The proportion of students at the university purporting to be members of the LGBTQ community is five times the national average, leading many to question whether there is a "social contagion" factor at play.
According to the Daily Herald, a campus-wide survey of sexual preference was first collected in 2010. At that time, only 14 percent of students identified as non-heterosexual. Just 13 years later, that number has more than doubled to 38 percent.
Nationwide, only 7.2 percent of adults identify as LGBTQ. While that does jump to 19.7 percent for the 18-25 cohort, Brown's numbers are still significantly higher.
Students have said that the spike could be due to the fact that, "Queer people haven’t been able to be open in their identifications for that long," however outside observers have suggested that perhaps social contagion theory is a more likely explanation.
Social contagion theory has been described as a "ubiquitous process by which information, such as attitudes, emotions, or behaviors, are rapidly spread throughout a group from one member to others without rational thought and reason."
Across society, but particularly on college campuses, students often mimic their peers simply because it is the "popular" thing to do. This could explain why the proportion of people identifying as LGBTQ is substantially higher at institutes of higher learning, and even higher still at those that are left-leaning.
A 2022 study conducted by the Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology found that 38 percent of students attending liberal arts colleges in the United States identify as LGBTQ, with data showing that some schools might have a majority of students who are not straight.Three colleges in particular, Oberlin, Wellesley, and Smith, were estimated to have the highest proportion of LGBTQ students at 51, 61, and 70 percent, respectively.
A recent study looking into the sudden spike in teens identifying as transgender also found evidence of social contagion theory, with 55.4 percent of the teens' parents saying their child had friends who "came out as transgender around the same time."
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