Much of the discussion about race on college campus tends to focus on simple statistics. What percent of students are minorities? What’s the average debt carried by minority college graduates? But new research indicates that a lot of the existing research on race and diversity in colleges is sort of superficial. According to an article (requires login) by Peter Schmidt in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The success of minority college students and students’ perceptions of race relations on their campuses are strongly influenced by factors that actually have little direct connection with ethnicity or race.

Among the studies, all published in the spring issue of New Directions for Institutional Research, is an analysis of University of California student survey data that concludes that students’ choice of academic major plays a greater role than their race in determining how much discrimination they perceive on campus. Moreover, having large numbers of racially and culturally sensitive students might paradoxically cause a campus’s reputation for tolerance to suffer, because such students are more likely to perceive and report bigotry around them.

Serge Herzog, director of institutional analysis at the University of Nevada at Reno, edited the diversity issue of the journal. According to the Chronicle article Herzog said “the new studies reinforce his view that much past research on diversity on campuses has been focused on advancing one side of the debate over affirmative action.”

That’s a rather loaded statement but many of the issues addressed in the issue have fascinating implications for race relations on college campuses.

Look at the journal here.

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer