Eating Together Apart: Patterns of Segregation in a Multi-ethnic Cafeteria

Eating Together Apart: Patterns of Segregation
in a Multi-ethnic Cafeteria
Beverley Clarck, John Dixon and Colin Tredoux


Research on segregation has tended to focus on relations located at a macro-spatial level of analysis
and unfolding in contexts where boundaries to interaction are formally established. This research, by
contrast, investigated segregation as a micro-ecological process by observing patterns of seating in a
multi-ethnic cafeteria. A total of 3114 seating positions were coded over a 2-week period and the
resulting data were analysed using both adapted segregation indices (P and D) and loglinear and
logistic regression techniques. The results suggested that ethnic segregation existed both at the level
of interactional groups and in the form of broader patterns of racial clustering and dispersal in the
cafeteria. Moreover, the magnitude of segregation was predicted by the gender composition of seating
groups and by variations in the density of the cafeteria’s population over time. Some implications
of these results for social psychological research on contact and desegregation are considered.

Clack, B., Dixon, J., & Tredoux, C. (2005). Eating together apart: patterns of segregation in a multi‐ethnic cafeteria. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 15(1), 1-16.

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