Research Roundup - Higher Education

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Research Roundup

by Diverse staff reports

New studies show workplace diversity has little effect on employee retention rates and minority actors are possibly being discriminated against as the majority of acting roles are specifically available to Whites.

Workplace Diversity Has Little Effect on Employees

A new University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business study concludes that employing workers of diverse races has little effect on average turnover in a retail workplace, although Black and Hispanic employees are more likely to remain on the job when there are other Blacks and Hispanics. 

In an article called “The Effect of Diversity on Turnover: A Large Case Study” that appeared recently in the journal Industrial and Labor Relations Review by professors Jonathan Leonard and David Levine, the article contradicts an argument of some diversity consultants, who claim that having a workforce that is both gender- and racially diverse reduces turnover.

After studying more than 70,000 “frontline” employees at more than 800 workplaces owned and operated by a national retailer, the authors also failed to find support for the argument that non-diverse workplaces experience more friction and thus require special training.

“The most important takeaway is that diversity itself doesn’t matter much in terms of turnover for most groups of workers,” says Leonard. “It suggests that people are, at least in this sector, pretty tolerant.”

Other results of the study include women were slightly more likely to quit when the gender breakdown of their workplace was closer to 50 percent female and 50 percent male, and less likely when their workplace was less diverse, with either mostly female or mostly male employees. Black and Hispanic employees in particular were less likely to quit in heavily Black and Hispanic communities, respectively. There was evidence that Blacks and Hispanics preferred each other to White coworkers. Black exits were particularly rapid when more of their coworkers were White or Asian, while Hispanic colleagues did not increase Black employees’ exit rate.

Minority Actors Get Fewer Casting Opportunities

A new study by the UCLA School of Law and UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center finds that Latino, Black, Asian American and American Indian actors have few acting opportunities available to them in the film and television industry.

The findings are based on a 2006 survey of casting announcements that found 69 percent of the roles were reserved for White actors and another 8.5 percent were open to White actors as well as non-White actors. Actors of color were limited to between .5 percent and about 8 percent of the roles, depending on their racial background.

The study, published in the center’s Latino Policy & Issues Brief, was authored by Russell Robinson, an acting professor of law at UCLA. Robinson challenged the legality of race-specific casting announcements and suggested that actors may have legal recourse in federal law that prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.

“Casting directors take into account race and sex in a way that would be blatantly illegal in any other industry,” Robinson said. “Many actors accept this as normal, but depending on the facts of the case, lawsuits can be filed.” He said in many instances, taking race and sex into account for acting roles violates Title VII of the U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination. 

The study also found that women compete for fewer roles. In an analysis of major films in 2005, men were almost three times as likely as women to work in the first-billed lead role. Women made up 44 percent of second-billed roles and 40 percent of third-billed roles.

Robinson recommends banning the use of race/sex classification in casting breakdowns except where casting an actor of a specific race or sex is truly integral to the narrative.

Community College Students

According to the annual survey released by the Community College Survey of Student Engagement recently, almost half of the undergraduate students in public colleges and universities in the United States are now enrolled in community colleges.

The report, “Act On Fact: Using Data to Improve Student Success,” found that community college students have diverse educational goals: 50 percent of respondents indicate that their primary goal is to transfer to a four-year college or university; 58 percent say their primary goal is to obtain an associate’s degree; 16 percent report they are taking classes at more than one institution simultaneously; and 25 percent have already earned some kind of postsecondary credential – a vocational certificate or an associate, bachelor’s, or graduate degree. Almost two-thirds, or 61 percent, of those who were surveyed attend college part-time.

Typically older than the traditional 18 to 22-year-old college student (the average community college student is 29), most community college students are juggling their studies with other responsibilities to jobs and families. Thirty-two percent of survey respondents have children living at home, and 57 percent work more than 20 hours a week. Most are financially independent of their parents, and 45 percent of surveyed students report that lack of finances would be a likely or very likely cause for them to drop out of college.

Despite the challenges they face, community college students express a high degree of satisfaction with their educational experience. Ninety-four percent would recommend their college to a friend or family member, and 86 percent rate their overall educational experience at the college as good or excellent.

 –Diverse staff



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