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Diversity Programs Don’t Make Companies More Profitable

A new study by two scholars at the University of North Carolina and a professor at Texas A&M examined the impact of DEI programs in corporate America and found no evidence that these programs lead to higher returns.

“The business case for diversity” is the dominant rhetorical paradigm for how U.S. corporations debate actions and policies around racial/ethnic diversity. In this paper, we conduct an empirical test of the paradigm by gathering data on the race/ethnicity of the individuals shown on the leadership pages of S&P 500 firms’ websites as of mid-2011, 2014, 2017, 2020 and 2021, and then determining if any of nine measures of the racial/ethnic diversity of these executives reliably predict…their firms’ financial performance over the next fiscal year. We do not find reliable evidence that they do. As such, our results do not support the “business case for diversity” when the claim is assessed using 1-year-ahead financial performance metrics and multiple measures of the race/ethnicity of S&P 500 executives over the last decade.

Diversity may be a goal in its own right – or pure corporate virtue signaling – but there is very little evidence that it benefits shareholders or the sustainability of the business. Firms are better off choosing employees based on their competence, not their gender or skin color.

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