Discrimination and affirmative action - what have we learnt so far?

Where are we on discrimination?

Horizontal inequalities or inequalities that coincide with identity-based cleavages and ethnic polarization put developing countries at risk of economics and political instability. How can this be prevented and these disadvantages alleviated? Do anti-discrimination and affirmative action policies deliver on their stated goals? Do they correctly identify and target the individuals that need it the most? This project takes a fresh look at the state of discrimination, and by going beyond traditional means of detecting/estimating its extent, attempts to assess new methodologies and the contribution they can make.


This project has two main objectives in line with UNU-WIDER's long-standing expertise in the area of inequality:

  1. to contribute to the understanding of discrimination against marginalized groups: its sources, magnitude over time and the role it plays in perpetuating inequality.
  2. to investigate why some policies implemented to mitigate the effects of discrimination work, while others do not. In particular, this strand will focus on various affirmative action policies that have been used to correct historical inequalities. Have affirmative action policies delivered? If not, how can they be improved? The project considers the point of view of those who benefit from affirmative action, and those who are left out.
Case studies and publications

As the experiences of countries such as India, South Africa, USA, Viet Nam and Brazil are unique, the project will seek to address these issues through a number of country-specific studies published as WIDER Working Papers and peer reviewed publications.

Keep an eye on the project website and WIDERAngle blog for updates on research from this project. These materials will be a valuable resource for policy makers and organizations looking for hard data regarding the varied and complex problems of discrimination.