affirmative action


Definition of affirmative action 

: an active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups and women sought to achieve a multicultural staff through affirmative action also : a similar effort to promote the rights or progress of other disadvantaged persons

Examples of affirmative action in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

In a 4–3 ruling penned by Anthony Kennedy, the court upheld the University of Texas’s (modest) version of affirmative action. Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump Administration Calls on Colleges to End Affirmative Action," 3 July 2018 Opponents of affirmative action have found allies in the Trump administration. Deirdre Fernandes,, "Harvard goes on attack to defend its admissions policies," 12 June 2018 Discussions of affirmative action are empty without the background of how these wealth disparities arose. Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, "What you should know about race-based affirmative action and diversity in schools," 3 July 2018 The Trump Justice Department earlier signaled its concern about the fairness of affirmative action, launching an investigation of Harvard University's admissions policies. NBC News, "Trump admin reverses Obama, prods schools to ignore racial factors in admissions," 3 July 2018 Whites have traditionally been the losers from affirmative action. William Mcgurn, WSJ, "The Democrats’ Racial Fault Line," 25 June 2018 In addition to his crusade against affirmative action, Blum has also worked to overturn gerrymandered districts that favor racial minority candidates. Jamie Halper,, "Meet the man behind the Harvard admissions lawsuit," 15 June 2018 Opponents of affirmative action have used these grievances to challenge the law. Alvin Chang, Vox, "The fraught racial politics of entrance exams for elite high schools," 14 June 2018 And on Tuesday, the US Departments of Education and Justice announced a rollback of a variety of Obama-era guidance around affirmative action. Harry Bruinius, The Christian Science Monitor, "'Keep the test!' A debate flares over exam-based public high schools.," 6 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'affirmative action.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of affirmative action

1961, in the meaning defined above

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Last Updated

16 Sep 2018

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The first known use of affirmative action was in 1961

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affirmative action


English Language Learners Definition of affirmative action

: the practice of improving the educational and job opportunities of members of groups that have not been treated fairly in the past because of their race, sex, etc.

affirmative action


Legal Definition of affirmative action 

: an active effort (as through legislation) to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of minority groups or women

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