What Makes African-American Employees Successful?

Little research has specifically examined what makes African American males successful.  This research has been done with respect to Caucasian workers, but are the things that are related to success for Caucasians also related to success for African Americans?  Are there other things that might be related to success for African Americans in particular that have not been examined with respect to Caucasians?  These questions formed the basis of research by Johnson and Eby (2011).


Specifically, these authors examined four broad dimensions of characteristics that might be related to success for African Americans: human capital (e.g., education, work history, training), social capital (e.g., informal networks, professional associations, club memberships), individual differences (e.g., motivation, conscientiousness, ambition), and demographic attributes (e.g., marital status, age, skin tone). In a sample of 247 African American males, these authors found that some characteristics that were related to success in Caucasians were also related for African Americans. Specifically, human capital and demographic attributes were the most related, while social capital and individual differences were much less related. 


These results could help guide African American males to focus on specific things (e.g., training and education) that were shown to be related to success. Also, organizations can invest in their African American employees by offering more training and educational opportunities for current employees as well as offering internships for minority students interested in jobs. 


Johnson, C. D., & Eby, L. T. (2011). Evaluating career success of African American males: It’s what you know and who you are that matters. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 79(3), 699-709.

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