Interracial Roommates Can Reduce Prejudice

Tamar Lewin, New York Times, July 8, 2009

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Several recent studies, at Ohio State and elsewhere, have found that having a roommate of a different race can reduce prejudice, diversify friendships and even boost black students’ academic performance. But, the research found, such relationships are more stressful and more likely to break up than same-race pairings.

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Russell H. Fazio, an Ohio State psychology professor who has studied interracial roommates there and at Indiana University, discovered an intriguing academic effect. In a study analyzing data on thousands of Ohio State freshmen who lived in dorms, he found that black freshmen who came to college with high standardized test scores earned better grades if they had a white roommate–even if the roommate’s test scores were low. The roommate’s race had no effect on the grades of white students or low-scoring black students. Perhaps, the study speculated, having a white roommate helps academically prepared black students adjust to a predominantly white university.

That same study found that randomly assigned interracial roommates at Ohio State broke up before the end of the quarter about twice as often as same-race roommates.

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