Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Sociology

Content Description

1 online resource (v, 240 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Karyn Loscocco

Committee Members

Lawrence E. Raffalovich, Elizabeth Popp Berman, Donald Hernandez


Education, Gender, Higher Education, Organizational Demography, Organizations, Race/Ethnicity, Minorities in higher education, Minorities, Minority college students, Multicultural education, College students, Diversity in the workplace

Subject Categories

Educational Sociology | Organizational Behavior and Theory | Sociology


The United States is an increasingly diverse society. The recent Supreme Court hearings on Affirmative Action have reiterated the need to study the impacts of changing demographics on organizations. Race-based policymaking fundamentally rests on a "diversity is good for the organization" philosophy, yet there is relatively little research that directly measures the institutional effects of racial/ethnic diversity. Diversity within organizations, also known as structural diversity or organizational heterogeneity, is overdue for a broader range of scholarly attention. Building on an organizational demography framework, this study investigates whether or not there are relationships between diversity and outcomes at higher education institutions (HEIs) nationwide. It adopts a new theoretical approach, the "Critical Mass in Context" perspective, which includes not only demographic factors, but culturally-related, or contextual factors in estimating the effects of diversity on two organizational outcomes: student retention and the diversity of degree completers. The results of these comparative tests are mixed, and show that the effects of demographic diversity may be either positive or negative (or have no effect), and that these results are highly context dependent. In other words, diversity did not have wholly negative nor positive effects on the outcomes included in this study, and the type of institution played a role in determining these varying results. For instance, although student gender and racial/ethnic diversity had negative effects in models that measured student retention rates, faculty gender contributed positively to predicting this outcome. Contextual factors, such as the MSDI 4 (or very high diversity elements in an HEI's mission statement) and an HEI's urban index (or suburban locale) contributed positively. In models that used the racial/ethnic diversity of degree completers as the tested outcome, the race/ethnicity of overall students was the most important (indeed, nearly the only) predictor. So, not only do the research results depend on what types of organizational outcomes are considered, but also in what context and how they are measured. This study therefore adds new levels of understanding to what effects diversity may have on institutions and the importance that culturally related factors may have on these effects.