Population Research and Policy Review 17: 457–478, 1998.
© 1998 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Applying demographic analysis in afﬁrmative action disputes:
An instructional case
PETER A. MORRISON
The RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California, USA
Abstract. This instructional case study illustrates applications of demographic concepts, data,
and techniques in evaluating afﬁrmative action goals for equalizing employment opportunity.
Courts of law addressing employment discrimination disputes need an accurate picture of
each minority group’s proportion in a pool of prospective employees. The demographic and
socioeconomic factors conditioning those proportions vary from place to place. In the situation
examined here, the court originally used an imperfect population standard to set hiring goals.
The case traces the multiple failures to account for those conditioning inﬂuences and describes
the resulting distortions of legal purpose. In analyzing this failure, students gain experience in
clarifying issues in dispute, devising measures to ﬁt legal standards, and delineating qualiﬁed
labor pools. Speciﬁc instructional applications include: using census data to document how
local population structure and composition determine each minority group’s presence in the
workforce; and using administrative data to delineate the relevant labor pools for setting af-
ﬁrmative action goals. Training is broadly suited to assignments where applied demographers
must delineate the ethnic and racial composition of a pool of workers eligible to be hired or
Keywords: Afﬁrmative action, Applied demography, Employment discrimination, Labor
When courts of law address employment discrimination disputes, they need
an accurate picture of the proportions of job seekers who belong to racial or
ethnic minorities. In this case study we deal with the types of questions that
applied demographers are called on to answer in afﬁrmative action disputes,
where a population standard is used to set hiring goals. The case illustrates
how an applied demographer delineates the pool of workers eligible to be
hired or promoted and then measures the ethnic/racial composition of that
pool. More broadly, students are introduced to the adversarial realm, where
demographic concepts and data get applied in a context of legal dispute. They
gain experience in clarifying issues in dispute and devising measures to ﬁt
the legal standards judges apply. This case is complemented by a related
literature on the interplay of applied demography with the law (see Bolton