Policies and practices which favour groups (mainly ethnic groups and women) who have historically experienced disadvantages (usually in the fields of employment and education). In the United States
the alternative terms ‘affirmative action
’ and ‘reverse discrimination’ are also widely used. It is argued by advocates of positive discrimination that, given the existing structure of inequalities
, the policy is necessary in order to create equality of opportunities with historically privileged groups. However, it is highly controversial, and has generated much legal and political debate. Most sociological interest focuses on the implications of positive discrimination for the concept and practice of equality of opportunity. See also JUSTICE, SOCIAL
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