University News

New National Study by William Paterson University Sociology Professor Shows White College Students Are More Accepting of African Americans Than Other Racial and Ethnic Groups

--National study by William Paterson University sociology professor is largest ever conducted on this topic

--Females found to be more tolerant than males

Today’s white college students are more accepting of African Americans than of most white ethnic groups, including Irish, French, German, Greek, Dutch, and Polish Americans. That’s one of several findings in a study by Vincent Parrillo, a professor of sociology at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J, and his colleague Christopher Donoghue, as reported in the September issue of Sociological Forum, the official journal of the Eastern Sociological Society.

Parrillo’s study replicated national studies conducted in 1926, 1946, 1956, 1966, 1977, and 2001 to measure how close a relationship people would accept with members of 30 other ethnic and racial groups. According to Parrillo, African Americans attained a high level of social acceptance.

“What makes the strong level of social acceptance for African Americans all the more striking is the underrepresentation of blacks among respondents (7 percent),” Parrillo reports.  “Yet, African Americans attained the highest-ever level of social acceptance.  Apparently, it is not the greater presence of people of color among respondents that explains the strong showing of blacks, but rather a much greater receptivity among white college students.”

As in previous studies, respondents were undergraduate and graduate students at colleges across the nation, drawn from a scientifically selected random sample. A total of 3,166 students enrolled in 26 four-year colleges and universities participated, making it the largest social acceptance study ever conducted.

This study, like its predecessors, asked respondents through an anonymous questionnaire to  answer if they would accept someone from a particular group as a 1) family member by marriage; 2) close friend; 3) neighbor; 4) coworker; 5) speaking acquaintance only; 6) visitor only to the country; or 7) bar from the country. The researchers combined and averaged the scores to determine comparative social acceptance scores.

“As in all past studies, females were much more tolerant than males but this time more so than ever before,” Parrillo says.  “Also, seniors showed higher levels of social acceptance than underclassmen, suggesting that perhaps the dynamic combination of campus life social interaction and interactive classroom learning has a cumulative positive impact on student attitudes about the ‘other.’”

Since 1926, social acceptance scores steadily improved, but did so far more dramatically in 2001.  Because that study took place two months after the 9-11 attacks, that significant improvement may have been a manifestation of a “unity syndrome,” the coalescing of Americans of all backgrounds in the aftermath of that terrorism.  One question in the current study was whether or not that unity syndrome had lessened with the passage of time.  Just how tolerant did Americans remain in their ever-growing, multiracial, multicultural society?

“As expected, some decrease in social acceptance among groups did occur,” Parrillo states. “However, the social acceptance scores for the bottom fifteen groups, including for Arabs and Muslims, are nonetheless much better than they were for any in the bottom half in older studies. Encouragingly, college students appear less willing to reject an entire group due to negative stereotyping and instead to accept individuals within those groups.”

Parrillo is the author of numerous scholarly articles and books in the field of immigration, race and ethnic relations, some translated into up to ten languages. A frequent lecturer at universities throughout Asia, Canada, Europe and the U.S., he is listed in the International Who’s Who in Education, and has received the Outstanding Educator of America Award. He has also produced, directed and narrated several documentaries, including, most recently, one on Paterson sculptor Gaetano Federici.

The Eastern Sociological Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting excellence in sociological scholarship and instruction. The oldest of five such regional associations in the U.S., the Society has approximately 1,500 members and is currently headquartered at William Paterson University.

William Paterson University, one of the nine state colleges and universities in New Jersey, offers more than 250 undergraduate and graduate academic programs through five colleges: Arts and Communication, Cotsakos College of Business, Education, Humanities and Social Sciences, and Science and Health. Located on 370 hilltop acres in Wayne, the university enrolls nearly 11,500 students and provides housing for nearly 2,700 students. The institution’s 400 full-time faculty are highly distinguished and diverse scholars and teachers, many of whom are recipients of prestigious awards and grants from the Fulbright Program, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation.