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Study: Military Service Improves Race Relations

An African American soldier and white soldier working together. Credit: Rockfinder.
An African American soldier and white soldier working together. Credit: Rockfinder.
August 31, 2015

AUSTIN, Texas - When members of the U.S. military leave the service, they tend to settle in more diverse neighborhoods than civilians of the same race, according to a new study from the University of Connecticut and Brigham Young University.

Mary Fischer, the report's co-author and an associate professor, points out the military,which is highly integrated, provides a context where different racial groups routinely work together as equals.

"Through actual experience with other groups you interacting in situations where you're a peer," she says. "These types of experiences tend to break down stereotypes we have about other groups."

Fischer notes, since people join the military for reasons other than diversity, decisions on where to live after service is a strong test of the premise that prolonged inter-racial contact has a positive effect on race relations.

The report found U.S. cities remain highly segregated by race despite several decades of laws against discrimination in housing and lending. Fischer notes one reason segregation continues to be an issue is many non-military whites grow up in homogeneous communities and are more prone to stereotypes. She says the study's findings show integration works.

"Segregation has deep implications," says Fischer. "When people have limited options they end up in the criminal justice system, when they instead could be reaching their potential and be gainfully employed and contributing more to society."

Fischer adds the study, which compared 13 million home mortgage loans from 2008 to 2013 across 98 metropolitan areas, is one of the largest examinations of residential integration among white, black and Latino homeowners.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - TX