Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 47, Issue 1, pp 194–206 | Cite as

Early Adolescents’ Peer Experiences with Ethnic Diversity in Middle School: Implications for Academic Outcomes

  • Jakeem Amir LewisEmail author
  • Adrienne Nishina
  • Alysha Ramirez Hall
  • Shannon Cain
  • Amy Bellmore
  • Melissa R. Witkow
Empirical Research


As the U.S. becomes increasingly ethnically diverse, opportunities for cross-ethnic interaction at school may be increasing, and these interactions may have implications for academic outcomes for both ethnic minority and White youth. The current study examines how cross-ethnic peer relationships, measured using peer nominations for acceptance and daily lunchtime interactions, relate to academic outcomes for an ethnically diverse sample of 823 (45% boys and 55% girls; M age  = 11.69) public middle school sixth graders across one Midwestern and two Western states. For White, Black, Asian, Latino/a, and Multiethnic students, self-reported daily cross-ethnic peer interactions were associated with higher end-of-year GPAs in core academic courses and teachers’ expectations for educational attainment, but not self-reported school aversion. Making cross-ethnic acceptance nominations was not associated with any academic outcomes. Thus, daily opportunities for cross-ethnic interactions may be important school experiences for early adolescents.


Cross-ethnic peers Ethnicity Diversity GPA Middle school Daily interactions 


Author Contributions

S.C. conceived of the study and participated in data collection; J.A.L. participated in its design and coordination, interpretation of the data, and drafted the manuscript; A.N. participated in study design, ran final analyses and interpretation of the data, and drafted the manuscript; A.R.H. participated in the coordination of the study and the initial statistical analysis; A.B. participated in the study design and coordination, provided feedback on the final draft; M.W. participated in the study design and coordination, provided initial feedback on the study conception, and provided feedback on the final draft. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This work was supported by the National Science Foundation: NSF BCS-1147593; NSF GRFP 1650042.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jakeem Amir Lewis
    • 1
    Email author
  • Adrienne Nishina
    • 1
  • Alysha Ramirez Hall
    • 1
  • Shannon Cain
    • 2
  • Amy Bellmore
    • 3
  • Melissa R. Witkow
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Human EcologyUniversity of CaliforniaDavisUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyWillamette UniversitySalemUSA
  3. 3.Department of Educational PsychologyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA

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