The pursuit of diversity in student admissions and employee recruitment has been culturally institutionalized for several decades. Yet, recent political events, including an ongoing case in the U.S. Supreme Court, have made diversity-related strategies and rhetoric even more salient in the contemporary time. I investigate these trends in a set of two papers co-authored with students.
First, in a paper revised and resubmitted to Socioeconomic Review, my co-author and I develop a new concept, ‘downstream diversity,’ which refers to diversity in HEI partnerships with firms seeking to employ their students. Unlike the pursuit of diversity in student recruitment, which is deeply institutionalized, there are no legal or institutional imperatives compelling HEIs to partner with firms that are deemed to be diverse. To investigate if HEIs, nevertheless, engage in this form of diversity, we analyze partnerships between hundreds of higher education institutions (HEIs) and accounting firms at college career fairs. We find dense connectivity between elite HEIs and firms. However, while elite HEIs are exclusively connected to prestigious firms, the latter also recruit across the status spectrum. Yet, despite the accounting industry’s professed commitments to diversifying its workforce, we find prestigious accountancy firms are significantly less likely to recruit from HBCUs and programs that have high enrollments of Black students. We find that elite HEIs are also less likely to partner with firms with Black leadership. Overall, our findings demonstrate that public commitments to diversity may be doing little to increase the representation of minorities in the workforce.
In the second paper (revised and resubmitted to Plos One), my collaborators and I use machine learning and quantitative network modeling to analyze statements issued by 356 HEIs in the United States in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. Our analysis reveals considerable variability in the discourse including (1) rhetoric focused on diversity, (2) humanist responses that suppress any mention of race, and (3) the emergence of a new focus on themes associated with critical race theory. Discourse is fragmented along expected lines - religiously affiliated schools and those located in Republican-voting states attend more to diversity and humanist themes, while elite schools, those in Democrat-voting states, and with high percentages of Black students are more focused on systemic racism. Overall, we find two striking rhetorical shifts on race discourse in HEIs the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder: (1) from a colorblind ideology to discussing the systemic nature of racism in the United States, and (2) from acknowledging perpetrators but not the broader context of racism in on-campus incidents to acknowledging diffuse racism manifest in society but refraining from explicitly naming any perpetrators.