Do ethnically diverse schools reduce ethnocentrism? A two-year panel study among majority group late adolescents in Belgian schools
Faculty of Social Sciences. Political Sciences
International journal of intercultural relations. - Elmsford, N.Y.
, p. 108-117
Contact theories on the development of ethnocentrism assume that interaction with ethnic minority representatives will reduce prejudice. We test this assumption among a representative sample of Belgian late adolescents (n = 2828), taking the class level as interaction context. Given an average class size of 13 pupils/class, it can be expected that within the class room an intensive interaction between pupils occurs, thus providing an ideal setting for testing the contact hypothesis. The Belgian Political Panel Study (BPPS, 20062008) allows for longitudinal multilevel analysis, tracing effects over time. The analysis shows no significant effects of diversity as such on ethnocentrism. The perception of ethnic and cultural tensions at school, however, is associated with the strengthening of prejudice two years later on. A dating thermometer question had a significant relation with diversity level, but this more personal question too reacted strongly to the presence of ethnic tensions. We conclude that there is no mechanical effect of diversity in class rooms, but that this effect is dependent on the perceived quality of the intergroup relations, in line with the contact theory as developed by Allport and Pettigrew.