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Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study is a 2004 nonfiction work by economist Thomas Sowell.

Already known as a critic of affirmative action or race-based hiring and promotion, Sowell, himself African-American, analyzes the specific effects of such policies on Indiamarker, Malaysiamarker, Sri Lankamarker, and Nigeriamarker, four countries with longer multiethnic histories and then compares them with the recent history of the United Statesmarker in this regard.

A sample of his thinking about the danger of perpetual racial preferences is this passage from p. 7: "People differ - and have for centuries.... Any "temporary" policy whose duration is defined by the goal of achieving something that has never been achieved before, anywhere in the world, could more fittingly be characterized as eternal."

According to Dutch Martin's review of this book:

Among the common consequences of preference policies in the five-country sample are:

  • They encourage non-preferred groups to redesignate themselves as members of preferred groups (1) to take advantage of group preference policies;
  • They tend to benefit primarily the most fortunate among the preferred group (e.g. Black millionaires), often to the detriment of the least fortunate among the non-preferred groups (e.g., poor Whites);
  • They reduce the incentives of both the preferred and non-preferred to perform at their best — the former because doing so is unnecessary and the latter because it can prove futile — thereby resulting in net losses for society as a whole.

Another review of the book asserts that Sowell's selection of countries for comparison to the United States, and his use of "empirical" evidence, was in fact skewed to reach an anti-affirmative-action conclusion.

The same review charges that Sowell simply repackaged an earlier book of his, Preferential Policies: An International Perspective (1990), and "fobbed it off" as new material under a different title.


See also

  • ISBN 0-300-10199-6

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