Health disparities by race and class: why both matter

Health Aff (Millwood). Mar-Apr 2005;24(2):343-52. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.24.2.343.


In this essay we examine three competing causal interpretations of racial disparities in health. The first approach views race as a biologically meaningful category and racial disparities in health as reflecting inherited susceptibility to disease. The second approach treats race as a proxy for class and views socioeconomic stratification as the real culprit behind racial disparities. The third approach treats race as neither a biological category nor a proxy for class, but as a distinct construct, akin to caste. We point to historical, political, and ideological obstacles that have hindered the analysis of race and class as codeterminants of disparities in health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Continental Population Groups*
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Social Class*
  • Social Justice*
  • United States / epidemiology