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Does Campus Diversity Promote Friendship Diversity? A Look at Interracial Friendships in College

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  • *Direct correspondence to Mary J. Fischer, 344 Mansfield Rd. Unit 2068, Storrs, CT 06268 〈mary.fischer@uconn.edu〉. For purposes of replication, coding information is available on request. This research uses data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen, which was funded by the Mellon Foundation and is currently housed at Princeton University's Office of Population Research.

Abstract

Objectives. One of the hopes of having diverse campus environments is that the daily interaction with students from different backgrounds will promote interracial understanding and friendship. However, it is not clear to what extent interactions and friendships are multiracial. This article examines the impact of college characteristics, social distance felt toward other groups, and precollege friendship diversity on the formation of interracial friendships in the first year of college.

Methods. Using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen, I examine how college characteristics, social distance felt toward other groups, and precollege friendship diversity affects the formation of interracial friendships in the first year of college.

Results. The results show that while precollege experiences and initial attitudes do have an impact on the formation of interracial friendship in college, campus racial/ethnic diversity is also important in predicting friendship heterogeneity. Minorities have higher predicted friendship diversity than whites, but this difference nearly disappears in the most diverse schools due to the interactive effects of school diversity on friendship diversity for white students.

Conclusions. This research provides evidence of the social benefits of assembling a diverse student body, particularly for white students, and can add to the debate over the continuation of affirmative action policies.

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