Tobias Stark, Lars Leszczensky, Sebastian Pink
Are there Differences in Ethnic Majority and Minority Adolescents' Friendship Preferences and Social Influence with Regard to their Academic Achievement?

Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft, 2017: 20, issue 3, pp. 475-498
ISSN: 1434-663X (print); 1862-5215 (online)

Research has established that adolescents both befriend peers based on their academic achievement and adjust their own achievement to that of their friends’ over time. However, these processes may be different for ethnic minority students, because some of them may adhere to an oppositional culture that rejects striving for academic success. We examine respective differences between self-identified ethnic minority and majority students using longitudinal social network analysis (stochastic actor-oriented models) in a sample of 1175 students (aged 13) from 12 grade-level networks in Germany secondary schools. Among the students, we find that academically successful students in particular prefer friends with high grades, but that students with poor grades exert more social influence on their friends to adjust their performance. Moreover, while minority students are indeed less inclined to select friends with higher grades, both ethnic majority and minority youth prefer friends with similar academic achievement and are similarly influenced by their friends’ achievement. However, social influence is stronger from same-ethnic than from inter-ethnic friends. In sum, there is mixed evidence for an oppositional culture among ethnic minority students in our sample.