Study: Racial harmony begins in the dorm room
A new study finds that randomly assigned roommates are equally likely to become friends regardless of their race.
Researchers studying roommate assignments at Berea College in Kentucky found that roommates of different races were just as likely to become friends as roommates of the same race. The finding, published in the October issue of Journal of Labor Economics, suggests that racial harmony on campus might begin with innovative dorm assignments.
The study also found that white students assigned black roommates tended to befriend more black students in college than white students assigned white roommates.
"We find that, while much sorting exists at all stages of college, black and white students are, in reality, very compatible as friends," write the authors, Braz Camargo of Sao Paulo School of Economics and the University of Western Ontario, Ralph Stinebrickner of Berea College and Todd Stinebrickner of the University of Western Ontario.
The researchers looked at surveys of freshmen entering Berea College in 2000 and 2001. Students were surveyed repeatedly over their first three years of college. By the middle of the freshman year, interracial roommates were as likely to list each other as friends as same-race roommates.
By the third year, white students with black roommates reported that 16 percent of their friends were black. By comparison, white students with white roommates reported that 5 percent of their friends were black.
The findings suggest that interracial pairing of students in dorm rooms "can have a substantial influence on interracial friendship interactions," the authors write.
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Daniel de Vise
| October 18, 2010; 2:32 PM ET
Categories: Administration, Research, Students | Tags: black and white roommates have more diverse friends, interracial college roommates, interracial roommates have more diverse friends, interracial roommates study
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