Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Diversity in Public Administration Research: A Review of Journal Publications

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Diversity in Public Administration Research: A Review of Journal Publications

Article excerpt


Determined the third pillar of public administration (PA) by Frederickson (1990) and elevated to the fourth pillar by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) in 2005 (1), social equity is a core tenet of the field and should be considered alongside effectiveness economy, and efficiency. Diversity, a term used to better comprehend the broader concept of social equity (Frederickson, 2010), has increasingly become relevant for public administrators and researchers alike, and has shown to improve the quality of democracy, leading to "more sustainable decisions" (Guy, 2009), and making a difference in productivity (Meier, Wrinkle, & Polinard, 1999). Diversity research in public administration is now a critical area of scholarship and exploration, particularly given the changing demographics and its impact in public service.

This paper reviews over thirty journal publications published between 2006 and 2011. Over 7000 articles published during this time period covering a variety of public administration issues are reviewed from a diversity lens. Analysis of the data highlights trends in diverse topics; including race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, faith and spirituality, class and equity, ageism, culture and language, and abilities. As Oldfield, Candler and Johnson (2006) point out, journals seldom publish articles of equity and diversity, and when they do, they focus primarily on race and gender. This research expands on their findings to take a comprehensive and critical look at key public administration journals.


White and Rice (2005) note that changing demographics means public sector organizations need "to develop more inclusive work cultures that have a better understanding of the many ways people are different from one another and/or different from the organizations" (p. 3). An organization's ability "to develop strategies as well as programs and policies to manage and accommodate diversity in their workspaces" (Riccucci, 2002, p. 3) has become increasingly vital in ensuring a competitive advantage and increased productivity (Mazur, 2010). Human resource and management systems are used to aid public managers in integrating diversity into organizational goals; however, managers are not provided with conceptual approaches to effectively manage diversity (Maier, 2005).

One approach to identifying conceptual approaches in evolving organizations is to look at research and literature that reflects diverse populations and issues of diversity. Areas of diversity research generally evaluate individual characteristics that fall within one of two categories: primary and secondary characteristics. Primary characteristics refer to factors that cannot be changed i.e. gender, race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation etc. Secondary traits are "malleable factors" (Riccucci, 2002, p. 27) such as marital status, religion, educational background, income, etc. Diversity research most often discusses, as outlined by Ospina (1996), ethnicity/nationality, gay men and lesbians, older workers, physically challenged, employees with HIV/AIDS, family obligations, and religious mandates. Additionally, areas of diversity which are called on for further research include social class and equity (Oldfield et al. 2006) as well as culture (White & Rice 2005 and Rice 2007) and language (Benavides 2007).

Conversely, Wise and Tschirhart's (2000) review of diversity literature indicated a lack of "breadth and depth in terms of the diversity effects investigated and the dimensions of diversity" (p. 389). This meta-analysis examined empirical literature that focused on managing diversity in the workplace and found, similarly to Ospina (1996), that the predominance of articles focused on the primary characteristics of sex/gender, ethnicity and race, and age. Fewer articles were published that address secondary dimensions such as education, work experience, and organizational tenure. …

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