, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 25-46

Interracial Contact in High School Extracurricular Activities

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Abstract

Using data from yearbooks for 193 high schools, this study examines the degree of interracial contact in 8,849 high school teams and other organizations. More than one-third of these groups were all-white, while only about 3% were exclusively nonwhite. Owing in large part to their overall numerical preponderance, white students rarely found themselves outnumbered in groups by as much as three to one; by contrast, nonwhites often were in this position. Tabulations show that the degree of interracial exposure was typically less than what would occur if all organizations in each school had been racially balanced and was much less than the exposure that would have occurred if all organizations reflected the racial composition of the schools containing them. Whereas the nonwhite percentage of the students enrolled in the sample high schools was 24.9%, the membership of clubs and teams was 20.7%, reflecting a lower rate of participation by nonwhites. Furthermore, because the racial compositions of clubs and teams were not uniform, the average white member was in an organization that was only 15.3% nonwhite. Although clearly less than its theoretical maximum, this rate of contact nonetheless appears to be much higher than what would occur if friendships were the only vehicle for interracial contact outside the classroom. Finally, the extent of segregation associated with these organizations was the same or less in the South than in the rest of the country.