Center for Employment Equity

In partnership with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), UMass Amherst is creating a national center that will shine a light on discriminatory employment practices in particular firms and industries across city, state, and region, as well as nationally. The Center for Employment Equity (CEE) will provide researchers, citizens, and policy maker’s unprecedented access to robust data, including restricted access data, collected by the EEOC. This collection will help to generate applied research that challenges inequity and discrimination, identifies “high road employers,” shapes employment policy, and improves enforcement efforts. 

The CEE will also archive and link administrative data on enforcement (from discrimination complaints and litigation) with EEOC surveys (of private sector employers, labor unions, state and local governments, and public school systems). It will also broker relationships with the EEOC for access to these confidential data. The establishment of the CEE significantly contributes to the implementation of the EEOC’s research and data plan and would represent a long overdue public good and an enduring resource for social justice advocates. The core survey data include over 10,000,000 private sector establishments (beginning in 1966), 7,000,000 public sector organizational surveys (beginning in 1974), administrative records of more than 15,000,000 discrimination charges (digitized since 1990) and their outcomes. All data series are in the millions of observations and can be linked in relational databases along multiple dimensions (e.g. time, geography, industry, firm, and establishment).Beginning in 2016 the private sector data will include earnings data. Despite its massive data collection, the EEOC is primarily an enforcement agency that never developed substantial research capacity.

Data driven identification of good and bad employers and their industries will serve as powerful tools for groups such as the NAACP, ACLU, La Raza, MALDEF, Lambda Legal, etc. to combat both micro- and macro-level discrimination. In addition, the EEOC, private employers, and community activists can use these data as diagnostic tools in deciding where to invest in equal opportunity struggles.

The Center will develop a data portal that will serve as a free and easily accessible resource for policymakers, employers, activists, community organizations, and the legal profession to generate and promote research that will improve enforcement and opportunities for all. We are seeking funding to facilitate four linked goals:

  1. Maintain and expand an effective relationship with the EEOC and other federal and state employment discrimination regulatory bodies.
  2. Create an external data archive and search tool to broaden data access for researchers, firms, lawyers, activists, and the public more generally.
  3. Conduct, coordinate, facilitate, and communicate policy relevant research on employment equity topics.
  4. Establish a permanent hub to increase researcher access to EEOC data, researcher developed metadata, and a community of scholars.

Progress To-Date. Over the last three years, a team of researchers at UMass Amherst, working with the EEOC, have organized an expanding network of scholars to develop the CEE concept and designed a website to serve as the visible face of the center. The network now includes over 50 active researchers from almost as many universities, drawn from economics, law, psychology, public administration, and sociology. This network includes prominent researchers at Harvard, Stanford, Cornell, the University of Virginia, the University of Washington, Northwestern, and many other universities. To date, work has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, and the Russell Sage Foundation with full cooperation from the EEOC.

We have also instituted yearly conferences held at the EEOC’s headquarters in Washington, DC, bringing together EEOC research staff, academic researchers, and enforcement staff from other relevant federal agencies, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and the Office of Personnel Management. These conferences as well as ongoing connections among the network are now feeding directly into EEOC enforcement efforts. For example, at the 2015 conference the EEOC systemic litigator staff was presented with data-driven lists of the best and worst large U.S. firms in terms of the employment of women and African Americans.

Over the last three years, EEOC leadership has learned from our network of academic partners that many of the practices they recommend to increase employment equity do not work reliably. “What Works” is the theme of the 2016 EEOC-CEE network meeting. Another lesson highlighted by the academic work organized through the CEE is that legal interventions often elicit employer backlash. This suggests that the EEOC’s tool kit might be strengthened if they began to praise the best firms (i.e., by creating an award or system to highlight best practices) and change their discrimination claims processing selection procedures to avoid firms with good EEO profiles and target those with poor hiring records. Actually having a data-driven impact on EEOC (or other federal and state regulatory agencies) requires long-term relationships between the enforcement and research communities.

Data Center Activity. For the general public, the CEE plans to develop an online portal to historical and contemporary data on discrimination charges and workplace employment. The portal will be similar to the U.S. Census’ American Fact Finder Portal, although more user-friendly and more specifically focused on employment equity. At present, the EEOC collects a great deal of data, only some of which is available to citizens in hard to use highly aggregate tabular format. Our portal will make it possible for employers, job seekers, employees with discrimination complaints, and other members of the general public to easily access both employment data and visual representations of that data. The data portal will also make access to local data easier for academics and activists. Following are examples of how the portal might be utilized:

  • If the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wanted to know what changes have occurred in the race distribution of employees in local governments or the private sector in the Atlanta metro area, the data will be easily available.
  • Social movements as well as plaintiff and defense lawyers could use this tool to identify industries and communities that generate disproportionate disability or sexual orientation discrimination complaints.
  • If employers were worried that they were lagging in the employment of women in management, they could compare themselves to other employers in their industry or locality.
  • Faculty and students at a Historically Black College, like Xavier in New Orleans, could identify the best and worst industries in the New Orleans area for black managerial employment and use this information for activism or job search advice.
  • Schools of public policy or management could use the data portal as a training tool for human resource or policy analysis courses.
  • Scholars without restricted use data access could design data queries to support their research.



U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The EEOC recognizes the need for the UMass CEE, has prioritized its founding, and promises general support through the provision of proprietary data and limited task-specific funding. Ronald Edwards, Director of Program Research and Surveys, is the lead EEOC representative for the project.

University of Massachusetts, Amherst

UMass Amherst has been the base from which the EEOC has developed the concept and commitment to founding an external research and data center. The University has committed faculty course releases to the development of the initial data center and EEOC research network idea. As a result of its efforts and investments over the past three years, UMass is now uniquely situated to provide democratic access to government data on workplace employment patterns and discrimination complaints. These data are extremely valuable for scholars, job seekers, employers, and equality activists. UMass is the only university in the country with the relationships to create the type of center proposed here. Donald Tomaskovic-Devey, Sociology, Fidan Kurtulus, Economics, and Lee Badgett, School of Public Policy, are the project leadership team.

UMass is speaking with key stakeholders in the equal employment arena to discuss collaborative efforts with the CEE, including Catalyst, Diversity Inc., Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, NAACP Legal Defense Project, National Organization of Women, Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Lambda Legal Defense Fund, and the Human Rights Campaign. We plan to create a stakeholder advisory board drawn from these and similar organizations.



M.V. Lee Badgett is a Professor of Economics and Director of the School of Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She is also a distinguished scholar at the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA’s School of Law. She recently was a lead member of the internal EEOC task force to create the Commission’s research and data plan. Her book, When Gay People Get Married: What Happens When Societies Legalize Same-Sex Marriage, addresses the core issues in marriage debates in European countries and the U.S. She drew on that work in her recent testimony in the Perry v. Schwarzenegger trial challenging California’s Proposition 8. She directed a successful four-year project funded by the Ford Foundation to encourage more and better data collection on sexual orientation. Her current research projects include an analysis of the first years of EEOC data on sex discrimination charges that are related to sexual orientation and gender identity. She has also used EEOC data to study the impact of statewide sexual orientation and gender identity nondiscrimination laws on employers.  She is also the author of Money, Myths, and Change: The Economic Lives of Lesbians and Gay Men, and co-edited Sexual Orientation Discrimination: An International Perspective. Her most recent book, The Public Professor: How to Use Your Research to Change the World, shows how research can be better communicated to policymakers, businesses, lawyers, the media, and the general public.  She has testified in Congress, in court, and in state legislatures on issues of inequality processes for LGBT people. Contact:


Fidan Ana Kurtulus is an Associate Professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.  She is also a Women and Public Policy Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.  She received her A.B. from the University of Chicago, graduating with honors in economics.  She obtained her Ph.D. in economics from Cornell University. Professor Kurtulus conducts research on a variety of topics in labor economics, including the organization of workers within firms, participatory workplace practices and employee ownership, the causes and consequences of workplace diversity, and the long-term effects of affirmative action legislation on the U.S.  Some of her most recent work uses restricted-access firm-level data from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEO-1 files) to examine the employment progress of women and minorities over the last several decades.  She is also working on a large project using state and local agency EEOC data (EEO-4 files). She is now examining the race and gender employment effects of state-level affirmative action laws.  She has also been a technical advisor to the EEOC on their recent efforts to implement President Obama’s executive order to begin collecting pay data from private sector firms.  Professor Kurtulus has been awarded grants by the National Science Foundation, the Upjohn Institute for Employment, and the Beyster Foundation.  Her papers have been published in a variety of academic journals including the Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Annals of the Academy of Social and Political Science, and the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, and she has a forthcoming book on the relationship between employee ownership and employment stability during the Great Recession.  Professor Kurtulus has served as a Wertheim Fellow at the Harvard Law School, a Visiting Scholar at the Economics Department of Boston University, and a Beyster Fellow at Rutgers University. Contact:


Donald Tomaskovic-Devey is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Since 2001 he has been a Research Analyst at the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under an Intergovernmental Personnel Act appointment. He most recently worked on the internal EEOC task force to create the Commission’s research and data plan. He has published multiple articles using EEO-1 private sector data and his monograph with Kevin Stainback Documenting Desegregation: Racial and Gender Segregation in Private Sector Employment since the Civil Rights Act (2012, Russell Sage Foundation) is the only book-length evaluation of the impact of the Civil Rights Act on private sector employment. He has published three monographs and over 70 articles, mostly concerned with workplace and other inequalities.  His recent testimony before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can be found here. He is a founding member of the University of Massachusetts’ Computational Social Science Institute. He is also the founding coordinator of the Comparative Organizational Inequality Network, an eight country project using Linked Employer-Employee Panel data to investigate the development of workplace and national earnings inequalities. He has held visiting positions at Queensland University of Technology (Australia), Stockholm University (Sweden), SciencePo (France), Bielefeld University (Germany), and the Rockefeller Bellagio Center (Italy). His research has been supported by the Aspen, Ford, Russell Sage, Institute for New Economic Thinking, and the Alexander Von Humboldt Foundations, as well as by the Australian and U.S. National Science Foundations and the U.S. Department of Labor.  Contact:



Dr. Ronald Edwards, Director of the Program Research and Surveys Division of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Frank Dobbin, Professor of Sociology, Harvard University

Alexandra Kalev, Associate Professor of Sociology, Tel Aviv University

Pauline Kim, Professor of Law and Political Science, Washington University School of Law

Amalia Miller, Associate Professor of Economics, University of Virginia

Will Miller, Professor of Public Administration, University of Illinois at Springfield

Sarah von Schrader, Research Employment and Disability Institute, Cornell University





Excerpts from U.S. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION RESEARCH AND DATA PLAN, 2016-2019 endorsing the The Center for Employment Equity (CEE)  concept:

  1. The Commission authorizes ongoing support for the Equal Employment Opportunity Academic Data Center.
  2. EEO Academic Data Center

The Commission authorizes ORIP to support the development and ongoing viability of an EEO Academic Data Center.

The University of Massachusetts, Amherst received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to operate an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Data Network.  This network coordinates relationships between EEOC and its academic partners to facilitate data access and security, and to become a hub for cumulative expertise in the use of EEOC data products.  The University of Massachusetts, Amherst has recently submitted a proposal to NSF?? for an additional build out of the IT infrastructure for the  Data Center.  Unfortunately, the Data Center will not be able to rely on EEOC resources with the exception of specific research requests from the EEOC.  Therefore,   our goal which is also tied to long-term project sustainability is to identify multiple private sources of funding. .  However, the success and growth of the EEO Academic Data Center will depend on continued active involvement of the EEOC.  ORIP and OIT will work with the Academic Data Center to review and coordinate security requirements associated with protecting the confidentiality, integrity and availability of EEOC’s data (in aggregated form) that is maintained at this Center.

There are many significant functions currently performed by ORIP staff that the Data Center could undertake. Those functions would be part of the central mission of the Data Center and performed on a larger scale than ORIP can now perform with its limited resources.  Activities currently undertaken by ORIP staff to encourage academic research may, consistent with statutory confidentiality requirements, be transferred to an outside academic center.  Examples include explaining the availability of data, confidentiality restrictions, and processes necessary to obtain access to EEOC data.   Additionally detailed explanations of the contents and structure of the data sets and best practices for working with the data can be provided by the data center. This will free up ORIP staff to assist with enforcement activities that are the primary mission of the EEOC.