Black and Latinx Students Are Less Swayed by College-Bound Friends

White and Asian students are more likely to go to college if their friends do, study finds.

March 8, 2021
(DisobeyArt/Getty Images)

Does having close friends go to college increase the likelihood that someone will enroll?

Steven Alvarado, assistant professor of sociology at Cornell University, found that this is actually true of white and Asian students, but less so for their Black and Latinx counterparts.

"Black and Latino students certainly reap some benefits from having college-bound friends in high school," Alvarado said, "but the benefits are not as widespread for these students as they are for white and Asian students when it comes to college enrollment."

Alvarado turned to the U.S. Department of Education's High School Longitudinal Study of 2009, a nationally representative survey of 24,000 students who were followed and surveyed through college. The survey asked the question "How many of your close friends plan to attend a four-year college?"

He found that for all students combined, having college-bound friends increased the probability of enrolling in any college by six percentage points. But for Black and Latinx students, the benefit was much smaller. The loss was greater for male than female students, and as colleges became more selective.

Alvarado said that one way to improve college enrollment rates for Black and Latinx students is for high schools to think of ways to better incorporate families in the college-going process. "Friendships," Alvarado said, "perhaps when combined with a culturally sensitive approach to college-going, may be one essential piece of the puzzle that is necessary to ameliorate racial and ethnic disparities in college enrollment."

The full study just appeared in the American Educational Research Journal.

Share Article

Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

Back to Top