Race, socioeconomic status, and health. The added effects of racism and discrimination

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1999:896:173-88. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.1999.tb08114.x.


Higher disease rates for blacks (or African Americans) compared to whites are pervasive and persistent over time, with the racial gap in mortality widening in recent years for multiple causes of death. Other racial/ethnic minority populations also have elevated disease risk for some health conditions. This paper considers the complex ways in which race and socioeconomic status (SES) combine to affect health. SES accounts for much of the observed racial disparities in health. Nonetheless, racial differences often persist even at "equivalent" levels of SES. Racism is an added burden for nondominant populations. Individual and institutional discrimination, along with the stigma of inferiority, can adversely affect health by restricting socioeconomic opportunities and mobility. Racism can also directly affect health in multiple ways. Residence in poor neighborhoods, racial bias in medical care, the stress of experiences of discrimination and the acceptance of the societal stigma of inferiority can have deleterious consequences for health.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cause of Death
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Income / statistics & numerical data
  • Life Expectancy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity
  • Mortality
  • Poverty / psychology
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data
  • Prejudice*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Social Class*
  • Social Dominance
  • Social Mobility
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / ethnology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • White People / psychology*
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*