College students become more sympathetic to the social group to which their freshman roommate belongs, says a new study. Whites who had black roomies are more supportive of affirmative action. Whites with rich roomies are less sympathetic to income redistribution.
Our preliminary results show that, when compared with white students who have white roommates, white students with black roommates express much more positive attitudes regarding affirmative action policies one to three years after college entry. Whites assigned minority roommates are also more likely to say that they have more personal contact with and interact more comfortably with members of minority groups.
My freshman year, I had a roommate from a family that had given millions of dollars to Stanford. After she flunked out due to heavy drug use, I got a Native American roommate who’d been orphaned as a child and had nothing but her brains and grit. It was an educational year for me.