Bridging and Bonding in the Academic Melting Pot: Cultural Resources and Network Diversity

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Abstract

Understanding how cultural resources shape the formation of social networks is a methodological challenge as well as a theoretical objective, and both are yet to be met. In this study, sociability on college campuses is modeled as a process in which students' prior cultural experiences and the current social structure of the student body work together, affecting the likelihood of friendships that take place within or across racial boundaries. Structural and cultural perspectives are surveyed to develop hypotheses concerning the determinants of interracial friendship, and these hypotheses are tested against a sample of 3,392 students from the National Longitudinal Study of Freshmen. The results suggest that religiosity, political activism, high arts participation, and athletic activities undertaken prior to college affect the diversity of social networks formed in the first year, but work in different directions. The effects of these cultural experiences may be explained by the racial organization of cultural activity on campus.

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