An article by Zsófia Boda is published in European Sociological Review

Friendship Bias in Ethnic Categorization

- Zsófia Boda

European Sociological Review, jcz019,

Published: 30 April 2019


Interethnic friendships are highly beneficial for decreasing ethnic prejudice. However, this is not true when friends identifying with different ethnic groups perceive each other as of the same ethnicity. We investigate the extent to which people categorize their friends “incorrectly”, that is, not matching these friends’ self-identifications. We thus move beyond the established practice of conceptualizing ethnic categorization as an individual characteristic (“who is categorized into which ethnicity”), and define it on the level of pairwise relations (who categorizes whom into which ethnicity), which enables us to model the effect of friendship on ethnic categorization. Using dynamic social network models, we also disentangle this effect from the simultaneous effect of categorization on friendship, taking characteristics (e.g. self-identifications) of both the observed and the observing individual into account. On data of 12 Hungarian high-school classes with one minority group, the Roma, we find that students of the majority group tend to select and keep friends whom they observe as majority members. In contrast, students of the minority group do not prefer other minority members when choosing friends, but tend to categorize their existing friends as minority peers. We conclude that these are two different manifestations of the preference for same-ethnic friends.