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Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study (Yale Nota Bene S) Paperback – March 11, 2005

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Product Details

  • Series: Yale Nota Bene S
  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (March 11, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300107757
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300107753
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 6.6 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #232,027 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Preferring members of specified groups in higher education, employment, receipt of government services, getting business contracts, and so on is a worldwide phenomenon whose effects are demonstrable. Black economist Sowell focuses on affirmative action in India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and the U.S. In those nations, preferences for minorities metamorphosed into preferences for majorities (e.g., women, when made affirmative-action candidates in the U.S., tipped the numbers of the preferred to more than half the populace), intergroup friction increased (Sri Lanka, once a model of ethnic cooperation, descended into civil war, as did Nigeria), "brain drain" occurred (in Malaysia, preferences for less-educated Malays led to massive Chinese emigration and the ouster of Chinese-dominated Singapore from the Malay federation), and/or something else bad happened. Most damning is that in all five countries, the upper crust of preferred groups reaped the lion's share of benefits. Affirmative action is never rejected, however, because it is evaluated "in terms of its rationales and goals rather than its actual consequences." Invaluable argumentation, more accessible than usual for Sowell. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“A delight: terse, well-argued, and utterly convincing.”—Economist

“Among contemporary economists and social theorists, one of the most prolific, intellectually independent, and iconoclastic is Thomas Sowell. . . . Enormously learned, wonderfully clear-headed, he sees reality as it is, and flinches at no truth. . . . Sowell’s presentation of the data is instructive and illuminating—and disturbing.”—Carl Cohen, Commentary

“Another brilliant, bracing achievement by Thomas Sowell. With characteristic lucidity, erudition, and depth, Sowell examines the true effects of affirmative action around the globe. This book is compelling, important, mind-opening.”—Amy Chua, author of World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability

Customer Reviews

If you are interested in the subject of affirmative action, this is a good book to read.
Henry Cate III
Contrary to arguments that affirmative action programs are limited in scope and duration, Sowell gives examples of how they expand and endure.
Jeffery Steele
The book is well organized into an introductory chapter, and then single chapters each for the various country case studies.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

97 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Wheelchair Assassin on May 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As anyone who regularly reads Thomas Sowell's syndicated columns knows, he's long been one of America's most prominent dissident voices, black or white, approaching every subject he addresses with relentless reason and thorough research. With his latest book, "Affirmative Action Around the World," Sowell jumps right into the debate over one of the world's most controversial subjects: ethnic preference programs. Of course, we all know about Affirmative Action here in the U.S., but as Sowell demonstrates, similar programs can be found in countries all over the world. With his trademark honesty and meticulousness, Sowell explores the results of affirmative action policies in five countries: the United States, India, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Sri Lanka. This book echoes many of the themes found in Sowell's classic "The Vision of the Anointed," so you may want to check out that book before moving on to this one.
As Sowell states many times throughout the book, his main objective here is to examine the actual effects of affirmative action programs, not the goals or rationales behind them. To put it another way, he sets out to answer the questions that most people don't even ask. The chief problem, in Sowell's view, is that the assumption underlying affirmative action programs is fundamentally flawed. It's just assumed by those advocating such measures that any intergroup disparities in performance must be caused by some sort of systematic discrimination, and a little government intervention is needed to even things out. However, as Sowell notes, such differences have been found all over the world all through history.
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful By D. A. Martin on April 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Affirmative action has been arguably the most politically divisive topic in the post-Civil Rights era. President John F. Kennedy originally coined the phrase in an executive order to eliminate discrimination - past and present and primarily suffered by blacks - based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. In concept, the initial rationale was based on the idea that the affirmative action policies would be temporary and limited in scope. In practice, however, they have expanded into a pervasive system of goals, timetables and numerical quotas to include other "aggrieved groups", and which over the years have done more harm than good. This phenomenon is not unique to the United States.
In Affirmative Action Around the World: An Empirical Study (Yale University Press, 2004), Thomas Sowell takes a global view in examining group preference polices in the U.S., India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and Nigeria. Whether called affirmative action in America, "positive discrimination" in India, preferences "reflecting the federal character of the country" in Nigeria, or "sons of the soil" preferences in Malaysia, Dr. Sowell looks at the similarities in the rationale behind the policies of these aforementioned countries, as well as their actual consequences.
One of the most damaging results of affirmative action in American higher education is the abysmal graduation rate of minority students admitted to elite colleges and universities under lower admissions standards. What makes this phenomenon even more disheartening is that many of these students would be perfectly suited to succeed at academically less rigorous schools, yet are "pervasively mismatched" into schools for which they are not adequately prepared, thus almost guaranteeing their chances of failure.
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Henry Cate III on July 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Thomas Sowell presents the results of his research of investigating affirmative action in various countries around the world. He looks at what really happens after affirmative programs are implemented, as opposed to the claims of what would happen. He finds there have been horrible costs from affirmative action programs.
There is a saying: "In theory there is no difference between theory and reality. In reality there is." Thomas Sowell shows the reader how the reality of affirmative action is greatly different from the theory.
The bulk of the book focuses on five countries; there is a chapter on each of the following: India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and the United States. In each of these chapters there is a brief overview, the historical setting, a detailed analysis of the types of quotas & preferences various groups got, an examination of what happened, and then some conclusions.
Again and again I would think of the Law of Unintended Consequences, for as Thomas Sowell points out that (especially in dealing with humans) you can not always predict the outcome of a particular action. One of Thomas Sowell's points is those who have been pushing for affirmative action have a very, very poor track record in being able to predict how the affirmative action programs will help. They will make great claims, but the reality has been very different.
Thomas Sowell finds there are some basic patterns in all of the affirmative action programs. Almost always the programs are promoted as being temporary, but they become permanent. The programs are supposed to be for a specific group, but other groups push for their cause to try and join the bandwagon (gravy wagon).
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More About the Author

Thomas Sowell has taught economics at Cornell, UCLA, Amherst and other academic institutions, and his Basic Economics has been translated into six languages. He is currently a scholar in residence at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has published in both academic journals in such popular media as the Wall Street Journal, Forbes magazine and Fortune, and writes a syndicated column that appears in newspapers across the country.