Workforce Diversity and Productivity: An Analysis of Employer-Employee Match Data
Kenneth R. Troske
Calls for workforce diversity abound; arguments in support of diversity at the workplace suggest that we are a better society when we work together. In a recent opinion poll, 81% of respondents said that it is somewhat or very important “to have employees of different races, cultures and backgrounds in the workplace or businesses.” However, the actual economic costs and benefits to workforce diversity are unclear. The goal of this paper is to empirically assess the relationship between workforce diversity and the economic performance of an establishment. We use the New Worker-Establishment Characteristics Database (NWECD), a nationwide employer-employee matched data set, to estimate the association between productivity and workforce diversity. These data allow us to overcome many of the limitations of past studies because the NWECD is an establishment-level data set. Our main finding is that diversity is either positively associated with productivity or there is no significant relationship between diversity and productivity. We never find a significant negative relationship between establishment-level diversity and productivity. This leads us to conclude that establishments that employ a more diverse workforce are no less productive than establishments that employ a more homogeneous workforce.
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