Lines and Circles? (RJS)

Jesus Creed | 10/17/2019 | Staff
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We all prefer friends who are just like us … personality, age, education, social class, marital status, politics. This is simply human nature it appears – with both good and bad consequences. We tend to self-segregate. Should the church be any different?

I read an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (aka PNAS) a while back where the investigators looked at self-segregation as a function of institution size. Both simulation and survey methods were used in the study. This article, Structural effect of size on interracial friendship, explored the influence that the size of a social context has on the diversity of interactions. The article itself requires a subscription to access, but the results have also made several news stories including this one at Science Daily and this one, School size plays a role in interracial friendships, that found its way to USA Today.

Assumption - People - People - Them - Paper

The general assumption is that people prefer to interact with people who are “like them.” To quote from the paper: “Most social scientists assume that individuals prefer to make friends with people of similar social attributes, including race/ethnicity, relation, age, education, and social class. However, any individual’s likelihood of finding a satisfactory friend in terms of group similarity is constrained by the opportunities available in the person’s social context.” The purpose of the study published in PNAS was to investigate the structural effect of context size while holding everything else constant. The paper focuses on race for comparison of survey data from high schools – but the conclusions are not limited to race. They apply as well to age, education, social class and other selection parameters.

The major conclusions of this PNAS study are:

Total - Context - Size - Effect - Friendship

(1) Total context size has a distinct effect on interracial friendship. An increase in the size of the total group decreases...
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