The goal of this exercise is to learn more about intergroup relationships and to explore the role intergroup friendships play in perceptions of out-group members. Crosstabulation will be used.
Social psychology is the scientific study of how people and groups interact, associate, influence, and perceive one another. One area of social psychology, intergroup relations, examines the ways in which individuals from different groups (e.g. racial, ethnic, religious, etc.) think about, relate to, and influence one another. This learning guide will explore one type of intergroup relationships: racial and ethnic ties.
Previous research suggests that people who have friends from racial, ethnic, and cultural groups other than their own are less likely to have negative perceptions of out-group members. Learning about other racial/ethnic groups through these intergroup friendships can lead to a reassessment of attitudes towards other groups. To the extent that friends shape attitudes, intergroup friendships may also shape opinions about out-groups.
Examples of research questions about intergroup friendships include:
The Houston Area Survey is a longitudinal study that began in May 1982. The overall purpose of this research was to systematically measure public responses to economic, educational, and environmental challenges. There are three parts to this dataset, though we will only use Part 2. "Part 1: All Responses from 25 Successive Samples" contains all the responses from the successive representative samples of Harris County residents from 1982 through 2007. Data for "Part 2: Additional Oversample Interviews," were collected to enlarge and equalize the samples of Anglo, Black, and Hispanic respondents. "Part 3: Information from 2000 Census," includes a record of the population and geographical area of each of the three sectors, distributions by ethnicity and immigrant status, age and gender composition, employment and commuting patterns, and levels of education and income. With this information incorporated in the datasets covering five years (2003-2007) of expanded surveys, researchers are able to connect the respondents' perceptions and experiences with information about the neighborhoods in which they live. The interviews measured perspectives on the local and national economy, poverty programs, and inter-ethnic relationships. Also captured were respondents' beliefs about discrimination, education, crime, health care, taxation, and community service, as well as their assessments of downtown development, mobility and transit, land-use controls, and environmental concerns, and their attitudes toward abortion, homosexuality, and other aspects of the social agenda. Also recorded were religious and political orientations and an array of demographic and immigration characteristics, socioeconomic indicators, and family structures.
The data used in this learning guide were collected during the years 2003 to 2007, when Latinos and Blacks were oversampled.
This exercise will use the following variables:
In this exercise, you will examine different types of intergroup relationships among racial/ethnic groups. You will also explore the links between racial/ethnic intergroup relationships, perceptions of racial/ethnic group relations, and feelings about immigrants.
In this dataset,
What about interracial dating? Look at the crosstab analysis
Now, let's consider interracial marriage. Look at the crosstab for
Intergroup Friendships and Perceptions of Others
Perceptions of Group Relations
Now that we have explored some of the types of intergroup relationships and which racial/ethnic groups are participating in these relationships, we can try to determine if intergroup friendships are associated with respondent perceptions about group relations.
Look at the crosstab for
Now, let's consider intergroup friendship and sense of commonality with other groups.
Respondents were asked whether: "[Rs ethnicity tend] to have more in common w/ each
other than with out-groups" which we collapsed from a 7-point scale ("strongly
disagree," "disagree," "slightly disagree," "neither agree nor disagree," "slightly
agree," "agree," and "strongly agree")
Here, respondents were asked if they "generally feel much closer to [Rs ethnicity] than
those from other backgrounds, only a little closer or not closer at all (ETHCLOSE)?"
Look at the crosstab for
Perceptions of Immigrants
Respondents were asked: "Do immigrants generally take more or contribute more to the
American economy (IMMIGBAD)?" Look at the crosstab for
Finally, respondents were asked: "How serious a problem is it that so many undocumented
immigrants have been coming to Houston in recent years?" Response options were: "not
much of a problem," "somewhat serious," and "very serious." Here is the crosstab for
Think about your answers to the application questions before you click through to the interpretation guide for help in answering them.
What percentage of Latinos report having at least one intergroup friendship among their three closest friends? Which racial/ethnic group is least likely to have friends from another racial/ethnic group?
Which group reported the highest levels of interracial dating? Which group reported the least?
What pattern do you see in the table for interracial marriage? Also look at the bar chart for this analysis. Are most respondents in interracial marriages? Which racial/ethnic group reported the highest percentage of interracial marriage?
Intergroup Friendships and Perceptions of Others
Were respondents in intergroup friendships more likely than respondents who were not in intergroup friendships to think that ethnic relations in Houston were excellent? Were respondents who were not in intergroup friendships more likely than respondents who were in intergroup friendships to think that ethnic relations in Houston were poor?
Are respondents in intergroup friendships more likely to think "Houston's increasing ethnic diversity become a source of great strength for city or a growing problem (ETHSOK)?" What about those who are not in intergroup friendships?
Are respondents in intergroup friendships more likely than respondents who are not intergroup friendships to agree with the idea that people of the same ethnicity are likely to have more in common than people of a different ethnicity? Which group was more likely to disagree? Is this surprising?
What percentage of respondents who are not in intergroup friendships said they felt much closer to their group members? What percentage of respondents in intergroup friendships said not closer at all?
Of the respondents who reported having intergroup friendships, what percentage said immigrants contribute more? What percentage of respondents who did not report intergroup friendships said immigrants take more?
Is there a difference between the way respondents who reported intergroup friendships and respondents who did not report intergroup friendships view undocumented immigrants in Houston?
Things to think about in interpreting the results:
It is important to look at the amount of missing data in each relationship and think about the ways in which missing data might affect the generalizability of the results. Some crosstabulation tables have relatively little missing data, others have a great deal.
This set of analyses is based on data drawn annually from the residents in and around the city of Houston. As such, any generalizations should be limited to the Houston area except in situations where we can be certain that the Houston area is reflective of some larger population. In order to make general statements about a larger population, some form of probability sampling must be used such that all members of the population must have some known chance of being included in the sample. Because the sample is drawn from Houston area residents, people living in and near other cities, towns, and counties in the U.S. are not part of the sampling frame, therefore we should not generalize the findings from these samples to populations outside the Houston area.
Weights (mathematical formulas) are often used to adjust the sample proportions, usually by race, sex, or age, to more closely match those of the general population. The analyses used in this guide did not use any weights, which may reduce the generalizability of the findings, but the resulting tables are accurate descriptions of the relationships found between these variables among these respondents.
Reading the results:
The numbers in each cell of the crosstabulation tables show the percentage of people who fall into the overlapping categories, followed by the actual number of people that represents this sample. The coloring in the tables demonstrates how the observed number in a cell compares to the expected number if there were no association between the two variables. The darker the coloring, the more likely it is that the observed difference is a "real" difference that would be observed in the population of interest and not just in the sample. The accompanying bar charts display the patterns visually as well. The use of column percentages, as shown in these tables, allows for the comparison of answers to the "outcome" of interest across values of the grouping variable. For example, 91.3% of married Black respondents said they were married to someone who is Black.
The analyses show the following:
Less than half of the respondents (32.3%, see Row Total) in this sample reported that at least one of their three closest Houston-area friendships was an intergroup friendship. At 27.4%, Blacks were least likely to have friends from another racial/ethnic group. Forty percent of Latinos and 29.7% of Anglos said that at least one of their three closest friends is from another racial/ethnic group.
Latino respondents reported the highest levels of interracial dating: 43% of Latino respondents have been involved in a romantic relationship with someone who was not Latino. Anglo respondents reported the lowest levels of interracial dating. Among Anglos, 37.2% have been involved in a romantic relationship with someone who is not Anglo. Finally, 41.3% of Blacks have been involved in a romantic relationship with someone who is not Black.
Interracial marriages are quite uncommon in this sample and the bar chart helps illustrate this point very well. Perhaps not surprisingly, Latinos reported the highest percent of interracial marriages: 20.4% (13.8% to Anglos, 2.6% to Blacks, 0.5% to Asians, and 3.5% to other racial/ethnic group members).
Intergroup Friendships and Perceptions of Others
There is not much difference here at all. Respondents in intergroup friendships and respondents not in intergroup friendships were equally likely to say that ethnic relations in Houston were excellent (4% and 3.9%). Respondents who were not in intergroup friendships were slightly more likely to say ethnic relations in Houston were poor than respondents in intergroup friendships (17.2% vs. 15.8%).
Respondents in intergroup friendships were more likely to view the increase in ethnic diversity in Houston as source of great strength (71.3%) than respondents not in intergroup friendships (65.9%). Here notice that the shading is a little bit darker, indicating that the differences between groups are larger than in the previous analysis.
More than half, 56.8%, of respondents in intergroup friendships said they agree that they have more in common with each other than with out-groups, while 63.6% of those who are not in intergroup friendships agreed with this statement. Conversely, respondents who are in intergroup friendships were slightly more likely to disagree with the statement (39.6%), compared to the 32.4% of respondents who are not in intergroup friendships who disagreed.
Nearly a third, 31.1%, of respondents who are not in intergroup relationships said they felt much closer to people of their own racial/ethnic group. Over a third, 37.7%, of respondents who are in intergroup friendships said not closer at all. For both groups, the modal (most frequent) response was that they felt only a little closer to people of their own racial/ethnic group.
A majority of respondents, those in intergroup friendships and those who are not, said that immigrants contribute more. However, those in intergroup friendships were more likely to say this (57.5% compared to 51.3%). Nearly half, 48.7%, of respondents not in intergroup friendships said that immigrants take more.
There are some differences in perceptions of undocumented immigrants in Houston. A plurality of both groups said it was a very serious problem, though the respondents who are not in intergroup friendships were somewhat more likely to say this (45.9% compared to 40.7%). Alternatively, 29.6% of those in intergroup friendships said it was not much of a problem at all compared to the 24.6% of respondents who are not in intergroup friendships who gave the same response. Looking at the coloring of these cells, we note that this suggests a statistically significant difference.
The goal of this exercise was to learn more about which racial/ethnic groups are participating in intergroup relationships (friendships and dating/marriage). We also set out to examine the ways that intergroup friendships may be related to perceptions about group relations and immigration. What we found was that while just over 40% of respondents reported having been in an interracial romantic relationship at some time, interracial marriage is much less common (less than 10% of Anglos and Blacks, about 20% of Latinos). Almost one-third (32.6%) of respondents in this sample indicated that at least one of their three closest friends in the Houston area was of a different race or ethnicity.
Intergroup friendships do not seem to have a clear relationship with perceptions of group relations in Houston. Respondents with intergroup friends were slightly more likely to perceive race relations as positive, but the differences were not large. These respondents were also somewhat more likely than respondents without intergroup friendships to view Houston's ethnic/racial diversity as a positive. There are also some differences between these groups in how they view their own closeness and similarity to others in their own racial/ethnic group, but, on the whole, these differences do not provide evidence of a general pattern that those in intergroup friendships are significantly different from those without intergroup friendships in their perceptions about race and ethnicity in their personal lives and in the city around them.
When asked about a specific group (immigrants), a slight majority of both groups of respondents (respondents in intergroup friendships and those who were not) said immigrants contribute more to society than take away. However a strong majority of both groups of respondents said that undocumented immigrants are either a somewhat or very serious problem. It is unclear from this dataset if these responses reflect feelings about how one enters the country (legally vs. illegally) and not about tolerance towards immigrants as a group.
While previous research suggested there is a relationship between intergroup friendships and tolerance, these data do not show a clear and consistent relationship among the variables considered. Still, there does seem to be a general trend supporting these previous findings, albeit some of the differences between those with intergroup friendships and those without appear to be fairly slight. However, as some scholars have suggested that those who already have positive opinions about out-groups are more likely to form friendships with out-group members. Which came first: friendships with people from other groups or tolerance towards different people?
The link between intergroup friendship and tolerance toward people from different groups can be used to illustrate the maxim that says that correlation does not imply causation. The former implies that intergroup friendships and perceptions of different groups of people are related (correlated). The latter is harder to determine because we do not know which one causes the other, if at all (causation). We can determine whether there is a relationship between intergroup friendships and opinions about people from other groups using statistical tools and crosstabulations. In order to determine if there is a causal relationship between intergroup friendships and perceptions about out-groups, we need a dataset containing observations on perceptions of out-groups and friendships observed over multiple time periods (time-series or panel data). This would provide us with data about friendships and perceptions of others that we could compare to responses from different time points.
Future research should consider using panel data as a way to determine the true nature of the relationship between intergroup relationships and perceptions of out-groups. Additionally, we only looked at intergroup friendships in terms of race and ethnicity. This is hardly an exhaustive examination. Intergroup relationships can exist on many levels, including religion, class, and nationality.