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Not All Diversity Interactions are Created Equal: Cross-Racial Interaction, Close Interracial Friendship, and College Student Outcomes

Abstract

Higher education researchers and practitioners have emphasized the educational benefits of fostering meaningful interracial interaction on college campuses. The link between cross-racial interaction and student growth has received considerable empirical attention, but far less is known about whether and when interracial friendship predicts student outcomes. Multiple theoretical frameworks suggest that these two types of interpersonal diversity experiences may have differential effects. The present study examined this issue using a 4-year longitudinal dataset with 2,932 undergraduates at 28 institutions. Regardless of students’ race/ethnicity, cross-racial interaction is consistently associated with desired student outcomes, whereas close interracial friendship is often unrelated to these same outcomes.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshmen for the use of this dataset.

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Bowman, N.A., Park, J.J. Not All Diversity Interactions are Created Equal: Cross-Racial Interaction, Close Interracial Friendship, and College Student Outcomes. Res High Educ 56, 601–621 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-015-9365-z

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Keywords

  • Cross-racial interaction
  • Interracial friendship
  • Student outcomes
  • Race/ethnicity
  • College students