From Superdiversity to Consolidation: How Structural Intersectionality Shapes Ethnic Homophily

Linda Zhao


Classical theories of ethnic integration and social structure argue that ethnicity and social class come together to shape friendship-making. Recent studies argue that while ethnic differences can impede friendships, socioeconomic differences have little impact beyond sorting into different educational settings. This study advances a theoretical framework of consolidation as a structural measure of intersectionality and applies it to study adolescent classroom friendship networks. Here, high consolidation classrooms are defined to be those where students who differ in ethnicity also tend to differ in socioeconomic status. Results show that ethnic homophily is particularly high (meaning that there are particularly few interethnic friendships) in higher consolidation classrooms. This implies that ethnicity and social class have joint implications for friendship-making, in line with classical theories of integration. The approach used here can be extended to study conditions for social integration in many domains. As some populations and settings become characterized by not only increased ethnic diversity, but different types of diversity, scholars need to analyze multiple axes of differentiation.

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