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J Appl Psychol. 2006 Sep;91(5):1013-36.

Understanding attitudes toward affirmative action programs in employment: summary and meta-analysis of 35 years of research.

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  • 1Department of Management and Organization, Smeal College of Business, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA.


Affirmative action programs (AAPs) are controversial employment policies in the United States and elsewhere. A large body of evidence about attitudinal reactions to AAPs in employment has accumulated over 35 years: at least 126 independent samples involving 29,000 people. However, findings are not firmly established or integrated. In the current article, the authors summarize and meta-analytically estimate relationships of AAP attitudes with (a) structural features of such programs, (b) perceiver demographic and psychological characteristics, (c) interactions of structural features with perceiver characteristics, and (d) presentation of AAP details to perceivers, including justification of the AAP. Results are generally consistent with predictions derived from self-interest considerations, organizational justice theory, and racism theories. They also suggest practical ways in which AAPs might be designed and communicated to employees to reduce attitudinal resistance.

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