Affirmative action and interracial friendships




In two recent cases involving the University of Michigan, the Supreme Court examined whether race should be allowed to play an explicit role in the admission decisions of schools. The primary argument in these court cases and others has been that racial diversity strengthens the quality of education ofered to all students. Underlying this argument is the notion that educational benefits arise if interactions between students of different races improve preparation for life after college by, among other things, fostering mutual understanding and correcting misperceptions. A comprehensive study of this issue would ideally examine two conditions: first, whether students actually have incorrect perceptions about their friendship compatibility with students of other races at the time of college entrance; second, if misperceptions exist, whether diversity on campus is effective in changing students' beliefs about individuals of different races. In this paper we provide, to the best of our knowledge, the first direct evidence about both conditions by taking advantage of unique new data that was collected specifically for this purpose.

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