Article first appeared online October 8, 2015
Sounman Hong, assistant professor,Yonsei University, Korea
What was the genesis of the idea for your research/paper?
This study has its origins in my experience as an employee of the Korean ministry of foreign service before I pursued my graduate studies. The ministry was a highly homogeneous organization dominated by those who had passed a foreign service officer exam, called the oue-si, but between 2005 and 2007, it recruited a large number of employees from various backgrounds who had not passed the oue-si. I was able to see first-hand how organizational diversity prompted by the influx of employees from different backgrounds could significantly impact on government practices. Specifically, as a government organization becomes more diverse with respect to the backgrounds of its employees, the institutional practice in which employees with non-traditional backgrounds are treated unfairly is mitigated substantially. Thereafter, I came to believe that organizational diversity is a powerful force with great potential to influence the accountability and integrity of bureaucracy. This motivated me to execute this study.
What is the main conclusion that becomes evident from your research? (Or, what is your main takeaway?)
The main finding of this study is based on a unique quasi-experiment within the English and Welsh police forces. In 1999, the UK government set specific 10-year targets for recruiting new police officers from ethnic minorities. Using these targets as instrumental variables, I find that a policy mandating an increase in the share of ethnic minority officers in a given force is associated with a decrease in the number of crimes in the area under the force’s jurisdiction during 2000–2010. However, I do not argue that an increase in organizational diversity always impacts positively on public service performance. In the study, I argue that the main source of the positive impacts of diversity is improved organizational integrity, which influences bureaucrats’ attitudes and behavior toward minority citizens in a positive way. This change has positive impacts on public service performance under certain conditions, for instance, in regions where minorities constitute a sizeable share of the citizenry and in policy areas in which the demographic characteristics in question (e.g., ethnicity or gender) are sufficiently important for bureaucrats to make decisions based at least partly on these characteristics.
What are some of the more interesting or surprising findings/conclusions did you find in the process of bringing this together?
Despite the positive impact of organizational diversity on overall public service performance found in this study, there is also some evidence of greater conflict among organizational members (i.e., police officers) because of the increased diversity. For instance, the evidence suggests that the ethnic minority share of the workforce is positively associated with the number of corruption cases alleged by whistleblowers within police forces, although this is not statistically significant. This evidence is interesting as it combines two seemingly contradictory pieces of evidence of the impacts of greater organizational diversity found in previous literature, that is, improved organizational performance and greater conflict among members.
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Sounman Hong is assistant professor at Yonsei University in Korea. His research focuses on bureaucratic control, innovation, and reform and how to achieve a more efficient, responsive, and accountable public administration. He holds master of public policy and doctoral degrees from Harvard University and a bachelor’s degree from Yonsei University. Before pursuing graduate study, he worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers, McKinsey & Company, and the Korean government.