[T]his distinction between goals and quotas is dubious, because to implement either a goal or quota requires that a regulator credibly commit to some (possibly unspoken) schedule of rewards/penalties for an employer or an education institution, as a function of observable and verifiable outcomes. The results engendered by either policy depend on how firms or educational institutions react to these incentives. If the penalty for certain "bad results" is sufficiently severe, then people will tend to say that a rigid quota had been imposed. If penalties for bad results are minimal, then the people will tend to say that a flexible goal has been adopted. Clearly, this difference is one of degree, not of kind.Word up. Additionally, you can run into this sort of case, in theory: say the government is simply in the business of enforcing nondiscrimination rather than quotas. So Employer X comes under suspicion, say, because it's been hiring a disproportionately low number of minorities, though perhaps this is due to a low number of minority applicants or some other complex HR reasons. Whatever. Point is, the regulatory regime won't always be privy to all these "mitigating factors" and could in theory punish Employer X for discrimination. To avoid this possibility, Employer A may well end up adopting an implicit quota system regardless. Basically, it's hard escaping quotas so long as affirmative action remains a goal that's enforced with any sort of rigor.