Building a Diverse Work Force

Here is the key paragraph from this morning's bleak P-G report on Pittsburgh's non-diverse professional work force:
But perhaps the best hope of diversifying Pittsburgh's professional work force lies less with attracting new people to Pittsburgh than with doing more for those already here -- first, by helping more minority citizens to achieve professional status, and second, by giving international students who flow into our institutions of higher learning more reasons to stay here after they graduate.

This is wrong, no?

First, if 50% of the local adult African-American population is unemployed (is this still true?), then helping that population achieve professional status is a long-term solution to an immediate problem. A 50% unemployment rate doesn't mean that there is a large pool of people wanting and waiting to put on suits in the morning. These people need jobs now. Graduate school can wait. Educate the ones who haven't finished high school. Train the ones who need training. Create better jobs for the ones who are educated and trained, adequate jobs for the ones who aren't, and professional education and professional jobs for those who are want to move toward professional status. And that applies not just to the African-American community, of course, though it applies to that community with special urgency. It applies to everyone.

Second, even if Pittsburgh handcuffed every incoming international student to the bar at Primanti's, the resulting increase in working "diversity" professionals in Pittsburgh would be trivial. Not every incoming international student is non-white. Not every incoming international student is a would-be entrepreneur. A lot of them are graduate students getting academic training. And at least some of them come to Pittsburgh as part of programs whose explicit mission is to train them to do better work in their home countries. (My law school's LL.M. program, which hosts foreign law graduates for a year, is an example.) Finally, local universities *want* to send their alumni out into the world. They shouldn't be recruiting stations for the local economy. This is a good thing, for the universities (it helps them recruit better students), for the students (who get the education they want), and for Pittsburgh (don't forget local pride over Pitt and CMU connections to recent Nobel laureates).



1 Response to "Building a Diverse Work Force"

C. Briem said... 10/17/2005 5:37 PM

Elwin covers a lot of bases in that, hard to even begin to address them. The piece also seems to confound city and region, unemployment vs. labor force participation and some other things. but on a basic point it is true that African American labor force participation trails other groups, especially male african american labor force participation rates. The numebrs are not as different for women across groups.

As for diversity in general.. by many measures Pittsburgh is the 'Whitest' major metropolitan area in the country.

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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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