Definitions

Racial quotas

Racial quota

Racial quotas in employment and education are numerical requirements for hiring, promoting, admitting and/or graduating members of a particular racial group while discriminating other racial groups. These quotas may be determined by governmental authority and backed by governmental sanctions. When the total number of jobs or enrollment slots is fixed, this proportion may get translated to a specific number. In education, this kind of quota is also known as Numerus clausus.

Advocates of affirmative action programs often deny that these programs involve quotas, although some openly do, such as the admission program of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul. Advocates may regard the term "racial quotas" as particularly divisive in that it is assumed to be backed by the force of law to enable or disable certain linked programs or benefits based solely upon attainment of the one quota measure.

Opponents of quotas object that one group is favored at the expense of another whenever a quota is invoked (i.e., 8 out of 10 available positions) rather than factors such as grade point averages or test scores. They argue that using quotas displaces individuals from another group that would normally be favored based on factors of the individual's achievements. Another significant problem with racial quoting is controversial process of reevaluating quota percentage after change of racial ratio, especially when racial minority becomes majority.

The law student organization Building a Better Legal Profession has developed a market-based proposal to encourage greater diversity at private companies that avoids the controversial issues surrounding racial quotas. In an October 2007 press conference reported in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times , the group released data publicizing the numbers of African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans at America's top law firms. The group has sent the information to top law schools around the country, encouraging students to take this demographic data into account when choosing where to work after graduation. As more students choose where to work based on the firms' diversity rankings, firms face an increasing market pressure in order to attract top recruits.

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