Learning and Impact

Few of the nation’s wealthiest universities share data for Knight-NYU Stern Center study of asset manager diversity in higher ed

Knight Foundation and NYU Stern’s Center for Business and Human Rights applaud the 16 institutions that have provided data on the diversity of asset management firms overseeing their endowments. But 34 of the nation’s 50 wealthiest colleges and universities did not share their data for this interim higher education asset management study. 

MIAMI – June 29, 2022 – A large majority of the nation’s wealthiest colleges and universities refused to participate in a national study examining the diversity of the asset management firms overseeing their endowments. 

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the New York University Stern Center for Business and Human Rights today are releasing partial results from their ongoing research into the diversity of higher education’s asset managers, because just 16 of the nation’s wealthiest 50 colleges and universities have provided data for the study so far. They also called on the 34 non-participating institutions to provide their data for the study, which will continue as the researchers seek additional insights. 

What is this interim study about?

This research, conducted by Global Economics Group, studies the extent to which the wealthiest 25 public and 25 private U.S. colleges and universities invest their $587 billion in endowment assets with firms owned by women and people of color. 

  • But most institutions — 34 of the eligible 50 — refused to disclose their diversity statistics. 
  • Only 12 of the 50 endowments participated fully by sharing data for independent analysis by Global Economics Group. Another four self-reported their diversity statistics. 
  • Because of the low response rate, the researchers can only publish an interim report based on the information they have gathered so far. They will publish broader findings when more institutions share their data.

Why participation matters

Women and people of color are severely underrepresented in asset management. Diverse-owned firms manage just 1.4% of the $82 trillion in assets based in the U.S. This disparity is especially important for institutions of higher learning, which serve diverse students and alumni and have worked to improve equity and inclusion throughout their campuses.

  • The researchers commend the 16 study participants, which hold $314 billion (54%) of the top 50 institutions’ total endowment assets.
  • The need for more data on diversity in asset management is echoed in other Knight research on top foundations, asset management teams, and the field as a whole.

“As Knight’s past research has consistently shown, a lack of transparency continues to be an enormous barrier to increasing diversity and equity in the asset management industry. You can’t improve what you don’t measure,” said Ashley Zohn, vice president of Knight’s Learning and Impact program. “We applaud our study participants for their candor and encourage other schools to provide their data for further analysis.”

“We know that a number of university leaders are working to identify and include high-performing diverse-owned firms to manage endowment funds. But the paucity of reliable data on the ownership of investment firms makes it all but impossible to accurately chart progress or to motivate reluctant schools to do more,” said Michael Posner, director of the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights. 

“Asset management firms can offer important job opportunities for college graduates, so it makes sense for colleges and universities to invest with firms that reflect the diversity of their students and alumni,” said Juan Martinez, Knight’s chief financial officer. “But without better data, we cannot assess how well asset management firms are actually tapping into underutilized pipelines for promising talent in finance.”

Knight and the NYU Center for Business and Human Rights plan to publish a report with broader findings when more institutions participate.

For interviews about this Knight study, please contact Nick DeSantis at 202-288-9534 or [email protected]. Visit kf.org/kdam to learn more about the KDAM Research Series.


About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

We are social investors who support a more effective democracy by funding free expression and journalism, arts and culture in community, research in areas of media and democracy, and in the success of American cities and towns where the Knight brothers once published newspapers. Learn more at kf.org and follow @knightfdn on social media.

About the NYU Stern Center for Business and Human RightsThe NYU Stern Center for Business and Human Rights seeks to challenge and empower companies and future business leaders to make practical progress on human rights. More information is available at bhr.stern.nyu.edu, on Twitter at @NYUSternBHR, and on Facebook at @bhr.stern.nyu.edu.