Jewish, Irish, and Italian immigrants entered the accounting field as an “entrée” to the business world. It was believed that this ground floor opportunity would open doors to other careers. In many ways, it worked, and first-generation immigrants received a great start in business. As the profession grew and colleges became accessible, many immigrants enrolled in accounting classes. Once again, it was thought that the accounting major would always be able to find a job in finance if the person had the skill.
Fast forward to present day, and we find that few minorities are in the profession, with less than 1 percent of CPAs from an African-American background. The statistics for other ethnic groups are low as well, with only 4 percent Asians and 3 percent Hispanics receiving the CPA. This low representation of minorities is disturbing when there are 100 million ethnic minorities in the United States. Some states have begun outreach programs to recruit more ethnic groups to the profession. In the year 2000, New York began a recruitment program called COAP, or Career Opportunities in the Accounting Profession, an initiative to encourage more minorities into the CPA profession.
Various studies and research have been conducted as to why minorities are not drawn to the accounting industry. Interestingly, one study showed that the lack of representation was due to the lack of exposure to the discipline during high school years. This showed the correlation between pre-collegiate years and a college major. The good news is that the National Association of Black Accountants says that there is increased participation in the industry, with over 5,000 CPAs nationwide.