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Stretched Thin? The Paradox of Promoting Diversity in Higher Education


We examine an important unintended consequence of diversity promotion in higher education. Specifically we demonstrate that departmental efforts to increase the representation of racial minorities, coupled with the limited supply of minority doctoral candidates, leads to an increased prevalence of joint appointments among minority faculty. This outcome is important as joint appointments overexpose faculty members to a set of unique risks that can negatively affect their career advancement. Using comprehensive administrative data from a large U.S. public university from 1990 to 2009, we find that African American assistant professors are four times more likely to be jointly appointed as compared to their white colleagues. We further find that the hiring and joint appointment of African American assistant professors is motivated in part by efforts to increase diversity within departments. Finally, we demonstrate that independent of race, being jointly appointed at the assistant professor level is associated with poorer career outcomes. Ceteris paribus, assistant professors that are jointly appointed in two or more academic departments receive smaller year-over-year raises as a percentage of their income and face lower likelihoods of promotion to tenure. Together, our results highlight the unintended costs of diversity promotion in academia whereby using joint appointments to achieve diversity goals at the level of the academic department can negatively affect the employment outcomes of minorities and work counter to diversity goals at the level of the university.


Working Paper


Edward (Ned) Smith, Yuan Tian

Date Published



Smith, Edward (Ned), and Yuan Tian. 2019. Stretched Thin? The Paradox of Promoting Diversity in Higher Education.


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