2006 October 06 Friday
Ethnic Diversity Increases Feelings Of Isolation, Turnover

Here's a study with obvious implications for immigration policy. In retail stores ethnic diversity leads employees to quit. (same article here)

Contrary to popular thinking among some diversity consultants, employing workers of many different races has little effect on average turnover in a retail workplace, although employees do quit more often if fewer colleagues are the same race, according to a recently published case study by two professors at the University of California, Berkeley, Haas School of Business.

In one of few studies to explore how workplace demographics affect employee behavior, Haas School Professors Jonathan Leonard and David Levine examined more than 70,000 employees at more than 800 workplaces of a national retailer. They outlined the results of their study in an article titled “The Effect of Diversity on Turnover: A Large Case Study” in the July issue of the journal Industrial and Labor Relations Review.

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

The diversity consultants peddling politically correct myths to businesses are all selling snake oil.

Leonard and Levine's findings contradict one argument by some diversity consultants who claim that having a gender and racially diverse workforce reduces turnover. Leonard and Levine also failed to find support for another line of thinking that argues that diverse workplaces experience more friction and thus require special training.

"We were interested in seeing whether in fact there really was an empirical basis for a lot of advice that is pretty commonplace in the diversity consulting industry," explains Leonard, who holds the George Quist Chair in Business Ethics at the Haas School. "We discovered that, at least in the retail sector, diversity itself is not a big driver of turnover."

Most people like being around people who think like them, look like them, act like them. Even the people who look down their noses at people who admit to preferrig their own kind also prefer their own kind.

Minorities do not like to work in white majority workplaces. I guess white Leftists could write this off as a desire to escape from their white male patriarchial capitalistic oppressors. Gotta invest in rationalizations if one is to maintain a secular faith.

At the same time, Leonard and Levine did find support for the old proverb "birds of a feather flock together" when they studied another facet of diversity -- racial isolation. They defined racial isolation as being in a numerical minority in a workplace, whether it's white, black, Hispanic, or Asian. For instance, in a group composed five black employees and two white employees, the white employees would be more racially isolated than their black colleagues.

“The problem for managers is that each new hire raises isolation for some groups at the same time that it decreases isolation for others,” Leonard and Levine noted.

Another discouraging finding was that all minority groups were more likely to quit a workplace in which a greater proportion of employees were white, suggesting that diversity is difficult to sustain. “Managers can benefit by helping employees thrive in a world of racial diversity – a prescription that is easier to state than to implement,” the authors wrote.

The courts do not recognize a right to free association in business. So exercise of the basic human desire to be around people more like yourself is not legal.

Here's a real interesting one: Females want to work in workplaces that are either male-dominated or female-dominated. This is an argument for having males clustering in some occupations while females cluster in other occupations.

One surprising finding was that women seemed to dislike gender diversity. Women were slightly more likely to quit when the gender breakdown of their workplace was closer to 50% female and 50% male, and less likely when their workplace was less diverse, with either mostly female or mostly male employees.

People do not like to wait on people of other races.

* Racial isolation from potential customers – not just coworkers – also increased turnover, the authors found. Black and Hispanic employees in particular were less likely to quit in heavily black and Hispanic communities, respectively.

* White employees left more often in situations where there were fewer whites. Although the sample was two-thirds white, almost a quarter of the workplaces had a nonwhite majority.

* 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.

* For Hispanics, unlike other groups, turnover was lowest with a mixture of Hispanics and others. Hispanics left stores with many whites or Asians, but were not more likely to leave stores with black coworkers.

In less ethnically diverse societies it is easier for people to live in neighborhoods and work in workplaces that have the same kinds that people want to be around. Denying this desire does not make it go away.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 October 06 08:45 PM  Human Nature

Bob Badour said at October 7, 2006 5:59 AM:

The bit about women preferring male dominated or female dominated workplaces makes some sense from a social and evolutionary perspective. In hunter-gatherer societies, women cooperate in groups exclusively of women while gathering, cleaning, cultivating etc. and live in male-dominated households. However, when the males and females mix more freely, women compete with other women for mates.

Thus, the stress of competition would maximize at a 50-50 mix of the sexes or perhaps at (50%-1) female.

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