College freshmen are more likely to make friends with peers they share a dorm room or major with than they are to befriend those from similar racial backgrounds, a study on the Facebook profiles of first-year students found.
A paper on the study, which will be published next week in the American Journal of Sociology, was conducted by researchers at Harvard University and the University of California at Los Angeles. They tracked the online profiles of a class of 1,640 students at an unnamed university to see how they chose their friends. Although the researchers did not identify the institution, they said they chose a selective college where the admitted students represent a wide array of geographic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds, and are not likely to spend so much time with high school friends.
Although sociologists have long believed students are drawn together by race, the study suggests they are much more likely to become friends with people they see more often or those who make friendly overtures. “There is a high degree of racial homogeneity in friendship networks, but a lot of it is generated by other ways in which friendships are formed,” said Andreas Wimmer, a professor of sociology at UCLA who led the study.
According to the paper, students were also two and-a-half times more likely to befriend peers from the same state and up to two times more likely to bond over attending an elite prep school than they were to form friendships with people who just shared their racial background. “Race is important in the end,” said Kevin Lewis, a Harvard graduate student who is one of the paper’s authors, “but it’s nowhere near as important as we thought.”
I found this to be fascinating and I was most interested to see that Race was not the top factor in friend selection.
I suspect that less selective and/or more regional universities might have slightly different results based on the makeup of their student body.
I believe these principles carry over into adulthood as well. They have significant implications for the work that I do in Executive Search.
More to follow on that topic.