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IACM 2023

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Demographic “Stickiness”: Implications of Impact Aversion For Inequality and Diversity In Organizations

People tasked with replacing a departing group member are disproportionately likely to choose a replacement with the same demographic identity, leading to demographic “stickiness” in group composition. We find evidence of this effect in 2,434 U.S. federal judge appointments over 75 years and in two preregistered experiments (n=1400). The propensity to choose new group members based on whether they demographically resemble their predecessors suggests that demographic change in organizations will be slow, which may lead to a pessimistic outlook regarding the persistence of inequality in homogeneous organizations. However, this effect also suggests that once progress towards diversification has occurred, it should be “sticky,” so backsliding is less likely than might otherwise be expected. An optimistic outlook is that one-time interventions to change group composition should have a lasting impact, and change agents committed to diversification can have enduring effects on equality beyond their tenure.

Edward Chang
Harvard Business School
United States

Erika Kirgios
University of Chicago Booth
United States


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