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The Benefits of Interracial Roommates

In a study, minority college students randomly assigned a white roommate ended their freshman year with higher GPAs than those who shared living spaces with other minorities.
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Is success in college influenced by your roommate’s race? Recently published research suggests it is, at least for some minority students.

A study of 159 freshmen enrolled at a predominantly white, urban university in the Southern U.S. found minority students who were randomly assigned a white roommate “reported a greater sense of belonging, and received a higher GPA than minority students randomly assigned to a minority roommate.” There was no similar effect for white students.

Writing in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, psychologists Natalie Shook of West Virginia University and Russ Clay of Virginia Commonwealth University argue that interacting with a white roommate helps minority students realize freshman year is tough for everyone, and that “doubts and stressors are not specific to their racial group.”

“Although interracial roommate relationships tend to be less satisfying and less involved, the present data indicate that there are benefits to the living situation,” they write, adding that these benefits “may be particularly significant for minority students at predominantly white academic institutions.”