Wired into Each Other- OTKA Research 2010-2013

Ethnic  segregation  of  pupils  between  and  within  schools  is  considered  a  serious  social  problem  in Hungary. School segregation has been demonstrated by decades of research and practical experience as harmful  for  the  disadvantaged  minority  as  it  contributes  to  lower  performance,  to  lower  chances  of entering highest education, and consequently to increasing inequality (Kemény and Havas, 1996; Havas, Kemény and  Liskó  2002;  Havas  and  Liskó  2005; Kertesi  and Kézdi, 2005;  Hanushek and Wössmann, 2006;  Brunello  and  Checci,  2007,  Kézdi  and  Surányi,  2008).  It  has  only  been  recently  recognized, however, that even in integrated schools friendships ties are typically highly segregated (Moody, 2001), thus  integrated  education  does  not  necessarily  mean  integration  at  the  level  of  primordial  social  order (Coleman, 1990). Segregation of friendships may have serious implications for the effectiveness of social programs aiming to mix students of different social or ethnic backgrounds within classes. Segregation of friendships is usually correlated with the emergence of subcultures that oppose the objectives of schools and  the  educational  system  (see  e.g.,  Willis,  2000).  If  friendship  ties  remain  segregated  in  integrated classrooms,  disadvantaged  pupils  will  be  not  influenced  by  mainstream  role  models,  and  integrated education  may  reduce  differences  in  scholastic  performance  between  non-roma  and  roma  pupils  to  a lesser extent than expected by experts and policy-makers. The research project proposed here aims to describe and explain segregation of friendships within school classrooms. The basic postulates of our research agenda are that the problem of ethnic integration should be  looked  at  the  level  of  voluntary  formation  of  friendship,  negative  and  romantic  ties;  and  that  the problem  of  ethnic  integration  in  the  classroom  cannot  be  looked  at  without  analyzing  the  interrelated dynamics  of  social  networks,  status,  and  performance.  Status  competition  typically  intensifies  the segregation  of  friendship  ties  and  might  also  lead  to  the  social  exclusion  of  disadvantaged  pupils,  or alternatively, as another problem, to the social exclusion of the best performing students.