How will racial divisions in student friendship networks change as U.S. schools incorporate a growing Asian and Hispanic population? Drawing on theories of race in assimilation processes and the effects of relative group size on intergroup relations, several hypotheses are developed to address this question. These hypotheses are tested using data on friendships among students in grades 7 to 12 from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Key findings are that (1) cross-race friendships including Asian and Hispanic students are more common than those between white and black students, but race and Hispanic background have significant influences on student friendships that persist over immigrant generations; (2) black or white racial identifications are strongly associated with the friendship choices of Hispanic students; (3) cross-race friendships increase with school racial diversity; and (4) own-group friend selection intensifies for students in small racial minorities in a school. The results support theories of racially segmented patterns of assimilation in primary group relations and suggest that students in small racial minorities seek to maintain a friendship network including several own-race friends. Implications are discussed.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science