American Sociological Association

It Starts Early: Toward a Longitudinal Analysis of Interracial Intimacy

Researchers regard interracial intimacy as a mechanism for integration because of the assumption that the partners come from distinct social worlds (e.g., racially homogeneous friendship networks). Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (Add Health), the author investigates the relationship between interracial friendship and interracial intimacy, specifically the question of how young adults’ chances of having an interracial romantic relationship depend on the racial composition of their friends during adolescence and their exposure to interracial relationships among these friends. The author finds that early interracial friendship remains a significant positive influence on the likelihood of subsequent interracial intimacy, even after controlling for opportunities for interracial friendship, personal characteristics, local variations in social distance, and selection effects. This suggests that a substantial fraction of interracial romantic relationships in early adulthood involve partners from social worlds that are already racially heterogeneous. Despite the robustness of this finding, there are also substantial variations in the magnitude of the association between interracial friendship and intimacy, which furthermore coexists with social distances larger than the effects of interracial friendships. In brief, the primary influence of interracial friendship may be to produce the perception of select individuals as exceptions to their respective race-gender groups.

Authors

Jiannbin Lee Shiao

Volume

4

Issue

4

Starting Page

508

Ending Page

526