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The Importance of Diverse Friendships

Friendships that cut across social dividing lines matter more than almost anything else in helping people move from one social class to another, according to a recent study. Diverse friendships matter…a lot.

Last week, David Brooks wrote about this reality:

Cross-class friendships are a better predictor of upward mobility than school quality, job availability, community cohesion or family structure. If these results are true, then we have largely ignored a powerful way to help people realize the American dream.”

Friendships that cut across divisions of race, class, gender, ability, religion, sexuality, or something else are always more risky than homogeneous friendships. They take more work. They rely on fewer shared norms and assumptions. And yet they also open up possibilities—not just for social advancement, but for a greater understanding of our shared humanity, of the beauty of giving and receiving from one to another, of the richness and diversity of human life. 

This essay’s emphasis on the importance of friendships was a good encouragement to me to teach our children to befriend people who come from different backgrounds than their own and to take that same risk myself.  

It’s an invitation to us all to enjoy the pleasure and power of risky and diverse social connections. 

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