On SAGE Insight: Does Increasing Racial Minority Representation Contribute to Overall Organizational Performance?

Article title: Does Increasing Racial Minority Representation Contribute to Overall Organizational Performance? The Role of Organizational Mission and Diversity Climate

From The American Review of Public Administration

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Although many representative bureaucracy studies have focused on the implications of bureaucratic representation for equity and fairness in policy making and implementation, performance-oriented reforms have led scholars and practitioners alike to grapple with whether public organizations that reflect the demographic makeup of their clients see any overall improvement in organizational performance. This study examines the relationship between racial minority representation in U.S. federal agencies and the agencies’ goal achievement while considering the moderating role of organizational mission and diversity climate.


This study uses a 4-year (2012-2015) panel data set. The unit of analysis is the parent-level U.S. federal agency. The sample sizes vary from 129 to 204 agencies, including executive departments, independent agencies, and the executive office of the president. The data were compiled from several sources, including the OPM’s FedScope website, Performance and Accountability Report (PAR), Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS), federal agency budget, U.S. government manual, and federal regulatory directory.

This paper concludes with a discussion of limitations and suggestions. Qualitative research or individual-level analyses could further illuminate how the increased presence of minorities affects overall organizational performance and the role of organizational mission and diversity climate in this process. Third, future studies can consider state and local governments, where more close interactions occur between public employees and citizens, and examine whether this study’s findings hold in those research contexts. Fourth, although this study examines the roles of agency mission and diversity climate with different minority groups, its findings do not tell the full story of the advantages and disadvantages these groups experience. If the data permit, it is worth disaggregating each minority group (e.g., Asian) by ethnicity (e.g., East Asian, Central Asian, South Asian), which could help researchers unpack within-group differences that cannot be examined when subgroups are aggregated to a singular higher level group.

Abstract

One underexplored question in the representative bureaucracy literature is whether public employees advocate for their demographic groups at the expense of other groups or their organizational roles. Many studies have focused on the link between passive representation, or the extent to which the public workforce reflects the demographic characteristics of its clients, and active representation, or the extent to which policies advance the interests of those people. However, little research has been done on whether and when increased representation by a certain group enhances overall organizational performance. This study examines the relationship between racial minority representation in U.S. federal agencies and the agencies’ goal achievement while considering the moderating role of organizational mission and diversity climate. The panel data analysis shows that increased minority representation lowers agencies’ goal achievement. However, a positive relationship exists between the two in agencies that mainly work to promote social equity for disadvantaged populations and foster a positive diversity climate in the workplace. These findings suggest that racial minority employees can better contribute to organizational success in agencies where they balance advocacy and organizational roles well and they are treated fairly and respectfully.

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Article details
Does Increasing Racial Minority Representation Contribute to Overall Organizational Performance? The Role of Organizational Mission and Diversity Climate
Hongseok Lee
First Published March 10, 2019 Research Article
DOI: 10.1177/0275074019831101
From The American Review of Public Administration

     
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