Demographic Perspective of Diversity: Overview, Limitations & Example

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

If you are interested in delving into diversity, chances are you will spend some time considering and learning about demographics. This lesson discusses the demographic perspective of diversity as well as some of its limitations.

Understanding Demographics

Jenna has always been interested in learning more about diversity, or the many differences that makeup society. Right now, she is working for a company that collects a lot of data on the diversity in her city. Jenna's company uses this data to help lobby for specific programming and services for different groups in the community.

Jenna has taken up a demographic perspective on diversity, meaning one that takes population statistics very seriously as a way to understand and learn from diversity. She knows that there are advantages as well as limitations to this approach.

Social Categories and Differences

When Jenna thinks about the demographic perspective on diversity, she knows that she will need to define specific categories she is interested in learning about. Usually, a demographic perspective on diversity focuses on social identity categories. Jenna is most interested in racial diversity, but her colleague demographers also think about socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ability status, and education levels.

Then, Jenna works within each of these categories to collect quantitative, or numerical, data, that will tell her more about each group she is considering.

Demographic Perspective of Diversity: An Example

Right now, Jenna's company is interested in how children in their city spend the summer months. They are consulting with a group that is interested in earning funding to make more free summer programs available to children in low-income neighborhoods.

Jenna thinks the demographic perspective on diversity is incredibly useful in this example. She is able to provide the group with a great deal of information. For instance, she can tell them exactly how many children in the city live in low-income homes, and she can tell them how many of these households are in which neighborhood.

Jenna also helps the group make an argument that their programming will work toward racial, and not only socioeconomic justice, because she shows them demographic data indicating that most of the children in these homes are children of color in their particular city.

Jenna's colleague chimes in to remind them that girls in the city are more likely to be involved in summer camps than boys, so the programming might be more widely accessed if it were oriented toward boys, who will have more time on their hands.

The data that Jenna and her colleague could provide not only shows a lot about the diversity in their city, but it also offers concrete, hard data that the group can then use to argue for the necessity and relevance of the program they want to run.

Advantages and Limitations for Research

Jenna knows that there are some clear advantages to a demographic perspective on diversity. First of all, she likes this perspective for its scientific, quantitative way of looking at things. She knows that sometimes data can help move people past assumptions and unfounded stereotypes, and she is interested in collecting and communicating this data.

Jenna also appreciates that the demographic perspective allows her to look at interactions between and among different social categories, and to form and test theories regarding different implications of diversity.

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