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Published in: Journal of Business and Psychology 4/2021

21-05-2020 | Original Paper

Black-White differences in vocational interests: Meta-analysis and boundary conditions

Authors: Kisha S. Jones, Daniel A. Newman, Rong Su, James Rounds

Published in: Journal of Business and Psychology | Issue 4/2021

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Abstract

The present study investigated whether Black and White Americans differed on the dimensions of Holland’s RIASEC model of vocational interests. Theoretical explanations of why racial differences in interests may occur are advanced drawing on Gottfredson’s (1981) theory of circumscription and compromise, and social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). A meta-analysis of 54 studies was conducted that included 926,462 participants and 306 effect sizes. Our results showed that, on average, Black Americans have stronger Social, Enterprising, and Conventional interests than White Americans; and White Americans have stronger Realistic and Investigative interests than Black Americans (no differences found on Artistic interests). Further, moderator analyses revealed that: (a) the Black-White gaps in Realistic, Investigative, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional interests all increase with education (in particular, with the onset of college), (b) the gaps in Social, Enterprising, and Conventional interests favoring Black Americans increase with age, and the gap in Realistic interests favoring White Americans decreases with age (although age and education effects tend to be confounded), (c) race gaps in Realistic and Social interests are larger in male samples, and (d) race gaps in Social, Enterprising, and Conventional interests may have decreased (but not disappeared) in more recent birth cohorts. We discuss these findings highlighting the roles of access to opportunity and of social identity in potentially giving rise to racial differences in interests. This research helps us discern factors that may contribute to diversity recruiting and the building of diverse talent pipelines in various careers.
Footnotes
1
We note that it is possible to assess cohort effects while controlling for publication year, and to assess cohort effects while controlling for age, but it is not possible to estimate a single model that includes cohort, publication year, and age simultaneously—due to linear dependence among the three variables (publication year minus birth year = age).
 
2
In response to comments from a helpful reviewer, we should further clarify two points about the race gaps in vocational interests among college students. First, the fact that college opens up more career options implies a wider range of vocational interests among college students in general; but it does not imply larger interest gaps between racial groups among those who attend college. Second, an individual’s reported vocational interests might be formed a priori before choosing a college major, or as a post hoc preference that matches one’s chosen major (both ideas are plausible and non-contradictory). Nonetheless, this is a separate issue from whether observing race gaps in other people’s choices of college major influences one’s own interests to align with one’s racial categorization.
 
3
By comparing vocational interests between different groups of people (as done in the current study), we are implicitly endorsing a normative (rather than ipsative) interpretation of vocational interests. For example, we believe it is reasonable to say that one person has stronger Social interests than another person, or that one group of people has stronger Social interests on average than another group of people.
 
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Metadata
Title
Black-White differences in vocational interests: Meta-analysis and boundary conditions
Authors
Kisha S. Jones
Daniel A. Newman
Rong Su
James Rounds
Publication date
21-05-2020
Publisher
Springer US
Published in
Journal of Business and Psychology / Issue 4/2021
Print ISSN: 0889-3268
Electronic ISSN: 1573-353X
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10869-020-09693-5

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