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Preparing Students for a Diverse, Deliberative Democracy: College Diversity Experiences and Informed Citizenship After College


by Nida Denson, Nicholas A. Bowman & Julie J. Park - 2017

Background/Context: The role of race in the university continues to be a contentious issue. Proponents of college diversity often cite the importance of fostering a diverse and deliberative democratic society, but the link between student experiences and postcollege citizenship has received limited attention.

Purpose/Objective: This study explores the extent to which two types of college diversity experiences (cross-racial interaction and curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement) predict aspects of informed citizenship associated with supporting a deliberative democracy six years after graduation (i.e., following the news, discussion of racial issues, and importance of keeping up to date with politics).

Participants: The dataset for this study came from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. We utilized the 1994–1998–2004 cohort of students/alumni, which included a postcollege survey administered six years after graduation. The total sample consisted of 8,634 alumni from 229 institutions.

Research Design: This study utilized secondary data analysis of the 1994–1998–2004 CIRP dataset.

Data Collection and Analysis: Path analysis was particularly useful for this study to examine the direct and indirect effects of the college diversity experiences on senior-year and longer-term outcomes.

Results: College diversity experiences have direct effects on postcollege discussions of racial issues, which suggests that these forms of engagement may have long-lasting effects on college graduates. Moreover, curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement also has positive, indirect effects on keeping up to date with politics, news consumption, and discussing racial issues well after graduation. The pattern of findings differed when analyzed separately by racial/ethnic group (i.e., Whites/Caucasians, Asian Americans, and underrepresented students of color).

Conclusions/Recommendations: This study adds to the existing knowledge base by making a key contribution to the limited research on the long-term benefits of diversity experiences as well as the dimensions of higher education that inform active citizenship in a deliberative democracy. This study examined the complex relationships—both direct and indirect effects—associated with these college diversity experiences and outcomes after college and how these relationships vary by racial/ethnic group. The current findings point to the particular importance of maximizing opportunities for cross-racial interaction and curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement for all students regardless of their race/ethnicity.



INTRODUCTION

The role of race in the university continues to be a contentious issue, with race-conscious admissions practices being brought to the U.S. Supreme Court. In the University of Michigan (Gratz v. Bollinger) and Fisher v. University of Texas Supreme Court cases, numerous amicus briefs argued that having a racially diverse student body in combination with college diversity experiences is critical to preparing college students for active citizenship in a global society. Colleges and universities train the future leaders of society, and college life itself is a training ground for citizenship as students learn to engage with difference, articulate their opinions, and dialogue across the political spectrum. Many institutions see this preparation as part of their mission: to nurture students’ abilities to develop their own informed views and opinions as well as to participate meaningfully in achieving collective solutions to society’s problems (Fisher v. Univ. of Texas, 2012). One way that institutions do this is by facilitating student access to an array of college diversity experiences.

Studies of college students show that participating in college diversity experiences has a positive effect on democracy-related outcomes (e.g., Astin, 1993; Bowman, 2011; Gurin, Dey, Hurtado, & Gurin, 2002). Such college diversity experiences include both curricular/co-curricular diversity experiences and cross-racial interaction experiences. Curricular/co-curricular diversity experiences consist of institutionally structured diversity experiences, such as diversity-related courses (e.g., ethnic studies courses) and co-curricular diversity activities (e.g., racial/cultural awareness workshops and racial/ethnic student organizations). Cross-racial interactions tend to occur outside of the curricular/co-curricular diversity context and include the frequency and quality of interactions with diverse peers that occur as part of daily college life. More than simply assembling a diverse student body, participating in college diversity experiences requires some form of meaningful interaction and exchange to facilitate educational benefits (Park, 2013). Few studies have examined the longer-term effects of such experiences. Thus, we are limited in our understanding of whether the benefits associated with diversity persist beyond the college years. Do college diversity experiences enhance the collegiate experience in the short term only? Or do the effects associated with such experiences persist into subsequent adulthood? This study addresses that gap by examining potential direct and indirect effects of college diversity experiences on informed-citizenship outcomes six years after graduation. We examine the extent to which two types of college diversity experiences (cross-racial interaction and curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement) predict discussing racial/ethnic issues, the personal importance of keeping up to date on political affairs, and news consumption six years after college.

We are particularly interested in these three informed-citizenship outcomes because of their relevance to supporting a deliberative democracy. Educators have broadly affirmed the importance of civic engagement, but behaviors linked to informed citizenship are a particularly important component of a democracy that is not only diverse, but also deliberative. Deliberative democracy is “a political system based on citizens’ free discussion of public issues” (Kim, Wyatt, & Katz, 1999, p. 361). Because deliberative democracy “affirms the need to justify decisions made by citizens and representatives,” it requires a significant amount of dialogue and exchange (Gutmann & Thompson, 2004, p. 7). Discussion, dialogue, and following current events all play a role in supporting the deliberative aspect of such a system. Thus, we have chosen these three outcomes (discussing racial/ethnic issues, the personal importance of keeping up to date on political affairs, and news consumption) because they align with key aspects of deliberative democracy.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Crucial to a deliberative democracy are the conditions and behaviors that support nuanced deliberation via democratic citizenship development. Deliberation within a democratic society includes the opportunity for consensus to emerge from reasoned and nuanced discussion, the importance of forums for people of opposing viewpoints to develop mutual understanding, and the hope that sharp partisanship will be decreased (Fishkin, 1991; List, Luskin, Fishkin, & McLean, 2013). These various aspects mutually reinforce each other. Reflecting this dynamic, Kim et al. (1999) found that four key characteristics important to supporting a deliberative democracy—use of news, opinion formation, political conversation, and political participation—were all interrelated among participants. For instance, news-media use was significantly and positively related to frequency of political conversation in daily life, willingness to have discussions with those of differing opinions, quality of political conversations, and political participation. Having political conversations was also linked to quality of opinion and participatory action. All of these behaviors are important to democratic citizenship development within the framework of a deliberative democracy.

Because few scholars thus far have examined college students’ diversity experiences in relation to democracy, this research builds on findings from related studies in the field of civic engagement. A considerable amount of research has examined the relationship between college diversity experiences and civic engagement, which is defined as behaviors, motivation, knowledge, skills, and values that can serve to improve the quality of life within a community (Ehrlich, 2000). When defined in this way, civic engagement can also include intercultural knowledge and understanding, a social-justice orientation, and a commitment to and valuing of social action. Bowman (2011) conducted a quantitative meta-analysis of this relationship by examining 180 effect sizes from 27 studies, which included 175,950 students. This research synthesis found that several types of college diversity experiences were positively associated with civic engagement, including intergroup interactions (e.g., Chang, Astin, & Kim, 2004; Denson & Chang, 2009; Engberg, 2007; Hu & Kuh, 2003; Johnson & Lollar, 2002; Nelson Laird, 2005), diversity coursework (e.g., Bowman, 2010b; Engberg & Mayhew, 2007; Gurin et al., 2002; Hurtado, 2001; Nelson Laird, Engberg, & Hurtado, 2005; Zuniga, Williams, & Berger, 2005), co-curricular diversity (e.g., Antonio, 2001; Hurtado, 2005; Lopez, 2004), intergroup dialogue (e.g., Gurin, Nagda, & Lopez, 2004; Mayhew & Fernandez, 2007; Nagda, Gurin, Sorensen, Gurin-Sands, & Osuna, 2009), and multiple/other types of diversity (e.g., Hermann, 2005; Umbach & Kuh, 2006).

Findings of recent studies are consistent with the findings of Bowman’s (2011) meta-analysis; for instance, diversity interactions are associated with increases in civic participation (Bowman & Denson, 2011; Denson & Bowman, 2013), civic-mindedness (Cole & Zhou, 2014), intentions to volunteer (Bowman, 2013a), socially responsible leadership (Bowman, 2013b; Parker & Pascarella, 2013; Seifert, Goodman, King, & Baxter Magolda, 2010), orientation toward social/political activism (Pascarella, Salisbury, Martin, & Blaich, 2012), and intercultural effectiveness (Bowman, 2013b; Denson & Zhang, 2010; Seifert et al., 2010). In short, the literature suggests that several types of college diversity experiences are consistently associated with college civic-engagement outcomes, although to varying degrees depending on the type of college diversity experience as well as the type of outcome. Bowman’s (2011) meta-analysis showed that college diversity experiences are associated with increases in civic engagement, yet it also revealed that the magnitude of this effect was greater for cross-racial interactions than for curricular and co-curricular diversity experiences. In addition, diversity experiences tended to have larger effect sizes for diversity-related outcomes, followed by civic attitudes, with leadership outcomes having relatively smaller effect sizes.

However, there are at least three shortcomings in this research to date. First, the vast majority of these studies have explored students’ attitudes and values, whereas relatively less research has directly examined student behaviors. The studies that have examined student behaviors showed that college diversity experiences are positively related to campus engagement and activism (Astin, 1993; Bowman & Denson, 2011; Denson & Bowman, 2013; Gurin et al., 2004; Johnson & Lollar, 2002), but it is unclear whether these college diversity experiences lead to activism or vice versa (e.g., students who are highly engaged on campus may have more frequent cross-racial interaction through this engagement). Moreover, there are mixed findings with regard to the outcomes being examined (Gurin et al., 2004; Hurtado, 2005; Umbach & Kuh, 2006). For example, Gurin et al. (2004) found that although students in an intergroup relations program were more interested in politics and participated more frequently in campus political activities as compared to students who did not participate in the program, there was no difference between the two groups of students in terms of their community service activities during college. In addition, when asked about the importance they place on anticipated postcollege involvement, students in the intergroup relations program were more likely to want to help their group/community and promote racial/ethnic understanding after college as compared to students who did not participate in the program, but there was no difference between the two groups in terms of influencing the political structure. It is possible that many students’ primary civic involvements occur on campus and that these commitments translate to engagement with their neighborhoods and other communities after college.

However, this finding highlights a second important limitation of the literature: Only a few studies of college diversity experiences extend beyond the college years. This research has found that cross-racial interaction is associated with greater postcollege citizenship engagement (Gurin, 1999), volunteering (Yamamura & Denson, 2005), pluralistic orientation (Jayakumar, 2008), and leadership skills (Luo & Jamieson-Drake, 2009). The results for curricular and co-curricular diversity are less consistent. Although one study found fairly large relationships between ethnic studies coursework and postcollege citizenship engagement (Gurin, 1999), others have found that such relationships were small or non-significant (Bowman, Brandenberger, Hill, & Lapsley, 2011; Jayakumar, 2008).

A third issue (or set of issues) pertains to the methodology of these college alumni studies. Luo and Jamieson-Drake (2009) asked participants to self-report their college experiences and growth up to 20 years after graduation, so it is unlikely that participants would be accurate in these responses (see Bowman, 2010a; Porter, 2013; Tourangeau, Rips, & Rasinski, 2000). Moreover, in two of the longitudinal studies (Bowman et al., 2011; Luo & Jamieson-Drake, 2009), participants exclusively attended selective private institutions; thus, these findings may not generalize to other types of colleges or universities. In addition, Jayakumar (2008) only examined White alumni, and only one study (Gurin, 1999) explored whether the results varied by alumni’s race/ethnicity, even though there is certainly reason to do so.

Some meta-analyses have been able to compare the effects of diversity experiences (mostly during college) on students from differing racial/ethnic groups by aggregating findings across studies. Denson (2009) conducted a meta-analysis exploring college curricular/co-curricular diversity experiences and racial bias. Overall, participation in these experiences was associated with lower racial bias, but this relationship was stronger for samples that included a greater proportion of White/Caucasian participants, which could be the result of larger effects among White students. Similarly, within a meta-analysis that included samples of college students, children, and adults, Tropp and Pettigrew (2005) found that the link between intergroup contact and (reduced) prejudice was stronger among Whites than among people of color. Not all evidence, however, is consistent with this disparity; Bowman (2011) did not find any differences between students of color and White students in his meta-analytic review of college diversity experiences and civic engagement, and a meta-analysis of intergroup friendships and intergroup attitudes also found that the effects were similar regardless of participants’ group membership (Davies, Tropp, Aron, Pettigrew, & Wright, 2011).

THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS

In order to understand how college affects students, two primary theoretical frameworks have been used to develop hypotheses about the mechanisms through which diversity experiences may contribute to positive outcomes. Gurin et al. (2002), drawing upon a cognitive developmental perspective based on the work of Piaget and others (e.g., Piaget, 1971, 1975/1985; Ruble, 1994), argued that many traditional-age college students are at a developmental stage in which they are forming their identities and values, so they are particularly open to the growth associated with diversity experiences. Because students’ K–12 schools and neighborhoods are often racially and socioeconomically homogeneous (Orfield, 2009; Orfield & Lee, 2006; Reardon & Yun, 2002), most students have had limited interracial interactions before entering college, and college provides a greater opportunity for students to interact across race. Given the novelty of cross-racial interaction (Saenz, 2010), these experiences are often inconsistent with students’ preexisting stereotypes and worldviews. Students generally seek to resolve this discrepancy, which they may do by either reconciling these interactions with their current beliefs and conceptions or changing their views to incorporate this new information. While Gurin et al.’s (2002) framework focused primarily on racial diversity, we feel that it would also be relevant to other dimensions of difference with which many students have limited precollege experience (e.g., socioeconomic status). Due to the particular lack of precollege racial diversity in the United States, engagement with racial diversity has proven to be a particularly potent and consistent source of dissonance for students, as compared to other types of experiences with difference. For example, Bowman (2010) found that cross-racial interaction is more positively associated with cognitive outcomes than is interaction across multiple/other forms of difference (e.g., social class, gender, religion, or political ideology).

Crisp and Turner (2011) provided a social psychological framework that focuses on the conditions under which diversity experiences shape growth, regardless of one’s age or level of development. Consistent with Gurin et al.’s (2002) framework, Crisp and Turner’s model posits that diversity experiences are effective in promoting positive outcomes only when people’s preexisting stereotypes and worldviews are challenged and when people are motivated and able to deeply consider and resolve the dissonance and disequilibrium that result from this challenge. The theory further asserts that a person must engage repeatedly in the process of dissonance resolution to realize improved psychological functioning, which suggests the importance of engaging in multiple diversity experiences. Gurin et al. and Crisp and Turner both defined diversity experiences broadly, to include not only interpersonal intergroup interactions—or what Allport (1954), Pettigrew (1998), and others referred to as “intergroup contact”—but also more formalized diversity engagement (e.g., through college coursework and co-curricular diversity activities).

In terms of studying the long-term effects of diversity, these frameworks suggest that at least some benefits should occur indirectly, and there is some available empirical support for those indirect effects. For instance, although some college diversity experiences may not have a direct effect on alumni 13 years after college, college diversity experiences have an indirect effect on postcollege outcomes through an increased prosocial orientation (i.e., personal tendency toward social-action engagement and improving society) at the end of college (Bowman et al., 2011). Thus, college diversity experiences might lead to increased prosocial orientation during college, which would then contribute to postcollege outcomes; in other words, an increased prosocial orientation during college mediates the relationship between college diversity experiences and postcollege outcomes. Providing further evidence for the mediating role of prosocial orientation, another study conducted on high school students showed that the prosocial value of kindness partially mediated the relationship between religiosity and prosocial behavior (Hardy & Carlo, 2005). In addition, some studies have identified significant, direct relationships between college diversity and civic outcomes five to 20 years after graduation (Gurin, 1999; Jayakumar, 2008; Luo & Jamieson-Drake, 2009; Yamamura & Denson, 2005), and Jayakumar (2008) found both direct and indirect effects. Therefore, because past studies have found direct and indirect relationships between college diversity experiences and various outcomes, a simultaneous examination of direct and indirect effects will likely yield better insights into the nature and strength of these long-term relationships.

PRESENT STUDY

The present study explores the extent to which two types of college diversity experiences (cross-racial interaction and curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement) predict several indicators of informed citizenship six years after college. Here, we focus on citizenship outcomes that are crucial to supporting a deliberative democracy (i.e., following the news, discussion of racial issues, and importance of keeping up to date with politics). Thus, the present study sought to answer the following research questions:

To what extent do college diversity experiences have a direct effect on postcollege informed citizenship?

To what extent do college diversity experiences have an indirect effect on postcollege informed citizenship?

To what extent do the direct effects of college diversity experiences on postcollege informed citizenship differ by racial/ethnic group? and

To what extent do the indirect effects of college diversity experiences on postcollege informed citizenship differ by racial/ethnic group?

METHOD

DATA SOURCE AND PARTICIPANTS

The dataset used in this study comes from the University of California, Los Angeles’ (UCLA) Higher Education Research Institute (HERI). HERI is home to the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP), which is the oldest and largest study of American higher education. Since 1973, HERI has regularly administered a number of CIRP surveys to both students and faculty at hundreds of institutions across the nation. HERI encourages researchers to conduct secondary data analysis on CIRP surveys, as they have a number of longitudinal datasets that follow students throughout their college careers. We utilized the 1994–1998–2004 cohort of students and alumni, which included a postcollege survey administered six years after college graduation. Eligible participants consisted of graduates who had completed the freshman survey in 1994 (Time 1), completed the college senior survey in 1998 (Time 2), and received a bachelor’s degree or higher by 2004 and whose personal information was available from the institution’s alumni office or the U.S. Postal Service. Paper-and-pencil surveys were sent for the alumni survey via U.S. mail in 2004 (Time 3); 8,634 alumni from 229 institutions responded, which represents a retest response rate of 48%. Of the total sample, 67.6% of participants were female, 88.0% were White/Caucasian, 3.3% were Asian/Asian American, 2.8% were Black/African American, 2.4% were Latino/Hispanic, 1.0% were American Indian/Alaska Native, and 2.5% were from “other” racial/ethnic groups or declined to state their racial/ethnic group. Of the 229 institutions, 85.2% were private, and 14.8% were public. The average institutional SAT score (verbal plus math) was 987, ranging from a minimum SAT score of 615 to a maximum of 1410.

MEASURES

Postcollege Informed-Citizenship Variables

News consumption was measured with three items regarding the number of times per week that graduates accessed various news sources (including online versions), specifically national/world news, local news programs, and television talk shows. The frequency with which graduates discussed racial/ethnic issues was indicated with a single item, and the personal importance of keeping up to date on political affairs was also a single item.

College and Precollege Variables

Cross-racial interaction (CRI) was assessed with four items regarding the frequency of several types of interracial interactions, such as studying and dining with people from other racial groups. Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement was assessed with three dichotomous items indicating whether a student participated in a racial/cultural awareness workshop, racial/ethnic student organization, or ethnic studies course. Two proxy baseline measures from both the beginning and end of college were used. Pluralistic orientation, as a proxy baseline measure for prosocial orientation, was indicated with a four-item scale regarding students’ goals and values with regard to helping others and engaging with the community (e.g., “help others in difficulty” and “participate in community action program”). This orientation has been established as a key mediator of the relationships between college diversity experiences and several postcollege outcomes (Bowman et al., 2011). Given the political and civic content of the postcollege outcomes, the frequency of discussing politics at Times 1 and 2 was also included. Table 1 shows the measurement of the variables, and Tables 2 and 3 present the means, standard deviations, and correlations for all the variables across the overall sample and subgroups.

Table 1. Measurement of Variables

 

Variable

Description

Pluralistic orientation
(Time 1 & Time 2)

Pluralistic orientation (as a proxy measure for prosocial orientation) was measured on 4-point Likert-type scale (1 = not important to 4 = essential) average of 4 items: (a) help others in difficulty, (b) participate in community action, (c) promote racial understanding, and (d) become a community leader.

Discussed politics
(Time 1 & Time 2)

This item asked students about the frequency which they discussed politics, and was measured on a 3-point Likert-type scale (1 = not at all to 3 = frequently).

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement
(Time 2)

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement was an average of 3 dichotomous items (1 = no; 2 = yes): (a) enrolled in an ethnic studies course, (b) attended a racial/cultural awareness workshop, and (c) participated in a racial/ethnic student organization.

Cross-racial interaction
(Time 2)

Cross-racial interaction was an average of 4 items regarding the frequency of several types of interracial interactions, and was measured on a 3-point Likert-type scale (1 = not at all to 3 = frequently): (a) studied, (b) dined, (3) dated, and (4) interacted.

Discussed racial issues
(Time 3)

This item asked graduates about the frequency which they discussed racial/ethnic issues, and was measured on a 3-point Likert-type scale (1 = not at all to 3 = frequently).

Keep up to date on politics
(Time 3)

This item asked students about the personal importance of keeping up to date on political affairs, and was measured on a 4-point Likert-type scale (1 = not important to 4 = essential).

News consumption
(Time 3)

News consumption was an average of 3 items regarding the number of times per week graduates accessed various news sources (incl. online), and was measured on a 4-point Likert-type scale (1 = none to 4 = 5+ times): (a) national/world news, (b) local news programs, and (3) television talk shows.


Table 2. Means, Standard Deviations (SD), and Correlations for Overall and White/Caucasian Samples

 
 

Correlation

 

Overall sample
(N = 8,634)

 

White/Caucasian (N = 7,600)

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

 

M

SD

 

M

SD

1. T1 pluralistic orientation

.19

.41

.15

.20

.10

.17

.16

.02

 

2.48

.67

 

2.45

.66

2. T1 discussed politics

.20

.11

.43

.13

.11

.21

.30

−.05

 

2.03

.64

 

2.03

.63

3. T2 pluralistic orientation

.43

.12

.22

.28

.14

.24

.20

.03

 

2.49

.70

 

2.46

.69

4. T2 discussed politics

.16

.44

.23

.19

.16

.22

.37

−.03

 

1.95

.62

 

1.95

.62

5. T2 curricular/co-curricular engagement

.24

.13

.30

.19

.17

.20

.12

−.01

 

1.32

.31

 

1.30

.30

6. T2 cross-racial interaction

.12

.10

.15

.15

.21

.12

.07

−.04

 

2.03

.53

 

1.99

.50

7. T3 discussed racial issues

.19

.21

.25

.24

.22

.12

.31

.00

 

2.14

.59

 

2.12

.58

8. T3 keep up to date on politics

.17

.31

.21

.38

.12

.07

.32

.09

 

2.36

.91

 

2.35

.90

9. T3 news consumption

.03

−.05

.03

−.02

.01

−.03

.01

.10

 

2.26

.77

 

2.25

.78

Note: The correlations for the overall sample are below the diagonal, and the correlations for the White/Caucasian sample are above the diagonal.

Significant correlations (p < .05) are in bold.


Table 3. Means, Standard Deviations (SD), and Correlations for Asian American and Underrepresented Students of Color Samples

 
 

Correlation

 

Asian American
(N = 286)

 

Underrepresented students of color
(N = 683)

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

 

M

SD

 

M

SD

1. T1 pluralistic orientation

.18

.47

.25

.33

.05

.21

.15

.04

 

2.60

.75

 

2.78

.73

2. T1 discussed politics

.29

.17

.46

.16

.11

.21

.31

−.04

 

1.90

.62

 

2.09

.69

3. T2 pluralistic orientation

.43

.13

.30

.31

.05

.29

.23

.02

 

2.57

.70

 

2.75

.75

4. T2 discussed politics

.21

.42

.27

.23

.09

.28

.40

.00

 

1.88

.66

 

2.05

.64

5. T2 curricular/co-curricular engagement

.24

.15

.32

.19

.11

.26

.14

.03

 

1.51

.37

 

1.55

.36

6. T2 cross-racial interaction

.12

.13

.15

.18

.21

−.04

.03

−.09

 

2.61

.52

 

2.26

.65

7. T3 discussed racial issues

.20

.29

.18

.45

.20

.20

.37

.10

 

2.14

.61

 

2.38

.61

8. T3 keep up to date on politics

.21

.37

.21

.50

.10

.20

.45

.08

 

2.26

.93

 

2.47

.93

9. T3 news consumption

.10

.07

.07

.08

.10

.11

.07

.09

 

2.29

.74

 

2.37

.77

Note: The correlations for the Asian American sample are below the diagonal, and the correlations for the underrepresented students of color sample are above the diagonal.

Significant correlations (p < .05) are in bold.


ANALYSES


Path analysis is particularly useful for this study because previous research indicated that the effects of college diversity experiences would often be indirect (i.e., they would primarily be mediated by Time 2 outcomes), so we tested for the statistical significance of direct, indirect, and total effects.1 We utilized Mplus Version 7.2 to conduct analyses because this software provides goodness-of-fit indices. As shown in Figure 1, various direct paths were included in the model: The Time 1 baseline measures predicted each college diversity experience, the college diversity experiences and corresponding baseline measures predicted each Time 2 outcome (pluralistic orientation and discussing politics), and the college diversity experiences and the Time 2 outcomes predicted each Time 3 outcome (discussing racial issues, keeping up to date on politics, and news consumption). We first conducted the analysis on the overall sample. Then, because these relationships may vary by racial/ethnic group, we conducted separate analyses for Whites/Caucasians, Asian Americans,2 and underrepresented students of color. For this last group, we combined the African American, Latino/a, American Indian, and “other” students together due to small sample sizes and because these groups are underrepresented on college campuses and are likely to be more similar to one another as compared to Asian American students.3 For each of the direct and indirect paths of interest in our model (i.e., from diversity experiences to outcomes), we also examined whether the unstandardized beta coefficients for each racial/ethnic group were significantly different from the corresponding values for the other two groups (Engberg & Hurtado, 2011; Park, 2009; Sax, Bryant, & Harper, 2005).

Figure 1. Hypothesized path model influencing development of postcollege informed citizenship

[39_21939.htm_g/00001.jpg]

Figure 2. Path model for overall sample
[39_21939.htm_g/00002.jpg]

Solid lines indicate statistically significant effects; dashed lines indicate insignificant effects.
Fit indices: CFI =.980; TLI =.911; RMSEA =.059.
*p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001.

Figure 3. Path model for White/Caucasian sample


[39_21939.htm_g/00003.jpg]

Solid lines indicate statistically significant effects; dashed lines indicate insignificant effects.
Fit indices: CFI = .979; TLI = .905; RMSEA = .059.
*p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001.

Figure 4. Path model for Asian American sample


[39_21939.htm_g/00004.jpg]
Solid lines indicate statistically significant effects; dashed lines indicate insignificant effects.
Fit indices: CFI = .994; TLI = .972; RMSEA = .039.
*p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001.

Figure 5. Path model for underrepresented students of color sample
[39_21939.htm_g/00005.jpg]
Solid lines indicate statistically significant effects; dashed lines indicate insignificant effects.
Fit indices: CFI = .984; TLI = .926; RMSEA = .056
*p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001.

LIMITATIONS


This study had some limitations. First, White/Caucasian students and female students were somewhat overrepresented in the sample as compared to the population at large when the study was conducted (Astin, Korn, Sax, & Mahoney, 1994). However, the use of subgroup analyses mitigates the concern of overrepresentation by race to some extent, because we conducted separate analyses by racial/ethnic group. The dataset is also limited to only those institutions that participated in the surveys and is not representative of all U.S. institutions or all students attending those institutions. In our institutional sample, private institutions were overrepresented (85.2%), as were, in particular, private colleges (74.2%).


However, subjects’ average SAT scores were approximately 990 (991 for private institutions and 986 for public institutions), which is virtually identical to the national average SAT score at that time. In addition, the follow-up response rate was 48%, so it is possible that there is a nonresponse bias. However, because we were only able to obtain this secondary dataset for those alumni who had responded to all three surveys, we were not able to test the extent of nonresponse bias. Second, we only included a limited number of carefully chosen variables, given our limited sample sizes by racial/ethnic group and the importance of parsimony in path analyses. Thus, it is possible that some of the associations detected in our study may also be partially attributable to other constructs not included in the present study. Third, this study is nonexperimental in nature, in that students choose to engage (or not) in college diversity activities, so self-selection may be an issue. However, recent research that utilized propensity score matching to control for self-selection into a student organization showed that the effects of organization participation after college still persisted when this form of matching was conducted (Bowman, Park, & Denson, 2015).


Fourth, while we combined the African American, Latino/a, American Indian, and “other” students together due to small sample sizes, there are likely qualitative differences in these heterogeneous student groups that warrant separate detailed analysis in future research with larger samples. Fifth, our sample of institutions included only three historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and no tribal colleges, so we cannot make strong conclusions about other institutions or contexts where White/Caucasian students are the minority. Last, while we chose variables to reflect behaviors related to citizenship development within a deliberative democracy, there are likely other behaviors and attitudes that reflect other dimensions of the concept, particularly in terms of sensitivity to issues related to race/ethnicity and diversity. For instance, the inclusion of the variable “news consumption” may not fully reflect the nuances involved in the formation and discussion of opinions. Further, there are other facets of democratic citizenship development within a deliberative democracy that were not included in the survey. Future qualitative research is well suited to capture the textured experiences and behaviors that contribute to civic engagement, as well as survey research specifically designed to capture aspects of deliberative democracy. Despite these limitations, the present study provides a unique opportunity to contribute to our understanding of the long-term effects of college diversity experiences on students after college.


RESULTS

The following section is presented in order of the research questions; these include findings for the whole sample first, followed by findings comparing the three racial/ethnic groups.

TO WHAT EXTENT DO COLLEGE DIVERSITY EXPERIENCES HAVE A DIRECT EFFECT ON POSTCOLLEGE INFORMED CITIZENSHIP?

Within the overall sample, the goodness-of-fit indices suggested that the data had acceptable to good fit to the model (CFI = 0.980; TLI = 0.911; RMSEA = 0.059). The top of Table 4 presents the direct effects of college experiences on both the college senior-year outcomes and postcollege outcomes for the overall sample. Students’ entering pluralistic orientation and prior discussion of politics had the largest direct effects on their respective senior-year outcomes. Moreover, both cross-racial interaction and curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement had significant positive effects on both pluralistic orientation and discussing politics at the end of the senior year. Taken together, curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement showed stronger relationships with senior-year outcomes, as compared to cross-racial interaction. In terms of postcollege outcomes, the most consistent significant relationships were seen for discussing racial issues: Both types of diversity experiences had positive direct effects on this postcollege outcome. For the postcollege outcomes of keeping up to date on politics and news consumption, however, there was a small significant negative direct effect of cross-racial interaction.

Table 4. Decomposition of Effects from Path Analysis for Overall Sample (N = 8,634)

 

Effects

B

SE

β

R2

Direct effects

     

Discussed racial issues

    

.198

 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

.047

.016

.042

**

 
 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

.142

.016

.133

***

 
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 2)

.198

.014

.211

***

 
 

Discussed politics (Time 2)

.223

.013

.246

***

 

Keep up to date on politics

    

.255

 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

−.031

.015

−.027

*

 
 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

-.011

.015

−.010

  
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 2)

.143

.012

.147

***

 
 

Discussed politics (Time 2)

.429

.013

.454

***

 

News consumption

    

.008

 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

−.048

.015

-.048

**

 
 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

.009

.014

.010

  
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 2)

.058

.012

.068

***

 
 

Discussed politics (Time 2)

−.046

.012

−.056

***

 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 2)

    

.295

 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

.084

.014

.072

***

 
 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

.262

.014

.229

***

 
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 1)

.729

.020

.412

***

 

Discussed politics (Time 2)

    

.336

 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

.123

.016

.101

***

 
 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

.166

.015

.140

***

 
 

Discussed politics (Time 1)

.997

.023

.516

***

 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

    

.029

 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 1)

.183

.019

.122

***

 
 

Discussed politics (Time 1)

.149

.021

.093

***

 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

    

.077

 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 1)

.379

.018

.246

***

 

 

Discussed politics (Time 1)

.142

.020

.087

***

 

Indirect effects

     

Discussed racial issues

     
 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

.044

.005

.040

***

 
 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

.089

.006

.083

***

 
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 1)

.249

.012

.150

***

 
 

Discussed politics (Time 1)

.269

.015

.153

***

 

Keep up to date on politics

     
 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

.065

.008

.057

***

 
 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

.109

.008

.098

***

 
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 1)

.148

.011

.086

***

 
 

Discussed politics (Time 1)

.446

.015

.245

***

 

News consumption

     
 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

−.001

.002

−.001

  
 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

.008

.004

.008

*

 
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 1)

.040

.010

.027

***

 
 

Discussed politics (Time 1)

−.051

.012

−.032

***

 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 2)

     
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 1)

.115

.007

.065

***

 
 

Discussed politics (Time 1)

.050

.006

.027

***

 

Discussed politics (Time 2)

     
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 1)

.085

.007

.047

***

 

 

Discussed politics (Time 1)

.042

.005

.022

***

 

* p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001.

     


TO WHAT EXTENT DO COLLEGE DIVERSITY EXPERIENCES HAVE AN INDIRECT EFFECT ON POSTCOLLEGE INFORMED CITIZENSHIP?

The bottom of Table 4 presents the indirect effects of the college experiences on all of the outcomes. Cross-racial interaction had a significant positive indirect effect on both discussing racial issues and keeping up to date on politics, but did not have any indirect effect on news consumption. On the other hand, curricular/co-curricular diversity activities had a positive indirect effect on all three postcollege outcomes. For postcollege discussion of racial issues, the effects of curricular/co-curricular diversity experiences were largely direct, while the effects of cross-racial interaction were similar to one another in magnitude across both direct and indirect effects. For keeping up to date on politics after college, the indirect effects of these two diversity experiences were positive and larger in magnitude, compared to the direct negative effect of cross-racial interaction on this outcome. For news consumption, while there was a small positive indirect effect of curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement, there was also a small negative direct effect of cross-racial interaction.

TO WHAT EXTENT DO THE DIRECT EFFECTS OF COLLEGE DIVERSITY EXPERIENCES ON POSTCOLLEGE INFORMED CITIZENSHIP DIFFER BY RACIAL/ETHNIC GROUP?

We then examined the results separately by race/ethnicity to assess whether the pattern of findings differed across subgroups. The goodness-of-fit indices suggest that the data had acceptable to good fit to the model for all three racial/ethnic groups: Whites/Caucasians (CFI = 0.979; TLI = 0.905; RMSEA = 0.059), Asian Americans (CFI = 0.994; TLI = 0.972; RMSEA = 0.039), and underrepresented students of color (CFI = 0.984; TLI = 0.986; RMSEA = 0.056). The top of Table 5 presents the direct effects of the college experiences on college senior-year outcomes and postcollege outcomes for the various racial/ethnic groups. For all three groups, the largest direct effects on the senior-year outcomes were the baseline measures for those outcomes. These relationships do not differ significantly across the racial/ethnic groups.


Table 5. Decomposition of Effects from Path Analysis by Subgroup

 
  

Whites/Caucasians
(N = 7,600)

 

Asian Americans
(N = 286)

 

Underrepresented
students of color
(N = 683)

Effects

B

SE

β

R2

 

B

SE

β

R2

 

B

SE

β

R2

Direct effects

                 

Discussed racial issues

    

.181

     

.363

     

.246

 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

.064

.017

.059

***U

  

.142

.082

.116

U

  

-.131

.052

−.114

*WA

 
 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

.119

.017

.111

***

  

.111

.083

.092

   

.196

.056

.184

***

 
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 2)

.199

.015

.212

***A

  

.030

.077

.028

W

  

.200

.048

.210

***

 
 

Discussed politics (Time 2)

.209

.014

.232

***A

  

.535

.088

.520

***WU

 

.245

.046

.269

***A

 

Keep up to date on politics

    

.249

     

.397

     

.258

 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

−.037

.017

−.033

*A

  

.171

.084

.136

*W

  

-.009

.048

-.007

  
 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

−.009

.016

-−.008

   

-.095

.084

-.077

   

-.013

.047

-.012

  
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 2)

.149

.013

.153

***

  

.098

.062

.090

   

.107

.042

.111

*

 
 

Discussed politics (Time 2)

.422

.014

.449

***A

  

.601

.076

.568

***WU

 

.424

.044

.462

***A

 

News consumption

    

.009

     

.035

     

.018

 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

−.054

.016

-.055

**A

  

.109

.078

.109

WU

  

-.117

.048

-.117

*A

 
 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

−.013

.015

-−013

   

.070

.066

.072

   

.056

.047

.059

  
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 2)

.058

.013

.068

***

  

.031

.058

.037

   

.031

.043

.037

  
 

Discussed politics (Time 2)

−.047

.013

−.057

***

  

.046

.062

.055

   

-.033

.042

-.041

  

Pluralistic orientation (Time 2)

    

.282

     

.289

     

.316

 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

.101

.016

.087

***

  

.059

.091

.051

   

.017

.049

.014

  
 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

.261

.015

.228

***

  

.289

.069

.254

***

  

.219

.052

.195

***

 
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 1)

.726

.022

.405

***

  

.618

.092

.392

***

  

.761

.072

.458

***

 

Discussed politics (Time 2)

    

.335

     

.325

     

.374

 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

.145

.017

.120

***U

  

.147

.087

.123

   

.012

.054

.010

W

 
 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

.160

.016

.135

***

  

.150

.080

.129

   

.247

.050

.211

***

 
 

Discussed politics (Time 1)

.991

.025

.509

***

  

.983

.146

.495

***

  

.995

.081

.537

***

 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

    

.028

     

.045

     

.016

 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 1)

.159

.021

.103

***

  

.185

.102

.136

   

.039

.061

.028

  
 

Discussed politics (Time 1)

.178

.022

.110

***

  

.208

.128

.124

   

.170

0.07

.115

*

 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

  

.059

     

.078

     

.144

 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 1)

.316

.020

.202

***U

  

.349

.093

.252

***

  

.517

.061

.348

***W

 

Discussed politics (Time 1)

.161

.021

.099

***

 

 

.107

.114

.063

 

 

 

.137

.068

.087

*

 

Indirect effects

                 

Discussed racial issues

                 
 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

.050

.006

.046

***U

  

.080

.048

.066

   

.006

.018

.005

W

 
 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

.085

.006

.080

***

  

.089

.049

.074

   

.104

.022

.098

***

 
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 1)

.227

.013

.135

***

  

.129

.063

.078

*U

  

.303

.047

.191

***A

 
 

Discussed politics (Time 1)

.261

.015

.149

***A

  

.593

.108

.291

***WU

 

.264

.051

.156

***A

 

Keep up to date on politics

                 
 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

.076

.008

.067

***U

  

.094

.054

.075

   

.007

.025

.006

W

 
 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

.107

.009

.095

***

  

.119

.054

.096

*

  

.128

.025

.119

***

 
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 1)

.145

.011

.083

***

  

.118

.052

.069

*

  

.140

.039

.088

***

 
 

Discussed politics (Time 1)

.441

.016

.241

***

  

.648

.106

.309

***

  

.437

.051

.257

***

 

News consumption

                 
 

Cross-racial interaction (Time 2)

-.001

.002

-.001

   

.009

.010

.009

   

.000

.002

.000

  
 

Curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement (Time 2)

.007

.004

.008

   

.016

.018

.016

   

-.001

.012

−.002

  
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 1)

.031

.010

.021

**

  

.071

.044

.053

   

.047

.037

.034

  
 

Discussed politics (Time 1)

-.057

.013

-.036

***A

  

.079

.062

.047

W

  

-.045

.042

−.031

  

Pluralistic orientation (Time 2)

                 
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 1)

.099

.008

.055

***

  

.112

.040

.071

**

  

.114

.029

.068

***

 
 

Discussed politics (Time 1)

.060

.007

.032

***

  

.043

.040

.022

   

.033

.019

.019

  

Discussed politics (Time 2)

                 
 

Pluralistic orientation (Time 1)

.074

.007

.040

***

  

.080

.037

.049

*

  

.128

.031

.074

***

 

 

Discussed politics (Time 1)

.052

.006

.027

***

 

 

.046

.033

.023

 

 

 

.036

.020

.019

 

 

Note. Group differences indicated by W = White/Caucasian, A = Asian American, U = Underrepresented students of color.

        

* p < .05, ** p < .01, *** p < .001.

                 


The most consistent and largest effects for the diversity experiences occurred among White/Caucasian students. Specifically, curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement and cross-racial interaction had significant positive effects on both pluralistic orientation and discussing politics in the senior year. For Asian American students, only curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement had a significant positive effect on pluralistic orientation in the senior year, whereas for underrepresented students of color, curricular/co-curricular diversity activities had significant positive effects on both pluralistic orientation and discussing politics at the end of college. Furthermore, the positive direct effect of cross-racial interaction on senior-year discussion of politics was significantly stronger for White/Caucasian students than for underrepresented students of color.

Table 5 also presents the direct effects of college diversity experiences on postcollege outcomes by racial/ethnic group. For White/Caucasian students, both college diversity experiences had positive direct effects on discussing racial issues. However, there were significant negative direct effects of cross-racial interaction on both keeping up to date on politics and news consumption after college among Whites/Caucasians. For Asian Americans, there was only a positive direct effect of cross-racial interaction on keeping up to date on politics after college, while neither of the college diversity experiences had any direct effects on discussing racial issues or news consumption six years after college. For the underrepresented students of color, curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement had a significant positive direct effect on discussing racial issues after college, but cross-racial interaction had negative direct effects on both discussing racial issues and news consumption after college. Neither college diversity experience had any direct effect on keeping up to date on politics for the underrepresented students of color.

Comparing the direct effects of cross-racial interaction on the postcollege outcomes across race/ethnicity, we found a significant negative direct effect of cross-racial interaction on discussion of racial issues for underrepresented students of color; this relationship differs significantly from the positive effect for White/Caucasian students and the nonsignificant effect for Asian American students. For keeping up to date on politics, cross-racial interaction was a significant positive predictor for Asian American students, whereas it was a significant negative predictor for White/Caucasian students; this group disparity was also significant. In terms of news consumption, cross-racial interaction had no direct effect for Asian American students, but had a significant negative direct effect for both White/Caucasian students and underrepresented students of color. As a result, the coefficient for Asian American students was significantly larger than those for both of the other samples. The direct effects of curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement on all three postcollege outcomes did not differ significantly among the three racial/ethnic groups.

TO WHAT EXTENT DO THE INDIRECT EFFECTS OF COLLEGE DIVERSITY EXPERIENCES ON POSTCOLLEGE INFORMED CITIZENSHIP DIFFER BY RACIAL/ETHNIC GROUP?

The bottom of Table 5 presents the indirect effects of the college experiences on the outcomes for the various racial/ethnic groups. Among White/Caucasian students, there were significant positive indirect effects of both curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement and cross-racial interaction on discussing racial issues and keeping up to date on politics postcollege. For Asian American students, only curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement had a positive indirect effect on keeping up to date on politics after college; for underrepresented students of color, there were significant positive indirect effects of curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement on both discussing racial issues and keeping up to date on politics six years after college. Comparing these relationships across racial/ethnic groups, the only significant differences in the indirect effects were for cross-racial interaction and the outcomes of discussing racial issues and keeping up to date on politics after college. In particular, these indirect effects were significantly greater among White/Caucasian students than among underrepresented students of color. The indirect effects of curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement on the postcollege outcomes did not differ significantly among the three racial/ethnic groups.

DISCUSSION

In general, both interpersonal and curricular/co-curricular diversity experiences had consistent positive effects on both pluralistic orientation and discussing politics at the end of senior year. Comparing the magnitude of those effects, curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement appears to have a stronger relationship with senior-year outcomes than cross-racial interaction. The larger effects seen for curricular/co-curricular diversity experiences, compared to interpersonal diversity experiences, can be explained by the content of those experiences. For example, ethnic studies courses are likely to include content about the historical, social, economic, and cultural experiences of a specific ethnic group, which is more directly linked to pluralistic orientation and discussing politics as compared to informal interactions with diverse others that occur as part of normal campus life (e.g., while dining or socializing).

For postcollege discussion of racial issues, the effects of curricular/co-curricular diversity experiences are mostly direct, meaning that they are largely not explained by gains during the college years. In contrast, the effects of curricular/co-curricular diversity experiences are largely indirect for both keeping up to date on politics and news consumption. So while these curricular/co-curricular diversity experiences appear to have a direct effect on discussing racial issues even six years after college, perhaps these diversity experiences have only an indirect effect on these two postcollege outcomes because they are not specifically race-related. In other words, curricular/co-curricular diversity experiences may lead students on a course toward informed citizenship via increased pluralistic orientation and increased likelihood of discussing politics at the end of college, which then leads to changes that persist years after college. These findings are consistent with Gurin et al. (2002) and Crisp and Turner’s (2011) frameworks that suggest that some benefits of college diversity experiences can occur indirectly, which seems to be the case for postcollege outcomes that are not specifically race- or diversity-related.
This pattern of findings is consistent with past research that shows that the relationship between college diversity experiences and various outcomes can have differing patterns of effects, depending on the college diversity experience and the postcollege outcome (Bowman et al., 2011; Gurin, 1999; Jayakumar, 2008). For instance, Jayakumar (2008) found that ethnic-studies coursework had positive direct and indirect effects on pluralistic orientation postcollege, but it had only a positive indirect effect on leadership (an outcome unrelated to race/diversity). Bowman et al. (2011) found that taking an ethnic studies course and participating in a racial/cultural awareness workshop had positive indirect effects on recognition of racism and volunteer work 13 years after college, but had no effects on other outcomes unrelated to race or diversity (e.g., life satisfaction).

This study also disaggregated the findings by racial/ethnic group to examine whether this pattern of findings held for White/Caucasian students, Asian American students, and underrepresented students of color. There did not appear to be much difference between the White students and students of color in terms of the effects of diversity experiences on the two senior-year outcomes. In particular, only one of the four nonsignificant results for students of color differed significantly from White students in the between-group comparisons. Future research should examine more closely the possible differences in these relationships across various racial/ethnic groups.

For the postcollege outcomes, there were no between-group differences in the direct effects of curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement on all three postcollege outcomes. However, there were between-group differences in the direct effects of cross-racial interaction on the postcollege outcomes. For discussing racial issues, cross-racial interaction had a negative direct effect for underrepresented students of color, which differed from the positive direct effect it had for White and Asian American students. For keeping up to date on politics, the direct effect of cross-racial interaction differed only between White (negative effect) and Asian American students (positive effect). For news consumption, cross-racial interaction had direct negative effects for White students and underrepresented students of color, which differed from the direct positive effect it had for Asian American students.

There were even fewer between-group differences in the indirect effects of college diversity experiences on the three postcollege outcomes. As with the direct effects, there were no between-group differences in the indirect effects of curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement on any of the three postcollege outcomes. For discussing racial issues and keeping up to date on politics, the positive indirect effects of cross-racial interaction for White students differed from the nonsignificant indirect effects of cross-racial interaction for underrepresented students of color only. Thus, college diversity experiences appear to have positive effects, both direct and indirect, for the two groups of students of color almost as often as for White students in terms of postcollege outcomes. Taken together, college diversity experiences have beneficial long-term outcomes for all students. However, our findings also show that there is variation in how college diversity experiences affect students of color, and the pattern of findings differs depending on the student’s racial/ethnic group. While cross-racial interaction had a positive effect on discussing racial issues and news consumption after college, these effects were both negative for underrepresented students of color. Future research should examine the underlying reasons for or causes of this difference.

Our findings illustrate the complexity of results across different experiences, outcomes, and student groups. While there is no particularly strong overarching pattern, our study suggests that there are more positive direct effects of these college diversity experiences on multiple postcollege outcomes for Asian American students as compared to White students. Cross-racial interaction in college was associated with increased discussion of racial issues and keeping up to date on politics for Asian American students but was associated with decreased discussion of racial issues and keeping abreast of politics for White students. However, there are larger and more indirect effects of college diversity experiences on multiple outcomes for White students as compared to underrepresented students of color. Cross-racial interaction had a positive indirect effect on discussing racial issues and keeping up to date on politics for White students, whereas cross-racial interaction in college had no effect on these two postcollege outcomes for underrepresented students of color. Future research should examine in more depth the nature and quality of cross-racial interaction that students have during college, which may shed some light on the variation in the findings.
Overall, the findings show that White/Caucasian students benefit at least as much—and usually more—from these activities as students of color. These findings also highlight the need to examine the relationships between diversity experiences and outcomes separately by racial/ethnic group, as these relationships may vary as a function of students’ race. It would be even better to disaggregate students of color further by racial/ethnic group, given not only the variation in their experiences but also the potential effects of those experiences on subsequent outcomes. For example, Asian Americans are a large, heterogeneous group that also includes underrepresented minorities (e.g., Pacific Islanders, Southeast Asians). Future research should examine more closely the similarities and differences in the pattern of results among students of color.

CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS

The importance of promoting an informed citizenry has been a consistent theme among those who support diversity efforts in higher education (e.g., Engberg, 2007; Gurin, 1999; Jayakumar, 2008), but this assertion has received very little direct empirical attention. The current study has a number of notable strengths that improve upon previous research. First, most of the outcomes measured alumni’s actual behaviors, rather than attitudes, values, or behavioral intentions. Second, these data were longitudinal, so problems associated with accurately recalling experiences and outcomes well after graduation were substantially reduced. Third, this study examined a large number of students and institutions, which improves the generalizability of the findings. Fourth, both direct and indirect effects of college diversity experiences on postcollege outcomes were examined. Fifth, separate analyses were conducted for Whites/Caucasians, Asian Americans, and underrepresented students of color.

Overall, this study adds to the existing knowledge base by making a key contribution to the limited research on the long-term benefits of diversity experiences as well as the dimensions of higher education that inform active citizenship in a deliberative democracy. It examines the complex relationships—both direct and indirect effects—associated with these college diversity experiences and outcomes after college and how these relationships vary by racial/ethnic group. We found a direct positive effect of both cross-racial interaction and curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement on discussing racial issues six years after graduation, as well as indirect positive effects on discussing racial issues, keeping up to date with politics, and news consumption after college. The use of three time points across the span of ten years enabled us to explore how the outcomes associated with postsecondary diversity engagement persist beyond the college years, which provides additional support for the educational benefits of diversity for informed citizenship among graduates.
In terms of implications, the current study’s findings point to the particular importance of cross-racial interaction and curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement in higher education. Since colleges and universities are the training grounds for our country’s future leaders, it is imperative that they provide opportunities to maximize engagement around diversity to prepare students for a deliberative, informed, and active citizenship beyond college. Thus, institutions should prioritize policies that increase the structural racial diversity of their student body and increase opportunities for students to engage in curricular and co-curricular diversity activities (e.g., by implementing diversity course requirements or increasing the number of racial/ethnic student organizations on campus). In addition, institutions should be thinking about the longer-term benefits of these college diversity experiences even if they are not evident in the short term, as our research shows that the benefits persist into the years following graduation. If institutions are looking to document and demonstrate the effectiveness of certain diversity initiatives, they should monitor students in the years following graduation and into adulthood. Last, our study showed that these college diversity experiences have beneficial effects in the longer term (both direct and indirect) for students of color almost as often as for White students. Thus, the current findings also point to the particular importance of maximizing opportunities for cross-racial interaction and curricular/co-curricular diversity engagement for all students, regardless of their race/ethnicity. Our study, like previous research, provides support for admissions policies that ensure the representation of racially diverse students.

In her dissent in Schuette v. BAMN (2014), Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor passionately articulated that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race” (p. 46). Supporting the claim of Justice Sotomayor, discussion of racial issues is a necessary component of the broader dialogue around social justice issues in a society that is still divided by race (Park, 2013). Two outcomes in our study—news consumption and keeping up to date with politics —are important to having a citizenry that is cognizant of and knowledgeable about current political and social events, regardless of political affiliation or orientation. The university is the first setting in which many young (and older) adults interact across racial/ethnic lines and engage in diversity activities. These experiences during the college years are critical for nurturing citizens who are actively engaged in discussing the pertinent issues of today and tomorrow: the foundation of a deliberative democracy.

As colleges and universities consider how they support a diverse student body during college, they should remember that the initiatives they implement have ripple effects beyond the undergraduate years. Institutions seek to promote a positive campus racial climate to support students in the here-and-now, day-to-day rhythms of campus life, but this study shows that there may be long-term effects associated with engaging in cross-racial interaction and curricular/co-curricular diversity opportunities. Thus, our findings underscore the critical importance of working to support a positive campus racial climate, which other research has shown can be enhanced by maximizing an institution’s structural diversity (a necessary pre-condition for cross-racial interaction) and opportunities for students to engage issues of diversity both inside and outside of the classroom (Hurtado & Ponjuan, 2005; Museus, Nichols, & Lambert, 2008; Park & Kim, 2013). Other recent research has pointed to the importance of socioeconomic diversity in maximizing cross-racial interaction (Park, Denson, & Bowman, 2013); thus, universities also need to be attuned to the role of social and other forms of diversity (e.g., religious) in priming a healthy campus racial climate. Given the need for a broad spectrum of our citizenry to be prepared to discuss difficult issues—those related to race, in particular—preparing students during the college years through engagement with peers of other races and participating in diversity activities sets the stage for how individuals will engage these issues during their adult lives.

Notes

1. We considered employing multilevel analyses to account for the nesting of students within institutions. However, the intraclass correlations for the Time 3 outcomes were small (less than .05), and no institution-level variables were included in the model, so single-level analyses were conducted. To account for the nonnormality and/or ordinal scales of some variables, we utilized the WLSMV estimator (Muthén & Muthén, 2012). We used the following goodness-of-fit indices to assess absolute model fit (Tabachnick & Fidell, 2007): the comparative fit index (CFI), the Tucker Lewis index (TLI), and the root mean-square error of approximation (RMSEA). CFI and TLI values between .90 and .95 are acceptable, and values above .95 are good, while RMSEA values less than .06 reflect good fit to the data (Hu & Bentler, 1999).
2. Some Asian/Asian American students may also be underrepresented (e.g., Pacific Islanders).
3. Preliminary analyses showed fairly similar coefficients across these groups.

Acknowledgment

This research was generously supported by the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects funding scheme.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 119 Number 8, 2017, p. 1-41
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21939, Date Accessed: 1/25/2022 2:44:37 PM

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About the Author
  • Nida Denson
    Western Sydney University
    E-mail Author
    NIDA DENSON is a senior research fellow in the School of Social Sciences and Psychology at Western Sydney University. Her research interests include diversity and diversity-related initiatives in education, racism, educational contexts and campus climates, and faculty work-life balance. Her recent work has been published in Educational Researcher, Journal of Higher Education, and Research in Higher Education.
  • Nicholas Bowman
    University of Iowa
    E-mail Author
    NICHOLAS A. BOWMAN is an associate professor in the Department of Educational Policy and Leadership Studies at the University of Iowa and the director of the Center for Research on Undergraduate Education. His research interests include college diversity, college student success, quantitative methodological issues, and perceptions of student and institutional quality. He is an author of the third volume of How College Affects Students (2016).
  • Julie Park
    University of Maryland, College Park
    E-mail Author
    JULIE J. PARK is assistant professor of education (Student Affairs, Department of Counseling, Higher Education, Special Education) at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research addresses race, diversity, and equity in higher education. She is the author of When Diversity Drops: Race, Religion, and Affirmative Action in Higher Education (2013), an examination of how universities are affected by bans on affirmative action. A research advisory board member for the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education, her work has been published in numerous academic journals, as well as The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.
 
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