Edward Smith, Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University

Stretched Thin? The Paradox of Promoting Diversity in Higher Education
Edward Smith


Fall 2018
Lecture Time: 
Friday, September 7, 2018 - 1:30pm to 3:00pm
Lecture Location: 
R0220 Ross School of Business


We examine an important unintended consequence of diversity promotion in higher education. Specifically we demonstrate that efforts to increase the representation of underrepresented minorities leads to an increased prevalence of joint appointments among minority faculty. This outcome is important as joint appointments overexpose faculty members to risks that can negatively affect their career advancement. Using administrative data from a large U.S. public university from 1990 to 2016, we show that African American assistant professors are four times more likely to be jointly appointed as compared to a matched set of white colleagues. We further find that the joint appointment of African American assistant professors is motivated by efforts to increase diversity within departments. Finally, we demonstrate that independent of race (but also exacerbated by it), being jointly appointed is associated with poorer career outcomes. Ceteris paribus, jointly appointed assistant professors experience a productivity decline, receive smaller year-over-year raises, and face lower likelihoods of promotion. Together, our results extend research on allocative sources of discrimination and highlight an unintended cost of diversity promotion. Using joint appointments to achieve diversity goals within a department can negatively affect the outcomes of minorities and work against diversity goals at the level of the university.

Reading List

Castilla, E. J., & Benard, S. (2010). The paradox of meritocracy in organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly, 55(4), 543-676.
Petersen, T., & Saporta, I. (2004). The opportunity structure for discrimination. American Journal of Sociology, 109(4), 852-901.
Rider, C. I., Wade, J., Swaminathan, A., & Schwab, A. (2016). Racial disparity in leadership: Performance-reward bias in promotions of national football league coaches. Working paper.