Diverse Participation in Public Contracting: Legal and Administrative Policy in the United States

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Creating economic participation for marginalized groups is a global problem. For three decades, governments in the United States have used various forms of affirmative action to increase shares of public contracting for businesses owned by members of disadvantaged groups (African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Asian-Americans, Native-Americans and sometimes women). These programs are controversial regarding the selection of preferred groups, the amount of the preferences, the duration of the programs, and which firms are actually benefited. After initial approval, the federal judiciary has applied the strict scrutiny standard to these programs by requiring that preferences only be used to remedy identified discrimination. These rulings have created a disparity study industry which has resulted in about 200 such studies at a cost of more than $100 million. Generally, after judicial review, the studies have been found to be inadequate. Consequently, more attention is being given to race and gender neutral programs (small business programs, smaller contracts, reduction of bonding and pre-qualification requirements, improved communication about contracting opportunities, and mentoring programs, etc.) This paper will discuss the evolution of the process to increase contracting participation for minority groups in the United States and consider options other countries have employed.


Keywords: Affirmative Action, Public Contracting, Economic Participation
Stream: Race and Racism
Presentation Type: 30 minute Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Policies to Ensure Group Equality in Public Contracting in Four Countries


Dr. George R. La Noue

Professor of Political Science and Public Policy, Departments of Political Science and Public Policy, University of Maryland Graduate School Baltimore
Baltimore, Md., 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 India, France, Spain, Italy and the UK on civil rights policy.

Ref: D08P0407