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Diversity Challenge, The

Diversity Challenge, The: Social Identity and Intergroup Relations on the College Campus

Jim Sidanius
Shana Levin
Colette van Laar
David O. Sears
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Russell Sage Foundation
Pages: 460
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  • Book Info
    Diversity Challenge, The
    Book Description:

    College campuses provide ideal natural settings for studying diversity: they allow us to see what happens when students of all different backgrounds sit side by side in classrooms, live together in residence halls, and interact in one social space. By opening a window onto the experiences and evolving identities of individuals in these exceptionally diverse environments, we can gain a better understanding of the possibilities and challenges we face as a multicultural nation. The Diversity Challenge—the largest and most comprehensive study to date on college campus diversity—synthesizes over five years’ worth of research by an interdisciplinary team of experts to explore how a highly diverse environment and policies that promote cultural diversity affect social relations, identity formation, and a variety of racial and political attitudes. The result is a fascinating case study of the ways in which individuals grow and groups interact in a world where ethnic and racial difference is the norm. The authors of The Diversity Challenge followed 2,000 UCLA students for five years in order to see how diversity affects identities, attitudes, and group conflicts over time. They found that racial prejudice generally decreased with exposure to the ethnically diverse college environment. Students who were randomly assigned to roommates of a different ethnicity developed more favorable attitudes toward students of different backgrounds, and the same associations held for friendship and dating patterns. By contrast, students who interacted mainly with others of similar backgrounds were more likely to exhibit bias toward others and perceive discrimination against their group. Likewise, the authors found that involvement in ethnically segregated student organizations sharpened perceptions of discrimination and aggravated conflict between groups. The Diversity Challenge also reports compelling new evidence that a strong ethnic identity can coexist with a larger community identity: students from all ethnic groups were equally likely to identify themselves as a part of the broader UCLA community. Overall, the authors note that on many measures, the racial and political attitudes of the students were remarkably consistent throughout the five year study. But the transformations that did take place provide us with a wealth of information on how diversity affects individuals, groups, and the cohesion of a community. Theoretically informed and empirically grounded, The Diversity Challenge is an illuminating and provocative portrait of one of the most diverse college campuses in the nation. The story of multicultural UCLA has significant and far-reaching implications for our nation, as we face similar challenges—and opportunities—on a much larger scale.

    eISBN: 978-1-61044-727-0
    Subjects: Psychology, Education, Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. About the Authors (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments (pp. ix-x)
  5. PART I Theoretical Background and Overview of the Study
    • Chapter 1 Introduction (pp. 3-8)

      Ethnic diversity in the United States has increased substantially in recent years as a result of immigration from abroad and differential birthrates across ethnic groups within the United States. The management of diversity and the assurance of equal opportunity for all Americans across political, educational, and judicial sectors remain hotly debated issues in contemporary American society. While in decades past equality of opportunity at lower levels of education aroused the most debate, in the past twenty years the focus has shifted to diversity in higher education. Attempts to achieve greater ethnic diversity on college and university campuses began in the...

    • Chapter 2 Theoretical Orientations and Major Themes (pp. 9-31)

      Most research on the impact of higher education has focused on outcomes such as academic achievement, long-term earnings, and academic self-esteem; relatively few studies have focused on intergroup relations (for a review of the college impact literature, see Bowen and Bok 1998; Pascarella and Terenzini 1991). The few studies that have examined intergroup attitudes and behavior have generally found that increasing educational and intellectual sophistication appears to be correlated with decreasing levels of ethnocentrism and increasing ethnic tolerance (see Campbell 1971; Greeley and Sheatsley 1971; Schuman, Bobo, and Krysan 1992; Sidanius et al. 1991).

      However, there are several problems with...

    • Chapter 3 The Site and the Study (pp. 32-62)

      Any study in the social sciences is set within a particular historical, political, geographic, and social context. One broad societal context for our study consists of the major changes that were triggered in the 1960s as a consequence of the civil rights movement. The system of formal segregation and discrimination imposed on African Americans from the beginning of European settlement in North America was largely dismantled by that point. The attack on formal inequality soon spread to other ethnic groups, as well as to women, children, the disabled, gays and lesbians, and numerous other groups. These movements affected many domains...

  6. PART II Sociopolitical Attitudes and Group Identities:: The Entering Student and Persisting Differences
    • Chapter 4 Cultural Diversity and Sociopolitical Attitudes at College Entry (pp. 65-99)

      The next three chapters of this volume take a life-history perspective on the attitudes of the college students in our study, tracking their political and racial attitudes across the life course. This approach builds from the scholarly traditions of political socialization and life-span developmental psychology (Sears 1975; Sears and Levy 2003). It typically examines the pre-adult acquisition of attitudes, the college experience as a key intervention in what has been called “the impressionable years” of the life span, and the long-term persistence of such attitudes through adulthood. In these chapters, we deal with three central domains of political and social...

    • Chapter 5 The Overall Effects of College on Students’ Sociopolitical Attitudes (pp. 100-135)

      To what extent did the overall college experience influence the students’ sociopolitical attitudes? Had they completed the basic life task of acquiring such attitudes by college exit? That is, how did their key sociopolitical predispositions stand at college exit relative to those of adults in the general population? This chapter, like the previous one, is framed by symbolic politics theory (Sears 1983, 1993; Sears and Valentino 1997). To reiterate briefly, that theory takes a life-course approach to describing the process of attitude acquisition and thus views the students as being at a particular stage in the political life cycle. Each...

    • Chapter 6 The Origins and Persistence of Ethnic Identity Among the New-Immigrant Groups (pp. 136-162)

      The previous two chapters charted the introduction of our students to the American political and racial systems. The fact that most of them are members of minority groups, however, raises other questions that focus more directly on their specifically racial and ethnic experiences on a multicultural campus. UCLA, like the broader American society and many other Western nations, has become increasingly culturally diverse since the 1960s. The social and political effects of cultural diversification have been much debated. One particular concern is that it might produce ethnic balkanization, stimulating communal conflict and, in extreme cases, violence and the disintegration of...

    • Chapter 7 In Search of a Common Ingroup Identity: National and University Identities (pp. 163-182)

      In chapter 6, we argued that, in some contexts, the ethnic identities of Asian American and Latino students vary more as a function of how close they are to the immigrant experience than as a function of how much discrimination they have experienced as members of minority ethnic groups in the United States. This pattern is consistent with a black exceptionalism hypothesis of race and ethnicity, which proposes that, at least in the United States, a color line divides those of African ancestry from everyone else. According to this model, African Americans are unique in that their high levels of...

  7. PART III The Impact of Specific University Experiences on Sociopolitical Attitudes and Academic Adjustment
    • Chapter 8 The Effects of Close Intergroup Contact: Interethnic Friendship and Dating in College (pp. 185-205)

      In part III of the book, we examine the effects of specific elements of the college experience on students’ intergroup attitudes and social and academic adjustment. In this chapter, using contact theory as our theoretical framework, we examine the effects of interethnic friendships and dating relationships on ethnic attitudes, feelings of belonging in college, and academic commitment, motivation, and performance. Prior work on contact theory has emphasized the importance of favorable conditions of contact for creating positive change in intergroup attitudes. Despite good-faith efforts at promoting positive campus racial climates, many colleges and universities are still struggling to establish and...

    • Chapter 9 The Effects of Contact with Ethnically Diverse Roommates (pp. 206-227)

      Like chapter 8, this chapter examines predictions derived from contact theory. While the previous chapter focused on contact with ethnically diverse friends and dating partners, this chapter examines the effects of living with white, Asian, Latino, and African American roommates on affective, cognitive, and behavioral indicators of prejudice. Specifically, we use data from precollege through students’ senior year to examine the effects of roommate contact in two different ways. First, through a field experimental test, we examine prejudice as a function of living with randomly assigned roommates during students’ freshman year; and second, net of preexisting attitudes, we examine the...

    • Chapter 10 Ethnic Organizations and Ethnic Attitudes on Campus (pp. 228-249)

      In this chapter, we focus on an issue that has been a central focus of the multiculturalism debate for some time, namely, whether ethnically oriented student organizations, such as the African Student Union, the Vietnamese Student Union, and the Latin American Student Association, increase or decrease the level of ethnic tension and conflict on campus. As we recall from chapter 2, scholars weighing in on this debate fall into two camps. On the one hand, there are those who argue that such ethnically oriented student organizations are detrimental to the creation and maintenance of a common student identity and tend...

    • Chapter 11 Minority Ethnic Groups and the University Experience (pp. 250-292)

      In the last few decades, social science researchers have obtained a much better understanding of the social and psychological factors impinging on the achievements of ethnic minority students. Students from some ethnic minority groups are still underrepresented in higher education and show lower academic achievement than their white counterparts. Much of the literature on minority achievement has addressed why these gaps in achievement between white and minority students remain. In this chapter, we take a more focused look at the social- psychological experiences of members of traditionally underrepresented ethnic groups on the university campus, and we examine how these experiences...

  8. PART IV Conclusions
    • Chapter 12 Summary and Theoretical Integration (pp. 295-324)

      This volume began with the observation that a strikingly rapid process of ethnic diversification has been unfolding in the United States over the last forty years. Indeed, the United States, as well as most First World nations, is now home to a vibrant mix of bloodlines, skin tones, languages, and cultural practices. In the United States, this diversification has been driven by a coalescence of forces, including dramatically increased levels of both legal and illegal immigration since 1965, when a series of immigration reform measures was set into motion, and relatively high birthrates among these immigrant groups at a time...

  9. Appendix A: Survey Questions, Scales, and Waves (pp. 325-348)
  10. Appendix B: Table of Scale Reliabilities by Wave (pp. 349-352)
  11. Appendix C: Attrition Analyses (pp. 353-362)
  12. Notes (pp. 363-404)
  13. References (pp. 405-430)
  14. Index (pp. 431-448)