Race, life course socioeconomic position, racial discrimination, depressive symptoms and self-rated health

Soc Sci Med. 2013 Nov;97:7-14. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2013.07.031. Epub 2013 Aug 11.


Greater levels of socioeconomic position (SEP) are generally associated with better health. However results from previous studies vary across race/ethnicity and health outcomes. Further, the majority of previous studies do not account for the effects of life course SEP on health nor the effects of racial discrimination, which could moderate the effects of SEP on health. Using data from the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, we examined the relationship between a life course SEP measure on depressive symptoms and self-rated health. A life course SEP was constructed for each participant, using a framework that included parental education and occupation along with respondents' highest level of education and occupation. Interaction terms were created between life course SEP and racial discrimination to determine whether the association between SEP and health was moderated by experiences of racial discrimination. Analyses revealed that higher levels of life course SEP were inversely related to depressive symptoms. Greater life course SEP was positively associated with favorable self-rated health. Racial discrimination was associated with more depressive symptoms and poorer self-rated health. Analyses indicated a significant interaction between life course SEP and racial discrimination on depressive symptoms in the full sample. This suggested that for respondents with greater levels of SEP, racial discrimination was associated with reports of more depressive symptoms. Future research efforts should be made to examine whether individuals' perceptions and experiences of racial discrimination at the interpersonal and structural levels limits their ability to acquire human capital as well as their advancement in education and occupational status.

Keywords: Depressive symptoms; Life course; Race; Racial discrimination; Self-reported health; Socioeconomic position.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Depression / ethnology*
  • Diagnostic Self Evaluation*
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Racism / psychology*
  • Social Class*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • White People / psychology*
  • White People / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult