Workplace, community engagement helps foster interracial friendship

December 23rd, 2007 - 1:50 pm ICT by admin  

Washington , Dec 23 (ANI): Those who are engaged in community organizations and activities, and indulge in socialization with co-workers are more likely to have interracial friends, than those who do not, reveals a new study.

The landmark study of interracial friendship in America was conducted by Xavier de Souza Briggs, associate professor of sociology and urban planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The study brought to light not just the importance of social class but also the fading influence of neighborhoods in nurturing interracial ties in America .

Despite of their races, people of higher incomes and those with more education have an increasing probability to have more friends overall and to be civic joiners-people who get involved in community organizations and activities.

The study discovered that these two factors have in turn, made it more likely that their social circles include people of other racial backgrounds.

Choices to connect, shaped by the workplace and by associations that structure most of our opportunity to form relationships with people who are not like us, are a much bigger deal than interacting with one’s neighbors, said Briggs.

He added: Despite our romance with the idea of neighborhoods as being cohesive communities, Americans’ friendships and other personal ties have become less centered on their neighborhoods over the past few decades, thanks to changes in communication technology, transportation, and other factors.

The study follows as researchers and advocates alike see widening racial, ethnic and economic discrepancies in American society.

Against this backdrop, researchers emphasized that ties across racial lines can aid in increasing the economic opportunity, give people a broader perspective on public issues and expand their sense of self and community.

These ties, in turn, help contain conflicts among different racial groups, promote wider access to information and influence, and improve the ability to work with others to get things done in diverse communities and organizations.

These friendship ties can act as precious social bridges. Understanding where, how, and for whom they form turns out to have big implications for how our society functions or dysfunctions, said Briggs.

He added: The clear message from this study is that we could be building more of these bridges by engaging people more effectively through the workplace and community organizations.

The study, the largest-ever on interracial friendship, analyzed data from the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, designed and led by Harvard political science professor Robert Putnam, author of the best-selling Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of Community in America .

The survey, completed in 2000, questioned some 30,000 people on their patterns of civic engagement, including participation in faith-based and secular organizations, political attitudes and activism, trust in others, and even informal socializing, such as getting together with co-workers.

The communities covered by the survey range from small and relatively homogeneous cities, such as Lewiston, Maine, to big cities, such as Los Angeles, that are among the most ethnically diverse places in the world.

New York University law professor Cynthia Estlund, the author of Working Together: How Workplace Bonds Strengthen a Diverse Democracy, emphasized the importance of Briggs’ findings about the workplace as a connector, as well as the potential to do more through constructive public policy and employer initiatives.

The strong link that Briggs finds between socializing with co-workers and cross-racial friendships is especially encouraging, said Estlund.

This study appeared in the recent issue of City & Community, the urban research journal of the American Sociological Association. (ANI)

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