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Group size affects racial makeup of friend groups

Larger settings seem to promote segregation, simulation finds

Being able to choose friends from larger populations discourages friendships with people from other races, finds a study examining the mathematical underpinnings of self-seeking behavior and group size. The results suggest that activities that give people from different backgrounds the opportunity to work together in the classroom can promote multicultural friendships among students.

People often do self-segregate, says Stanford’s Matthew Jackson, an expert in social economics and networks who was not involved with the new work. That sorting can occur thanks to external factors, such as people of the same socioeconomic class going to the same school in their poor or rich community. Such segregation has consequences — such as influencing whether a student applies to college — and the new study does a good job at getting at how group size plays a role in that segregation, Jackson says.

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