Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Disciplinary Approaches to Identifying Public Contracting Discrimination in the United States

By George R. La Noue.

Published by The Social Sciences Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In the United States, widespread affirmative action programs in employment, education, and public contracting exist that use race, ethnicity or gender classifications to create more equal outcomes or reward political constituencies. Courts have ruled that such programs employing preferences in contracting must be limited to situations that remedy identified previous discrimination. Consequently, since 1989 about 250 disparity studies examining discrimination in contracting have been commissioned by governments costing over $140 million. These studies usually employ the talents of economists, sociologists, political scientists, lawyers, historians and, even, anthropologists. When litigation occurs, courts have often responded critically to the data, methodologies, and conclusions of these studies and have set new rules for them, but the judicial process is not well suited to direct social science research. This paper will examine the continual dialogue between courts and social scientists struggling over the complex questions of identifying contemporary contracting discrimination.

Keywords: Judicial Review, Contracting Discrimination, Affirmative Action, Disparity Studies

International Journal of Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Volume 4, Issue 11, pp.47-58. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.153MB).

Dr. George R. La Noue

Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, Departments of Political Science and Public Policy, University of Maryland Baltimore County, Baltimore, USA

I have been applying social science research methods to civil rights problems for three decades. I have published in journals in the fields of law, political science, public administration, and history, including the forthcoming International Encyclopedia of Political Science entry on affirmative action. I have been a trial expert in more than forty federal cases involving discrimination and have worked for the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Labor, the Office for Civil Rights, and the Commission on Civil Rights. I am founder and director of the Project on Civil Rights and Public Contracts at the University and have lectured in Canada, India, France, Spain, Italy and the UK on civil rights policy.


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