Chang, Mitchell J., Denson, Nida, Saenz, Victor, & Misa, Kimberly
The Educational Benefit of Sustaining Cross-Racial Interaction Among Undergraduates
University of California, Los Angeles
Examine the student -and institution- level effects of one key form of diversity - cross-racial interaction.
Journal Name or Institutional Affiliation:
The Journal of Higher Education
Vol. 77, No. 3, pp. 430-455
- Results show that differences in each outcome among students were largely the result of individual differences rather than the result of differences in the types of institutions students attended. Only 3.3% of the variance in the Openness to Diversity measure was due to between-institutions differences, whereas 96.7% of the total variance was explained by differences among students. Similarly only 2.6% and 2.4% of the variance in the Cognitive Development and Self-confidence measures, respectively were due to between-institution differences.
- Findings show that as an institution's average CRI level increased, students' openness to diversity also increased. Specifically a 1 point increase on CRI was on average associated with a .05 point increase on this measure.
- Results suggest that peer average level of cross-racial interaction had no effect on the Self-confidence measure.
- Higher frequencies of interacting with someone of a different race during college have added educational benefits for students.
- Students who have higher levels of CRI tend to report significantly larger gains made since entering college in heir knowledge of and ability to accept different races/cultures, growth in general knowledge; critical thinking ability, and problem-solving skills, and intellectual and social self confidence than their peers who had lower levels of interaction.
- Less than 4% of the variance on any of the three outcomes was explained by institutional differences. Still, the peer average CRI level has a significant positive effect on students' openness to diversity and is marginally significant for cognitive development.
- Findings thus show that the peer average level of cross-racial interaction positively affects students' self-comparison of gains made since entering college, particularly in their knowledge of and ability to accept different races/cultures, beyond a student's own level of cross-racial interaction during college.
- Whatever the specific conditions might be, students who attend campuses with higher peer average CRI levels are not only benefiting from simply observing more students interacting across racial differences, but are in all likelihood also benefiting from the overall institutional quality that sustain positive race relations.
- Findings suggest that campuses that actively and intentionally establish the conditions, culture, climate, and dynamic that sustain higher levels of cross-racial interaction among students might be reassured to know that even those students who report little or no interaction will also likely benefit from institutional efforts to sustain positive race relations.
- Any attempt to theorize the educational relevance of cross-racial interaction should move beyond just a focus on interpersonal relationships and consider how broader aspects of the immediate context that shapes both the quality and frequency of contact might itself lead to benefits.
Journal Article Empirical Research
College, Contact Theory , Cross Race Friendships, Diversity
Secondary Survey Data
Method of Analysis:
Students entering college
Unit of Analysis:
- Data comes from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP), which is housed at the University of California, Los Angeles's Higher Education Research Institute (HERI). The first survey was conducted in 1994 during orientation programs and in the first few weeks of classes to first-time full-time students. Students were administered a second survey in 1998 (Follow-up Survey) at the end of the fourth year, presumably when they were about to graduate).
- Final sample constituted of 19,667 students nested within 227 four-year institutions who were surveyed upon entering college in 1994 and followed up in 1998.
- 227 institutions were sampled. 36 public institutions and 191 private institutions.
- Sample included 17,467 Whites, 802 Asian Americans, 652 Latino/as, 446 African Americans, and 300 American Indians.
- DV: Openness to diversity, cognitive development and self confidence.
- IV: Level of cross-racial interaction (CRI) and the institution's average level of CRI among the student body. Control Variables: Student level (goal of promoting racial understand and 1994 self ratings of academic ability and self-confidence, students' precollege characteristics (race, gender, high school GPA, SES), individual college experiences (living on campus/off campus, working arrangements, civic goals, level of campus involvement in student organizations), institutional level (enrollment size, level of selectivity, and control (public/private), also included aggregate measures of student-level variables for all the students within each institution.
- Computed three separate sets of HLM analyses, one for each outcome variable.
- Two main questions:
- A) Do students who have higher levels of cross-racial interaction (CRI) tend to report higher levels of openness to diversity, cognitive development, and self-confidence than their peers who have lower levels of CRI report?
- B) Do students who attend institutions with higher average peer levels of CRI tend to report higher levels on those same outcomes than their peers who attend institutions with lower average peer levels of CRI report?