Study Shows Benefits of Racial Diversity on College Campuses

A new study to be published by the Russell Sage Foundation shows a positive impact in racial attitudes for college students who are part of a racially diverse student body. The study, whose lead author is James Sidanius, professor of psychology at Harvard University, is entitled The Diversity Challenge: Social Identity and Intergroup Relations on the College Campus.

The study examined the experiences of 2,000 students at the University of California at Los Angeles. Students were surveyed on their racial attitudes before entering college and then after spending a year on campus. At UCLA roommates are assigned randomly. Students who were assigned a roommate of a different race or ethnicity showed a significant gain in their attitudes about people of different races compared to students who had a roommate who was from the same racial or ethnic group. This finding of improved racial attitudes was found regardless of racial attitudes expressed by the student as measured by the preliminary questionnaire.

The study also found that students who joined groups with an ethnic or racial focus and students who joined fraternities and sororities, which tend to have homogeneous memberships, were less likely than other students to show improved racial attitudes within one year of coming to campus.