American Sociological Association

Biracial Identity Development at Historically White and Historically Black Colleges and Universities

This study explores the relationship between biracial identity development and college context. I draw on interviews with 49 black-white biracial first- and second-year students attending historically black colleges/universities (HBCUs) or historically white colleges/universities (HWCUs) and follow-up interviews with the same students at the end of college to explore how and why their racial identities changed over time. Most participants experienced racial identity change over the course of the study, and this change was most often in the direction of a strengthened black identity for both HBCU and HWCU students. An increasing understanding of racism led students at both institutional types to develop stronger black identities. The processes that led to this heightened awareness of racism, however, differed across institutions. Reflected appraisals (HBCU students’ impression that their peers included and accepted them as black and HWCU students’ impression that their white peers excluded and labeled them as nonwhite) also played a role in students’ strengthening black identities, as did increased contact with black peers (especially for HBCU students). This article describes the implications of biracial identity development for biracial students’ psychosocial well-being, campus social adjustment, and college persistence.

Download PDF


Kristen A. Clayton





Starting Page


Ending Page