Elsewhere on this site, ethnic diversity’s negative impact on social cohesion and economic progress has been discussed and documented. This article takes a look at how diversity impacts the quality of experience children have at school.
School Performance and Cognitive Ability
There are several lines of evidence which suggest that ethnic diversity has a negative impact on cognitive ability.
Secondly, an analysis of roughly 3 million students over a 7 year period found that students had higher test scores when their teacher was a member of their own race. This was true even after controlling for poverty, past grades, and other potentially confounding variables.
Thirdly, a 2015 analysis released by the US Department of Education indicates that the racial composition of a school’s population has a significant impact on grades. The study examined 4th, 8th, and 12th graders and looked at how variation in the proportion of a school’s population which was Black predicted how well Black and White students did on standardized tests. The analysis found a negative relationship between student performance and the proportion of the school population which was Black.
This negative impact on test scores was seen for both Black and White students. Given these three lines of evidence, it is more likely than not that racial diversity worsens school performance.
White students who attend ethnically diverse schools are also at an elevated risk for experiencing aggressive, violent, and even criminal behavior.
Consider, for instance, the results of a study which examined over 5,000 kids from grades 6-8 from three neighboring counties along the East Coast of the United States. The following are a list of the study’s key findings.
- Students in diverse schools are two times more likely to be bullied by someone of another race, than they are to make friends of a different race.
- Blacks and Hispanics are more likely than Whites to be bullies (a finding that has also been replicated in other studies).
- Whites are more likely to be victimized by bullies than either Blacks or Hispanics.
- Blacks are more likely to bully Whites, than Whites are to bully Blacks (and the same basic pattern is true for Whites and Hispanics).
- When it comes to interracial bullying, Blacks are the worst offenders against Whites (followed by Hispanics).
- Controlling for socioeconomic status, family conflict, neighborhood disorder, low school achievement, depression, and regard for conventional authority, does virtually nothing to reduce the bullying offense gaps between Hispanics, Blacks, and Whites.
- Bullying makes Blacks and Hispanics far more popular in school relative to the effect bully-status has on the popularity of Whites.
- School diversity increases the overall risk that any student will be bullied (regardless of their racial background).
- All “Culture only” theories put forward to explain racial differences in rates of bullying, fail to explain group differences between Blacks, Whites, and Hispanics.
Another study examined students within fourteen primary schools in the Midwest. It found that White children who attended racially diverse schools were at a much higher risk of being victimized by bullies than children who attended predominantly White schools.
On the other hand, the same study found that Black children were actually more likely to be victims of bullying in predominantly Black schools than they were to be similarly victimized in White schools. These findings persisted even after controlling for differences in poverty.
Lastly, studies of bullying carried out in Britain have replicated the finding that non-Whites (with the exception of East Asians) are more likely than Whites to be bullies. This research also found that the disproportionate rates of Black on White bullying in Britain were highly similar to those of the United States.
Class Room Behavior
A similar pattern of data exists with respect to class room behavior. Data from the US Department of Education reveals that Blacks and Hispanics are more likely than Whites to be suspended from school, and that both groups are far more likely to be involved in fights either on-campus or off-campus. Department of Education data also shows that as a school becomes more racially diverse: racial tensions increase, verbal abuse of teachers increases, classroom disorder increases, student disrespect for teachers increases, gang activity increases, the frequency of cult or extremist groups on campus increases, as does the number of serious violent incidents recorded on campus.
This evidence is also consistent with what we know about racial differences in adolescent criminality. For instance, data from the US Department of Justice shows that, as of 2014, Blacks ages 10-17 were twelve times more likely than Whites of the same age to be arrested for robbery, seven times more likely to be arrested for murder, four times more likely to be arrested for aggravated assault, three times more likely to be arrested for weapons violations, property crime, and theft, 2.4 times more likely to be arrested for rape, 1.6 times more likely for vandalism, and 1.4 times more likely to be arrested for abusing drugs.
Unfortunately, the US Department of Justice considers Hispanics to be White. As such, the DOJ lumps Hispanics into the White category when it calculates its youth arrest statistics. As a result, the true crime differential between young Whites and Blacks is probably far higher than these statistics indicate.
Fortunately, the National Crime Victimization survey, a survey that precludes bias in the criminal justice system from influencing the validity of the results, does not suffer from this same defect. This data shows that there are staggering group differences when it comes to the issue of interracial crime. According to the NCVS, with respect to violent crime in 2013, Blacks were the attackers in 85% of violent crimes involving Blacks and Whites (Whites were only 15%). The NCVS also found that Blacks were 27 times more likely to commit a violent crime against a White person, than vice versa. Hispanics, (on the other hand) were about 8 times more likely to commit a violent crime against a White person than the other way around.
Thus, White students will be more likely to experience bullying, disruptive classroom behavior, violence, and crime, the more Black and Hispanic students attend their school.
Diversity and Social Cohesion in General
It is a well-established fact that ethnic diversity impairs people’s ability to get along with one another. This has been shown using correlational, longitudinal, and experimental research designs.
The Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam divided the United States into 40 separate regions and found that the more diverse a region was the less likely people were to trust one another, the fewer friends people had, and the less satisfied people reported being with there lives. These relationships persisted, even when Putnam controlled for: age, gender, race, poverty, residential mobility, citizenship, language, commute time, education, homeownership, financial satisfaction, work hours, population density, income inequality, and crime rates.
More recently, this data has been backed up by a study that looked at changes in diversity in areas of England over an 18 year period. This research found that residents of areas which became more diverse over time ended up liking their neighborhoods less when compared to residents whose neighborhoods did not become more diverse over time.
Moreover, Putnam’s data is consistent with experimental evidence measuring trust between people by allowing them to give each other sums of money which are then doubled in the hopes that the person they gave their money to will give them back a fair share of the profit.
That diversity inhibits social cohesion is also evidenced by who people voluntarily choose to associate with. Several lines of research show that members of every race are far more likely to make friends among members of their own group than they are to make friends with a different racial background. People are also more likely to form close social networks with people of their own race than with people of other races.
Furthermore, when people do succeed at forming friendships across racial lines, those friendships are far more likely to fail. One study analyzed the results of a nationally representative sample, of over 5,400 high school students from 80 communities within the US. They found that after controlling for sex, race, age, parental SES, family structure, immigration status, shared extracurricular activities, grade point averages, school attendance, drug abuse, friendship reciprocity, and friendship closeness, that interracial friendships were far more likely to fail relative to monoracial friendships. What’s more, across the various analyses the authors used to predict friendship stability, racial dissimilarity was usually the biggest predictor of friendship instability (one that also remained robust in spite of a wide variety of controls).
Diversity and Social Cohesion in Schools
Given this, we should not be surprised that research on ethnic diversity in schools finds that diversity damages student’s social lives. For instance, a group of researchers led by Stanley Rothman carefully looked at the effects of diversity on school satisfaction and discrimination and concluded:
“As the proportion of Black students [in a school] rose, student satisfaction with their university experience dropped, as did their assessments of the quality of the educational environment and the work ethic of their peers. In addition, the higher the enrollment diversity, the more likely students were to say they personally experienced discrimination… The same pattern of negative correlations between educational benefits and increased Black enrollment also appeared in the responses of faculty and administrators.”
Proponents of school diversity often assert that diversity helps black students feel more comfortable with their school environment, yet researchers found “diversity appears to increase complaints of unfair treatment among White students without reducing them among Black students.”
It’s also worth noting that forced integration has a terrible track record of encouraging school children to form interracial friendships. A lengthy study that looked at the effects of desegregation on interracial friendships in Riverside California concluded:
“after five years of desegregation, and, after most of the fourth to sixth-graders had been desegregated from the beginning of their schooling, minority children were less likely to be chosen as friends by Whites than at the beginning of desegregation.”
Finally, one study found that (regardless of race), attending a school with high concentrations of minorities increases a student’s suicide risk significantly. Since Whites are already at risk for suicide relative to other groups, this suggests that sending White kids to diverse schools will dramatically increase their relative risk for suicide.
In conclusion, the relevant empirical evidence indicates that ethnic diversity in schools has negative effects on cognitive ability and social cohesion, and, especially for White students, elevates children’s risk of being bullied, having a chaotic school environment, and experiencing violent crime.