Four findings stand out. First, the few survey estimates of close adult interracial friendships may overstate their actual prevalence, especially whites’ reporting of close friendships with blacks. My results show that very few whites have black friends who are close enough to be in their wedding party (3.7%), less than all previous estimates among adults. I reasoned that estimates of cross-race friendships for whites based on the wedding party photos would be lower than those based on existing survey measures because wedding parties include only the closest friends who may often have to conform to intergenerational norms about racial contact and the expectations of extended family. Wedding parties also limit the pool of friends to a small number and cannot be exaggerated out of normative pressure. Compared with what would be expected if there were homogenous opportunity for friendships, whites are most likely to have a close E/SE Asian friend and least likely to have a black friend. These results suggest that Jackman and Crane’s (1986: p. 460) declaration using data from 1979 still rings true: “only a tiny minority of whites could rightly claim that ‘some of their best friends’ are black.”
Second, I hypothesized that there would be an asymmetry, by race, of inviting a friend to be in the wedding party and being invited to be in a friend’s wedding party, with whites being invited more than they invite friends of other races. Adjusting for group size, whites and E/SE Asians are equally likely to invite and be invited, but whites invite blacks only half as much as blacks invite whites, and E/SE Asians invite blacks only one- fifth as much as blacks invite E/SE Asians. This finding is consistent with the notion that whites are less accepting of interracial friendships, a finding that is no longer detectable in survey-based attitudinal data.
Few of whites' best friends are black
Friends for better or for worse: Interracial friendship in the United States as seen through wedding party photos (pdf):