Research Press Release

Comment: US university faculties may never reach racial parity

Nature Human Behaviour

December 6, 2022

At current rates of recruitment, diversity in US university faculties will never reach racial parity, argue J. Nathan Matias, Neil Lewis Jr., and Elan Hope in a Comment piece that is based on an analysis of federal data and published in Nature Human Behaviour. The authors propose that racial parity could be achieved by 2050 if colleges and universities accelerate diversification by less than a percentage point.

The term racial (or demographic) parity is used here to mean that racial diversity in university faculties matches population-level racial demographics.  Colleges and universities across the US have publicly committed to recruiting more racially diverse faculty members but, despite these announcements, higher education is not making progress compared to the general population.

A common "pipeline" analogy leads many to believe that the lack of diversity in senior positions is due to a lack of suitable candidates from underrepresented backgrounds. To investigate this, J. Nathan Matias and colleagues analysed US-wide data from 1,250 higher education institutions, they demonstrate that, since 2007, there has been an increase in the number of people from underrepresented groups graduating with a PhD. They also highlight that the number of people with PhDs from underrepresented groups who were not hired into US faculty jobs increased by 3,394 on average per year between 2013 and 2020. They argue for many fields, this analysis demonstrates that the lack of racial diversity in US faculties is not due to a lack of qualified candidates.

Matias and colleagues write “[t]hese problems did not emerge out of thin air: they are the result of a longstanding history of racism in higher education”, and suggest that, “[e]ffective progress toward the goal of faculty parity will require sector-wide cooperation in innovation, evaluation and resources.” They conclude that if US colleges and universities can cooperate in these three areas to further increase the share of underrepresented faculty by at least 0.8 percentage points per year, they could achieve their goal of demographic parity by 2050.

This press release refers to a Nature Human Behaviour Comment piece, not a Nature Human Behaviour research paper or article. Comment pieces are topical, authoritative Op-Eds pertaining to scientific research and its ramifications. The comment was peer reviewed.

 

doi:10.1038/s41562-022-01495-4

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