Black-White differences in vocational interests: Meta-analysis and boundary conditions

Kisha S. Jones, Daniel A. Newman, Rong Su, James Rounds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study investigated whether Black and White Americans differed on the dimensions of Holland’s RIASEC model of vocational interests. Theoretical explanations of why racial differences in interests may occur are advanced drawing on Gottfredson’s (1981) theory of circumscription and compromise, and social identity theory (Tajfel & Turner, 1986). A meta-analysis of 54 studies was conducted that included 926,462 participants and 306 effect sizes. Our results showed that, on average, Black Americans have stronger Social, Enterprising, and Conventional interests than White Americans; and White Americans have stronger Realistic and Investigative interests than Black Americans (no differences found on Artistic interests). Further, moderator analyses revealed that: (a) the Black-White gaps in Realistic, Investigative, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional interests all increase with education (in particular, with the onset of college), (b) the gaps in Social, Enterprising, and Conventional interests favoring Black Americans increase with age, and the gap in Realistic interests favoring White Americans decreases with age (although age and education effects tend to be confounded), (c) race gaps in Realistic and Social interests are larger in male samples, and (d) race gaps in Social, Enterprising, and Conventional interests may have decreased (but not disappeared) in more recent birth cohorts. We discuss these findings highlighting the roles of access to opportunity and of social identity in potentially giving rise to racial differences in interests. This research helps us discern factors that may contribute to diversity recruiting and the building of diverse talent pipelines in various careers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)589-607
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Business and Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Age
  • Birth cohort
  • Black-White differences
  • Diversity
  • Education level
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Vocational interests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Applied Psychology
  • General Psychology


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