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The Organizational Demography of Racial Employment Segregation1

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This article examines how workers respond to changes in the racial composition of their workplaces. An analysis of the job histories of new hires into multiple work groups within a single firm reveals path dependence in the effects of group composition on turnover. Exit rates are inversely related to the level of same‐race representation at the time of organizational entry and increase when workers experience declines in same‐race representation. However, turnover rates do not decline in response to increases in representation. The results suggest that initial token status can have a lasting impact on attachment and that increases in attachment in integrated groups occur through a cohort‐replacement process. The turnover dynamics also imply that any gains in the representation of minority groups are very fragile. The challenge of workplace racial integration therefore lies not simply in eliminating discrimination in hiring, but also in managing the post‐hire consequences of changes in group composition. Implications of the asymmetric effects of compositional change for the literature on organizational demography are also discussed.