Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-1-2013

Capstone Advisor

Professor Thomas Keck

Honors Reader

Professor Shauna Fisher

Capstone Major

Political Science

Audio/Visual Component


Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Social Sciences

Subject Categories

American Politics | History | Political Science | United States History | Women's History


The Civil Rights and Women’s Rights Movements were two parallel rights revolutions in American history. Each spurred noteworthy social change for a disadvantaged group, through affirmative action for African Americans and through Title IX programs for women. However, when one looks at the college enrollment data, it becomes clear that these programs achieved success at different rates—at least in higher education. This thesis is an attempt to explain why these seemingly analogous programs produced such disparate results. It attempts to answer the question: Did in-group bias influence public opinion and public backlash in the form of Supreme Court litigation, impacting the time it took for race-based affirmative action programs to achieve success in comparison with similar women’s rights initiatives?

In studying affirmative action and Title IX, this thesis examines both public opinion data and Supreme Court litigation surrounding each program. In doing so, it attempts to argue that in-group bias colored public opinion data, diminishing the support for race-based affirmative action. It also attempts to show that public backlash, in the form of Supreme Court litigation, presents a direct challenge to race-based affirmative action in higher education. On the contrary, there are no Supreme Court cases that question the need for Title IX enforcement in the academic sector of higher education.

The proof is in the college enrollment statistics. It took women just seven years after the passage of Title IX to become the majority of the college undergraduate population and just eight years to reach what this thesis defines as the point of success; that is, the point when the percentage of the group—whether women or African Americans—in the undergraduate population exceeds the percentage of said group in the general American population. It took African Americans 34 years after President John F. Kennedy coined the term “affirmative action” to reach this point of success.

Therefore, based on the college enrollment data and the explanatory variables of public opinion and Supreme Court litigation, this thesis concludes that in-group bias colored public opinion data and spurred public backlash against race-based affirmative action programs in the form of Supreme Court litigation, slowing the adoption and success of race-based affirmative action programs, in contrast to analogous women’s rights initiatives.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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