Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Assessing the Level of Cultural Competencies in Public Organizations

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Assessing the Level of Cultural Competencies in Public Organizations

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

As the United States transitions from a primarily White population to a country that is composed of diverse racial and ethnic minorities, the entire cultural landscape is consequently transforming from homogeneous population to a collection of heterogeneous communities with varied values and beliefs. The categories of diversity within these communities is broader than the simple census classifications of race and ethnicity suggest; with wide variations in language, religion, gender orientation, sexual orientation, and even disabilities. These cultural distinctions among the people in a community create a diversity of needs, which the public service sector has an obligation to address. In other words, in order to be effective, public service providers must be culturally competent.

In the context of this article, cultural competency is the knowledge and ability to effectively understand, communicate with, and value people across different cultures, and negotiate the controversy that their multiple perspectives will inevitably create (Rivera, et al., 2010). By providing culturally appropriate and accessible services, the significance and positive perception of a government office is likely to increase. Therefore, if public service providers are to effectively serve the culturally diverse population of the modern era, their levels of cultural competence baseline must be determined and organizational change instituted to increase the cultural competency of the service providers. This article demonstrates how the program evaluation process can be used to conduct workforce evaluation and reorganization for moving a public agency toward cultural competence.

THE NEED FOR CULTURAL COMPETENCY IN GOVERNMENT

As previously stated, the United States is rapidly transitioning from a primarily White population to a country that is composed of diverse racial and ethnic minorities. For example, the U.S. non-White population was approximately 10% in 1960, but is currently the minority population is just over 34% (Bureau of the Census, 1964; U.S. Census, 2010a). From mid-2007 to July 1, 2008, the minority population of the U.S. increased by 2.3% in just one year (Martha & Paul, 2009). The shift in demographics in the U.S. is projected to continue at this pace, as indicated by the more recent Census data, which show that over half of the children under age two are minorities (Associated Press, 2011). Not surprisingly, most Census data predict that the future population of the U.S. will be majority-minority. According to the Census Bureau (2008), minorities are expected to become the majority in 2042, with the nation projected to have a 54% minority population in 2050.

While the country has not yet reached a majority-minority status, several regions within the country have over 50% minority composition. In 2005, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 5 states: Texas, Hawaii, New Mexico, California, and the District of Columbia, hold the status of majority-minority states. An additional five states: Maryland, Mississippi, Georgia, New York, and Arizona, are nearing this status with current minority populations of roughly 40 percent (U.S. Census, 2005). Many counties within the U.S. are already minority-majority. According to Gentile (2007: 8), the U.S. Census Bureau reported, "more than 50 percent of the population of nearly one in ten counties across the country is minorities" (sic). According to a more recent Pew Research Center study the shift to majority- minority in counties accelerated between 2000 and 2103. At the time of the Pew Report's publication, 266 counties are majority-minority (Krogstad, 2015). The data indicate that both state and local government are rapidly shifting to a majority of minority citizens. Thus, it is incumbent on all government structures, including local, state, and federal, to ensure that the delivery of public services is culturally inclusive to effectively meet the needs of the entire population. …

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