This past January, the General Accountability Office released a deep study on diversity at the State Department, including how race, ethnicity and gender matched with promotion rates. The study covered fiscal years 2002 through 2018, touching three presidential administrations.
It painted a mixed picture, but in general, the study found lower promotion rates for racial or ethnic minorities than for whites, and differences in such rates for women compared with men, depending on the subset.
One factor the GAO controlled for in examining how race, ethnicity and gender affected promotions was where a particular staffer had earned an academic degree. That sort of information is hard to find and not something the State Department usually publicizes.
Although they did not highlight it in the January report, the GAO’s experts had analysis of the data that showed how having earned a degree from an Ivy League university matched with promotion rates for State’s Foreign Service officers and specialists. The GAO also had similar data for Foreign Service employees who had earned degrees from colleges in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.
The GAO found that an Ivy League graduate seeking to be promoted from Class 4 to Class 3 had 22.5 percent higher odds of moving up than a fellow Foreign Service employee without such a degree. That person had 12.6 percent higher odds of moving from Class 3 to Class 2 than one without the Ivy credential.
Ivy League grads seeking further upward movement — from Class 2 to Class 1 and then to the executive level — did not have any statistically significant advantage, the study found.
The trends were a bit less straightforward for Foreign Service employees with degrees from colleges in D.C. and surrounding areas.