By my reckoning, affirmative action should often make organizations look more biased in the direction they seek to correct, rather than less.
Imagine two groups of people in roughly equal numbers, type A and type B. It is thought by many that B people are unfairly discriminated against in employment. The management of organisation X believe this, so they create a policy to ensure new employees include roughly equally many As and Bs.
The effects of this policy include:
- a large benefit to many Bs previously near the threshold for being employed
- a small cost to all type Bs working at X, who will to varying degrees be suspected more of not meriting their position.
- a large cost to many As previously near the threshold for being employed
- a small benefit to all As working at X, who will to varying degrees be suspected of more than meriting their position.
Look at the effects on type Bs. Those well clear of the threshold have a net cost, while those near enough to it have a net benefit. This should in decrease the motivation of those well above the threshold to work at X and increase the motivation of those of lower ability to try. This should decrease the average quality of type B employees at X, even before accounting for the new influx of lower quality candidates. At the same time the opposite should happen with type As.
Now suppose the only quota at X is in hiring. Promotions have no similar adjustment. On top of whatever discrimination exists against Bs, there should now be even fewer Bs promoted, because they are on average lower quality at X, due to the affirmative action in hiring. Relative to less concerned organisations, X should end up with a greater proportion of As at the top of the organization.
Is this what really happens? If not, why not?