Intergroup Contact and the Racial Attitudes of Black and White Youths, 1976-2015: Does Contact Really Matter?

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Steven TUCH, George Washington University, USA
Jason MACDONALD, West Virginia University, USA
Franchesca NESTOR, West Virginia University, USA
This paper draws on a unique four decades-long series of nationally representative surveys of high school seniors in an examination of interracial contact among black and white adolescents from the mid-1970s through 2015. We track trends in opportunities for, frequency of, and closeness of contact and examine whether contact shapes youths’ racial outlooks. We find that for the first two decades of the time series young African Americans reported more opportunities for and greater frequency and closeness of interracial contact than young whites, and that frequent and close contact, in turn, increased support for interracial ties and lead to more positive evaluations of diversity. Opportunities for contact, by contrast, do not by themselves foster more positive racial outlooks. Moreover, since the 1990s, black youths’ racial outlooks have become less sanguine and now closely resemble those of white youths. In explaining these findings we focus on the role of social capital as a mediating factor through which contact shapes feelings of racial inclusion and exclusion.