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Racial Diversity and Attitudes towards Interracial Relationships

Tue, August 14, 8:30 to 10:10am, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 4, 405


Social scientists have long regarded attitudes towards interracial marriage as an indicator of the social boundaries between different racial groups. Several theories explicitly address how these attitudes are shaped by the racial composition of social settings such as schools and neighborhood. Research on this topic is limited in that it focusses on diversity of the current settings of adults and rarely considers the diversity of prior settings (e.g., Perry 2012). In addition, this research relies heavily on self-reports of the diversity of social settings. Yet, the ability of individuals to report the racial composition of these locations may be affected by their current attitudes. Studies that utilize information from other sources (e.g., Census data) to capture the diversity of settings are often focused on the racial composition of larger social contexts, such as counties and metropolitan areas.

In this paper we extend research on this topic by focusing on attitudes about interracial relationships among young adults using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (hereafter Add Health). The design of the Add Health permits a consideration of the racial composition of multiple settings in both adolescence and young adulthood. Its design also enables us to measure the racial composition of friendships networks for both respondents and peers who attend their schools. We draw from theory and research concerning how racially diverse settings and friendship networks are associated with prejudice to develop hypotheses regarding attitudes about interracial relationships. Our results suggest that the effects of racial diversity differ according to the race of respondents.