Study shows greater racial diversity at colleges correlates with higher earnings

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Tony Zhou/File

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A study issued by the National Bureau of Economic Research in February found that greater racial diversity on college campuses correlates with higher earnings for their graduates.

The paper, authored by professor Jason Fletcher of the Yale School of Public Health and professor Barbara Wolfe of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, pointed out that its findings may offer an economic argument for colleges such as UC Berkeley to increase their numbers of students from underrepresented minorities.

“The idea is that students at universities and colleges with greater diversity will be more successful in the global marketplace and thus enhance the success of corporations who hire them,” the study said.

According to US News & World Report, UC Berkeley ranks 26th among national universities in racial diversity. In terms of salary, PayScale reports that UC Berkeley graduates have a median salary of $79,264 after five to nine years of experience and a median salary of $105,761 after 10 to 19 years.

BAMN spokesperson Yvette Felarca cited the economic reasons found in the paper as motivation to increase diversity on the UC Berkeley campus.

“(The research) definitely underscores the importance that we double the number of underrepresented students at UC Berkeley,” Felarca said.

Programs Director of bridges Multicultural Resource Center Tony Le, however, recognizes that diversity at UC Berkeley contributes both to social equality and the success of its graduates in the workplace.

“Of course I think the higher income is a plus,” Le said. “But I think that we should boost social equality as well, and I think that the UC system should be representative of California and representative of all the different backgrounds and diversity factors.”

The study designs a measure of diversity among schools by looking at the composition of “White,” “Hispanic,” “Black” and “Other Race” students. Le said that this general type of racial categorization can be problematic for measuring diversity.

“For example, the Asian-Pacific Islander label doesn’t represent the entire Asian population,” Le said. “(It) doesn’t include all the subracial Asian groups, (such as) the Hmong group and the Mien groups. There is only a handful of each of them on campus.”

Another issue is that the study by Fletcher and Wolfe does not consider other demographics like social class, sexual orientation and geographic location, which Le said are as important as racial diversity.

“I think that Berkeley should strive to include every type of diversity, such as racial, sexual orientation, socioeconomic, and that no one category is more important than the other because each one is part of our campus,” Le said. “It would be interesting to find the results of these other types of studies.”

Contact Yvonne Ng at [email protected].

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