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Hourly Walmart employees who participated in Live Better U, the company’s staff education and training program, were less likely to leave the company and more likely to receive promotions than other employees across gender and racial lines, according to a new study from the Lumina Foundation, a private foundation focused on higher education access. Participants also improved their performance ratings after enrolling in the program.

Walmart launched Live Better U in 2018, in partnership with Guild Education, a for-profit company that facilitates programs in which employees work toward credentials subsidized by employers. Walmart announced this July that the program would fully cover tuition and book costs for employees.

The study found that 30,000 students were participating in the program in April 2021. Since the program launched in 2018, employees have earned almost 7,300 new high school diplomas, college degrees and short-term credentials. The study focuses on hourly workers, 94 percent of Walmart’s workforce, and disaggregated the data by race and ethnicity.

Program participants left the company at a significantly lower rate than their colleagues outside the program and saw their performance ratings go up within six months of enrolling, across racial and ethnic groups. Among Live Better U participants, 17 percent received promotions. Black hourly employees were 88 percent more likely to receive promotions relative to their peers, while Latinx employees were 71 percent more likely. White participants were 80 percent more likely.

"To our knowledge, this study represents the first time a company has shown employee outcomes disaggregated by race and ethnicity," Haley Glover, a Lumina strategy director and the report’s author, said in a press release. "Understanding program impact on diverse employee populations is necessary to building a program that is equitable in delivery and outcomes."