More than just friends? School peers and adult interracial relationships

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Luca Paolo Merlino, Max Friedrich Steinhardt, Liam Wren-Lewis
Journal of Labor Economics
University of Chicago Press
This paper investigates whether interracial contact in childhood impacts adult romantic relationships. We exploit quasi-random variation in the share of black students across cohorts within US schools. We find that more black peers of the same gender lead whites to have more relationships with blacks as adults. While we do not find impacts on labor market outcomes, there are significant effects on reported racial attitudes. Furthermore, an increase in meeting opportunities is unlikely to explain the increased interracial relationships, since the effect is persistent across time, space, and social networks. Overall, interracial contact during childhood has important long-term behavioral consequences.
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