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  • Minority College Students Underrepresented in Paid Internships

    BETHLEHEM, PA—Paid internships are a key path to job offers and higher starting salaries for college students, but research conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) shows that racial/ethnic minorities are less likely to get paid internships than their white counterparts. (See Figure 1.)

    Black students accounted for 6.6 percent of the nearly 4,000 participating graduating seniors, but just 6.0 percent of the paid internships went to Black students; at the same time, they accounted for 7.3 percent of unpaid internships—meaning they are underrepresented as paid interns and overrepresented as unpaid interns.

    Other observations from this analysis include that:

    • White students are overrepresented in paid internships and underrepresented as unpaid interns;
    • Hispanic-American students are overrepresented in the group of students who never have an internship; and
    • Multi-racial Americans are overrepresented as unpaid interns and among the group that has never had an internship.

    “Many organizations use their internship programs to feed full-time hiring; consequently, looking at how they source and select interns is critical for those that are committed to diversifying their workforces,” says Shawn VanDerziel, NACE executive director.

    “NACE data show that, overall, Black students use the career center more than other races/ethnicities, not only in total number of visits, but also proportionally. These results suggest that career centers can be an important campus resource for employers to use to reduce inequities that exist in their internship programs.”

    Disproportionalities also exist by gender and first-generation student status. While 74 percent of the sample population were women, women accounted for 68 percent of paid internships and 81 percent of unpaid internships. First-generation students made up 22 percent of the sample population, but just 19 percent of paid interns, while more than one-quarter in the sample had never taken part in an internship. These differences are statistically significant and provide evidence of disproportionality.

    Figure 1: Disproportionality across intern status, by race-ethnicity
    Figure 1

    Source: 2019 Student Survey Report, National Association of Colleges and Employers. The red and green arrows in the figure above show where disproportionality exists, indicating when a group is underrepresented (red arrow) or overrepresented (green arrow). If there is no arrow underneath a column, then that demographic group is proportionally represented in that internship group.

    About the research: The data, derived from NACE’s 2019 Student Survey Report, were collected from February 13, 2019, through May 1, 2019. A total of 22,371 college students responded from 470 NACE-member colleges and universities across the country. The focus of the report and the data presented here is on the experiences of the 3,952 graduating seniors who participated.

    Using the overall sample of 3,952 graduating seniors from the Class of 2019 in NACE’s dataset as the “population,” data were analyzed by race/ethnicity, gender, and first-generation status (defined in this study as a student whose parents have not earned at least a bachelor’s degree). Results presented here are statistically significant.

    About NACE: Since 1956, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) has been the leading source of information about the employment of college graduates. For more information, visit NACE maintains a virtual press room for the media.