shares of six specific race-by-gender demographic groups in seven occupational categories over time among firms that were and were not federal contractors. The decision to become a federal contractor required compliance with affirmative action requirements. The models controlled for fixed firm effects and time-varying firm characteristics as well as industry and regional effects each year. The occupational categories studied were based on those reported in the EEO-1 data: managers and officers, professionals, technicians, sales, office and clerical, manual, and services. The study used establishment-level data from 1973 to 2003 from the EEO-1 Employer Information Report files. These reports are annual establishment surveys of workforce data that employers meeting certain size requirements must submit to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. More than 100,000 firms submitted these reports in 1973 and each year from 1978 to 2003.

Findings

  • The study found that firms that became federal contractors during the period from 1973 to 2003 had a significant increase relative to noncontractors in the share of professional jobs held by white females as well as a significant increase in the share of clerical jobs and manual jobs held by African American females.
  • For African American men, the study found a significant increase in the share of technician jobs and manual jobs in federal contractor firms relative to noncontractors.
  • The study found a significant increase in the share of Hispanic females in technician jobs in federal contractor firms relative to noncontractors, whereas the Hispanic males’ share of managerial and manual jobs decreased significantly.
  • The study found that in federal contractor firms during the 1973 to 2003 period, there was a significant decrease relative to noncontractors in white males’ share of professional and clerical jobs.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The author estimated multiple related impacts on outcomes related to employment. Performing multiple statistical tests on related outcomes makes it more likely that some impacts will be found statistically significant purely by chance and not because they reflect program effectiveness. The author did not perform statistical adjustments to account for the multiple tests, so the number of statistically significant findings in these domains is likely to be overstated.

Causal Evidence Rating

The quality of causal evidence presented in this report is moderate because it was based on a strong non-experimental design. This means we are somewhat confident that the estimated effects are attributable to affirmative action requirements for federal contractors, but other factors might also have contributed.

Reviewed by CLEAR

October 2015

Topic Area