More than ever before, institutions of higher education are seeking to increase the racial and social class diversity of their student bodies. Given these efforts, the present research asks two broad questions. First, how frequently do intergroup interactions occur across the lines of race and social class, and to what extent do these interactions reflect the diversity of a setting? Second, when cross-race and cross-class interactions occur, how do individuals experience them and what consequences do they have for their outcomes in these settings? Leveraging a longitudinal design and daily diary methods, we conducted the first large study (Ninteractions = 11,460) which tracks the frequency, experience, and consequences of meaningful cross-race and cross-class interactions. We found that students reported far fewer cross-race and cross-class interactions than would occur at chance given the racial and social class diversity of their student bodies. Furthermore, students experienced less satisfaction and perspective-taking in cross-race and cross-class interactions compared to same-race and same-class interactions, respectively. Nevertheless, these cross-group interactions predicted better academic performance for underrepresented racial minority students and students from working and lower class backgrounds. They did so, in part, by increasing students’ feelings of inclusion (i.e., increased belonging and reduced social identity threat). Together, these findings suggest that the mere presence of diversity is not enough to foster meaningful intergroup interactions. Furthermore, fostering intergroup interactions may be one important pathway toward reducing racial and social class disparities.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology
- Sociology and Political Science
- Academic outcomes
- Intergroup interactions
- Social class