Racial quota

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Racial quotas in employment and education are numerical requirements for hiring, promoting, admitting and/or graduating members of a particular racial group. Racial quotas are often established as means of diminishing racial discrimination, addressing under-representation and evident racism against those racial groups or, the opposite, against the disadvantaged majority group (see numerus clausus or bhumiputra systems). Conversely, quotas have also been used historically to promote discrimination against minority groups by limiting access to influential institutions in employment and education.


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.

Regions and nations

Ancient Mongolia

The Mongols divided different races into a four-class system during the Yuan dynasty.

The Mongol Emperor Kublai Khan had introduced a hierarchy of reliability by dividing the population of the Yuan Dynasty into the following classes:

Ancient China

Several laws enforcing racial segregation of foreigners were passed during the Tang dynasty. In 779 AD, the Tang dynasty issued an edict which forced Uighurs to wear their ethnic dress, and restricted them from marrying Chinese.

In 836 AD, Lu Chun was appointed as governor of Canton. He was disgusted to find Chinese living with foreigners and intermarriage. Lu enforced separation, banning interracial marriages, and prevented foreigners from owning properties. [1] The 836 law specifically banned Chinese from forming relationships with "Dark peoples" or "People of colour", terms referring to foreigners, such as "Iranians, Sogdians, Arabs, Indians, Malays, Sumatrans", etc. [2] [3]


By 1935, the French government enacted a series of racial quotas on certain professions. [4]


See Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses.


See Bumiputera (Malaysia).

United States

The National Origins Formula was an American system of immigration quotas, between 1921 and 1965, which restricted immigration on the basis of existing proportions of the population. The goal was to maintain the existing ethnic composition of the United States. It had the effect of giving low quotas to Eastern and Southern Europe.

Such racial quotas were restored after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, especially during the 1970s. [5] Richard Nixon's Labor Secretary George P. Shultz demanded that anti-black construction unions allow a certain number of black people into the unions. [5] The Department of Labor began enforcing these quotas across the country. [5] After a U.S. Supreme Court case, Griggs v. Duke Power Company , found that neutral application tests and procedures that still resulted in de facto segregation of employees (if previous discrimination had existed) were illegal, more companies began implementing quotas on their own. [5]

In a 1973 court case, a federal judge created one of the first mandated quotas when he ruled that half of the Bridgeport, Connecticut Police Department's new employees must be either black or Puerto Rican. [5] In 1974, the Department of Justice and the United Steelworkers of America came to an agreement on the largest-to-then quota program, for steel unions. [5]

In 1978, the Supreme Court ruled in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke that public universities (and other government institutions) could not set specific numerical targets based on race for admissions or employment. [5] The Court said that "goals" and "timetables" for diversity could be set instead. [5] A 1979 Supreme Court case, United Steelworkers v. Weber , found that private employers could set rigid numerical quotas, if they chose to do so. [5] In 1980, the Supreme Court found that a 10% racial quota for federal contractors was permitted. [5]

In 1990 City University of New York was accused of discriminatory hiring practices against Italian-Americans. [6]

In 1991, President George H. W. Bush made an attempt to abolish affirmative action altogether, maintaining that "any regulation, rule, enforcement practice or other aspect of these programs that mandates, encourages, or otherwise involves the use of quotas, preferences, set-asides or other devices on the basis of race, sex, religion or national origin are to be terminated as soon as is legally feasible". [7] This claim led up to the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, however the document was not able to implement these changes. It only covered the terms for settling cases where discrimination has been confirmed to have occurred. [8]

College admissions in the United States have had racial quotas; see Numerus clausus § United States for details. These have notably included blanket bans on African-Americans, Jewish quotas from 1918 to the 1950s, and an alleged Asian quota from the 1980s and ongoing as of 2017.


Students protesting against racial quotas in Brasilia, Brazil. The sign reads: "Want an opening? Pass the Vestibular (entry exam)!" Protesto contra o sistema de cotas.jpg
Students protesting against racial quotas in Brasília, Brazil. The sign reads: "Want an opening? Pass the Vestibular (entry exam)!"

Opponents of quotas object that one group is favored at the expense of another whenever a quota is invoked rather than factors such as grade point averages or test scores. They argue that using quotas displaces individuals that would normally be favored based on their individual achievements. Opponents of racial quotas believe that qualifications should be the only determining factor when competing for a job or admission to a school. It is argued this causes "reverse discrimination" [9] where individuals in the majority to lose out to a minority.


Some affirmative action programs openly involve quotas such as the admission program of the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul. [10]

The law student organization Building a Better Legal Profession has developed a method to encourage politically liberal students to avoid law firms whose racial makeup is markedly different from that of the population as a whole. In an October 2007 press conference reported in The Wall Street Journal , [11] and the New York Times, [12] the group released data publicizing the numbers of African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans at America's top law firms. The group has sent information to top law schools around the country, encouraging students who agree with this viewpoint to take the demographic data into account when choosing where to work after graduation. [13] As more students choose where to work based on the firms' diversity rankings, firms face an increasing market pressure to change theirs. [14]

See also



Related Research Articles

Racial segregation Systemic separation of people into racial or other ethnic groups in daily life

Racial segregation is the systematic separation of people into racial or other ethnic groups in daily life. Racial segregation can amount to the international crime of apartheid and a crime against humanity under the Statute of the International Criminal Court. Segregation can involve the spatial separation of the races, and mandatory use of different institutions, such as schools and hospitals by people of different races. Specifically, it may be applied to activities such as eating in restaurants, drinking from water fountains, using public toilets, attending schools, going to movies, riding buses, renting or purchasing homes or renting hotel rooms. In addition, segregation often allows close contact between members of different racial or ethnic groups in hierarchical situations, such as allowing a person of one race to work as a servant for a member of another race.

Affirmative action refers to a set of policies and practices within a government or organization seeking to include particular groups based on their gender, race, sexuality, creed or nationality in areas in which they are underrepresented such as education and employment. Historically and internationally, support for affirmative action has sought to achieve goals such as bridging inequalities in employment and pay, increasing access to education, promoting diversity, and redressing apparent past wrongs, harms, or hindrances.

Reverse discrimination is a term for discrimination against members of a dominant or majority group, in favor of members of a minority or historically disadvantaged group. Groups may be defined in terms of ethnicity, gender identity, nationality, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.

Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 438 U.S. 265 (1978), was a landmark decision by the Supreme Court of the United States. It upheld affirmative action, allowing race to be one of several factors in college admission policy. However, the court ruled that specific racial quotas, such as the 16 out of 100 seats set aside for minority students by the University of California, Davis School of Medicine, were impermissible.

Grutter v. Bollinger, 539 U.S. 306 (2003), was a landmark case of the Supreme Court of the United States concerning affirmative action in student admissions. The Court held that a student admissions process that favors "underrepresented minority groups" does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause so long as it takes into account other factors evaluated on an individual basis for every applicant.

Numerus clausus is one of many methods used to limit the number of students who may study at a university. In many cases, the goal of the numerus clausus is simply to limit the number of students to the maximum feasible in some particularly sought-after areas of studies. In historical terms however, in some countries, numerus clausus policies were religious or racial quotas, both in intent and function.

A Jewish quota was a discriminatory racial quota designed to limit or deny access for Jews to various institutions. Such quotas were widespread in the 19th and 20th centuries in developed countries and frequently present in higher education, often at prestigious universities.

DeFunis v. Odegaard, 416 U.S. 312 (1974), was a United States Supreme Court case in which the Court held that the case had become moot and so declined to render a decision on the merits. American student Marco DeFunis, who had been denied admission to the University of Washington School of Law in the state of Washington before he was provisionally admitted during the pendency of the case, was slated to graduate within a few months of the decision being rendered.

Reverse racism or reverse discrimination is the concept that affirmative action and similar color-conscious programs for redressing racial inequality are a form of anti-white racism. The concept is often associated with conservative social movements and the belief that social and economic gains by black people in the United States and elsewhere cause disadvantages for white people.

Affirmative action in the United States Overview of the topic

Affirmative action in the United States is a set of laws, policies, guidelines, and administrative practices "intended to end and correct the effects of a specific form of discrimination" that include government-mandated, government-approved, and voluntary private programs. The programs tend to focus on access to education and employment, granting special consideration to historically excluded groups, specifically racial minorities or women. The impetus toward affirmative action is redressing the disadvantages associated with past and present discrimination. Further impetus is a desire to ensure public institutions, such as universities, hospitals, and police forces, are more representative of the populations they serve.

Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1, 551 U.S. 701 (2007), also known as the PICS case, is a United States Supreme Court case. At issue were efforts for voluntary school desegregation and integration in Seattle, Washington, and Louisville, Kentucky. Both school districts voluntarily used individualized racial classifications to achieve diversity and/or to avoid racial isolation through student assignment.

Constitutional colorblindness is an aspect of United States Supreme Court case evaluation that began with Justice Harlan's dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. Prior to this, the Supreme Court considered color as a determining factor in many landmark cases. Constitutional colorblindness holds that skin color or race is virtually never a legitimate ground for legal or political distinctions, and thus, any law that is "color conscious" is presumptively unconstitutional regardless of whether its intent is to subordinate a group, or remedy discrimination. The concept, therefore, has been brought to bear both against vestiges of Jim Crow oppression, as well as remedial efforts aimed at overcoming such discrimination, such as affirmative action.

Racial diversity in United States schools is the representation of different racial or ethnic groups in American schools. The institutional practice of slavery, and later segregation, in the United States prevented certain racial groups from entering the school system until midway through the 20th century, when Brown v. Board of Education forbade racially segregated education. Globalization and migrations of peoples to the United States have increasingly led to a multicultural American population, which has in turn increased classroom diversity. Nevertheless, racial separation in schools still exists today, presenting challenges for racial diversification of public education in the United States.

Fisher v. University of Texas, 570 U.S. 297 (2013), also known as Fisher I, is a United States Supreme Court case concerning the affirmative action admissions policy of the University of Texas at Austin. The Supreme Court voided the lower appellate court's ruling in favor of the University and remanded the case, holding that the lower court had not applied the standard of strict scrutiny, articulated in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) and Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), to its admissions program. The Court's ruling in Fisher took Grutter and Bakke as given and did not directly revisit the constitutionality of using race as a factor in college admissions.

Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, 572 U.S. 291 (2014), was a landmark decision of the Supreme Court of the United States concerning affirmative action and race- and sex-based discrimination in public university admissions. In a 6-2 decision, the Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause does not prevent states from enacting bans on affirmative action in education.

<i>Students for Fair Admissions v. President and Fellows of Harvard College</i>

Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College is a lawsuit concerning discrimination against Asian Americans and the affirmative action program in Harvard University's student admissions process. The organization Students for Fair Admissions and other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against Harvard College in 2014 in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, claiming that the college discriminates against Asian-American applicants in its undergraduate admissions process.

Fisher v. University of Texas, 579 U.S. ___ (2016) is a United States Supreme Court case which held that the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit correctly found that the University of Texas at Austin's undergraduate admissions policy survived strict scrutiny, in accordance with Fisher v. University of Texas (2013), which ruled that strict scrutiny should be applied to determine the constitutionality of the University's race-conscious admissions policy.

Affirmative action refers to activities or policies that seek to help groups that are often affected by discrimination obtain equal access to opportunities, particularly in areas such as employment and education. In the early 2000s, the use of race, gender, and other factors in college and university admissions decisions came under attack. The University of Michigan was sued several times by students who felt they were denied admittance because they were white, and the idea of eliminating measures that provided women, minorities, and others with preferential treatment gained momentum. In 2006, voters approved Proposal 2—also called the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative—which "amend[ed] the Michigan Constitution to ban public institutions from discriminating against or giving preferential treatment to groups or individuals based on their race, gender, color, ethnicity, or national origin in public education, public employment, or public contracting". As a result, the university was prohibited from considering race as part of its holistic admissions process. Minority enrollment decreased, and the university was forced to develop alternative strategies to increase diversity among its student population.

Asian quota Type of racial quota

An Asian quota is a type of racial quota limiting the number of people of Asian descent in an establishment, a special case of numerus clausus. It usually refers to alleged educational quotas in United States higher education admissions, specifically by Ivy League universities against Asian Americans, especially persons of East Asian and South Asian descent starting in the late 1980s. These allegations of discrimination have been denied by US universities. Asian quotas have been compared to earlier claims of Jewish quotas, which are believed to limit the admissions of a model minority from the 1910s to the 1950s. Jewish quotas were denied at the time, but their existence is rarely disputed now. Some have thus called Asian-Americans "The New Jews" of university admissions.

2020 California Proposition 16 California ballot measure to undo the states ban on affirmative action

Proposition 16 is a California ballot proposition that appeared on the November 3, 2020, general election ballot, asking California voters to amend the Constitution of California to repeal 1996's Proposition 209. Proposition 209 amended the state constitution to prohibit government institutions from considering race, sex, or ethnicity, specifically in the areas of public employment, public contracting, and public education. Therefore, Proposition 209 banned the use of affirmative action in California's public sector, while still permitting socioeconomic considerations.


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