Understanding associations among race, socioeconomic status, and health: Patterns and prospects

Health Psychol. 2016 Apr;35(4):407-11. doi: 10.1037/hea0000242.


Race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status (SES) are social categories that capture differential exposure to conditions of life that have health consequences. Race/ethnicity and SES are linked to each other, but race matters for health even after SES is considered. This commentary considers the complex ways in which race combines with SES to affect health. There is a need for greater attention to understanding how risks and resources in the social environment are systematically patterned by race, ethnicity and SES, and how they combine to influence cardiovascular disease and other health outcomes. Future research needs to examine how the levels, timing and accumulation of institutional and interpersonal racism combine with other toxic exposures, over the life-course, to influence the onset and course of illness. There is also an urgent need for research that seeks to build the science base that will identify the multilevel interventions that are likely to enhance the health of all, even while they improve the health of disadvantaged groups more rapidly than the rest of the population so that inequities in health can be reduced and ultimately eliminated. We also need sustained research attention to identifying how to build the political support to reduce the large shortfalls in health. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Health Status Disparities*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Racial Groups
  • Racism
  • Social Class*