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Political and legal antecedents of affirmative action: a comparative framework

  • Udi Sommer (a1) (a2) and Victor Asal (a3)

Much of the literature on affirmative action is normative. Further, in scholarship that takes an empirical approach to examine this topic, the object of inquiry is typically the ramifications of such provisions – most notably the extent to which they foster social transformation. Yet, we know surprisingly little about the antecedents of affirmative action. This work examines what variables systematically predict affirmative action. We focus on the policy feedback literature and compensatory justice frameworks to examine the effects of democracy, modernisation and globalisation on affirmative action programmes. Time-series cross-sectional analyses of data for hundreds of groups from all over the globe for the period 1985–2003 confirm our hypotheses. This is the first work to examine affirmative action programmes in a large-N framework of such scale. We find that such programmes systematically correlate with democracy, modernisation and globalisation.

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