Recent work on social capital has underlined the importance of networks and other ties among socially dissimilar persons (bridging ties). The resources stored in such ties are thought to play a uniquely vital role in the social, economic, and political life of diverse societies, expanding identities, opening up insular communities of interest, containing ethnic and other inter-group conflicts, and reducing inter-group status inequalities, e.g., by widening access to valuable information and social endorsements. In the U.S, interracial ties are particularly significant and worth strengthening because of the country’s long-standing racial divide, the increased ethnic diversity associated with rapid immigration, and the tendency for racial and socio-economic divisions to correlate. Yet little up-to-date empirical evidence exists on the array of factors that shape interracial bridging—or, conversely, racial isolation—in Americans’ personal networks or formal associations. Using a phone survey of 29 communities matched with census data, this study analyzes effects of individual, associational, and spatial factors. A path model is specified. While higher educational attainment, non-religious organizational involvement, and socializing with co-workers are robust and encouraging predictors of interracial bridging for all groups, effects of religious involvement vary. Notably, the great civic generation of older Americans is also the most racially insular in the case of whites. There is some evidence that residential segregation exerts direct or indirect inhibiting effects on bridging, at a minimum through selection effects of residential choice. Finally, low-income, less educated minorities who report having at least one white friend are also much more likely to have friends with comparatively higher status and influence.


Briggs, Xavier de Souza. “Social Capital and Segregation: Race, Connections, and Inequality in America." KSG Faculty Research Working Papers Series RWP02-011, February 2002.