Precollege Exposure to Racial/Ethnic Difference and First-Year College Students’ Racial Attitudes
by Nicholas A. Bowman & Dafina-Lazarus Stewart — 2014
Background/Context: Despite burgeoning racial and ethnic heterogeneity within the United States, many students grow up in racially homogeneous schools and neighborhoods. This lack of interracial interaction appears to play a substantial role in shaping students’ racial attitudes and world views upon entering college.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: The aim of the study was to examine the relationships among multiple forms of precollege exposure to racial/ethnic diversity and racial attitudes (e.g., perceptions of workplace discrimination) upon entering college.
Research Design: A quantitative survey examined attitudes, precollege environments, and other indicators among 3,924 entering first-year college students (with approximately equal numbers of Asian Americans, Blacks, Hispanics, and Whites) at 28 U.S. colleges and universities. Structural equation modeling analyses were conducted on the full sample as well as several racial/ethnic groups separately.
Conclusions/Recommendations: Findings indicated that exposure to racial/ethnic difference in students’ precollege neighborhoods and schools predict high school interracial friendships, which in turn predict their complex racial attitudes. The multigroup analyses further demonstrate that the relationships between interracial friendships and multiple racial attitudes are nonsignificant among White students, but significant for all other groups. These findings have implications for the promotion of meaningful curricular and cocurricular diversity interventions both before and during college.
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