Elective affinities matter as much as ethnicity in multi-ethnic schools

Chiara Rapallini, Aldo Rustichini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We estimate the relative importance of ethnicity and individual characteristics, such as personality and cognitive skills, in determining social connections by using survey data on seven-year-old children from multi-ethnic schools (N = 453). We find that friendships are based mainly on common play, and are independent of the need to find help for school activity and homework. Friendship networks among children arise on the basis of their sex, but also according to affinity of personality and cognitive skills, as much as on ethnic background. These findings are worth considering when multiculturalism is chosen as the foundation of the immigration policies. Rather than emphasizing what makes the individuals in an ethnic group different, a farsighted policy could try to point to the elective affinity among individuals. However, since differences in individual characteristics may be systematically associated with ethnic background, this finding may point to a lasting reason for a lack of cohesion in multiethnic societies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-262
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Economic Behavior and Organization
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank Leonardo Grilli and Matthias Rieger for their comments on an earlier version of the paper. They are greatful for the outstanding research assistance provided by Mauro Massaro. Aldo Rustichini thanks the National Science Foundation (grant SES1357877) for financial support. Appendix

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier B.V.


  • Cognitive skills
  • Multi-ethnic schools
  • Networks
  • Personality
  • Social cohesion


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