Revisiting the Question of Diversity in Real Estate

Unity in Diversity
Photo courtesy of Sanj@y (Flickr)

As I think about Black History Month and the remarkable events of the last year, I find myself simultaneously thinking about two very different kinds of questions.  On the one hand, I read the statistics from the 2008 National Association of REALTORS® Members Profile and wonder why the population of real estate agents in America continues to be so much less ethnically diverse than the general population.  On the other, I wonder: do we even need these statistics anymore?

By combining current census data with the NAR figures, the racial distributions can be summarized as follows:


These are simply the statistics; this is not to insinuate a nefarious reasoning behind them.  In fact, an argument could be made that since not all real estate agents are REALTORS®, some data may be lost.  To account for that, I’ll add members from three other industry groups (The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, with 15,000 members, The National Association of Real Estate Brokers, which is comprised of 35,000 African-American members, and the Asian Real Estate Association of America, with 12,000 members) and assume that none of them are also members of NAR (an assumption I know is false but one I’m willing to make for argument’s sake).  Doing this results in only a slight shift in the numbers (Hispanic/Latino agents would account for 7{0a8e414e4f0423ce9f97e7209435b0fa449e6cffaf599cce0c556757c159a30c} of the agent base, the percentage of Black/African-American agents would increase to 6{0a8e414e4f0423ce9f97e7209435b0fa449e6cffaf599cce0c556757c159a30c}, and the Asian/Pacific Islander count would go to 4{0a8e414e4f0423ce9f97e7209435b0fa449e6cffaf599cce0c556757c159a30c}).  So this would still put two major ethnic groups at about half of what could be expected.

Although I’d like to live in a world that is free of statistics that divide us, it’s so hard for me to ignore the numbers given such a wide discrepancy.

Where do we go with this?  There are a whole lot of questions that could be discussed.  The ones that come to my mind:

  • Given the figures, is the business of buying and selling residential real estate not as attractive a career choice for the one-third of our population that isn’t White?  If so, why?
  • In an age when more and more people consider themselves color blind, do these kinds of statistics really matter?
  • If it does matter, should we assume that a real estate brokerage that has an agent base reflective of its local ethnicity (all other factors being equal) would have a competitive advantage?

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