A new study by researchers at Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, and Harvard University has found that upwardly mobile African Americans are more likely than Blacks from lower-income groups to experience racial discrimination. A possible explanation for this phenomenon is that African Americans who are climbing the socioeconomic ladder find themselves in more situations where they’re in the minority – whether that’s at school, work or in their neighborhood than is the case for lower-income African Americans. The authors also conclude that this increased exposure to discrimination and racism may explain the persisting racial health gap among Blacks and Whites in higher-income groups.
“People assume that as your socioeconomic status improves, your health will improve as well. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case for Americans who aren’t White,” said Cynthia Colen, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio State and the lead author of the study. “Our study suggests that upward mobility might expose African Americans to more discrimination and that could have a harmful effect on their health.”
“Socioeconomic status is so often thought to be the fundamental cause of health disparities, but this research shows us that we should consider other factors, including racism,” Dr. Colen added.
The study, “Racial Disparities in Health Among Nonpoor African Americans and Hispanics: The Role of Acute and Chronic Discrimination,” was published on the website of the journal Social Science & Medicine. It may be accessed here.