Workplace Racial Composition Explains High Perceived Discrimination of High Socioeconomic Status African American Men

Brain Sci. 2018 Jul 27;8(8):139. doi: 10.3390/brainsci8080139.


Background: Sociological and epidemiological literature have both shown that socioeconomic status (SES) protects populations and individuals against health problems. Recent research, however, has shown that African Americans gain less from their SES and African Americans of high SES, particularly males, may be vulnerable to perceived discrimination, as explained by the Minorities' Diminished Returns theory. One potential mechanism for this phenomenon is that high SES African Americans have a higher tendency to work in predominantly White workplaces, which increases their perceived discrimination. It is, however, unknown if the links between SES, working in predominantly White work groups and perceived discrimination differ for male and female African Americans.

Aim: To test the associations between SES, workplace racial composition and perceived discrimination in a nationally representative sample of male and female African American adults.

Methods: This study included a total number of 1775 employed African American adults who were either male (n = 676) or female (n = 1099), all enrolled from the National Survey of American Life (NSAL). The study measured gender, age, SES (educational attainment and household income), workplace racial composition and perceived discrimination. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) was applied in the overall sample and also by gender.

Results: In the pooled sample that included both genders, high education and household income were associated with working in a predominantly White work group, which was in turn associated with more perceived discrimination. We did not find gender differences in the associations between SES, workplace racial composition and perceived discrimination.

Conclusion: Although racial composition of workplace may be a mechanism by which high SES increases discriminatory experiences for African Americans, males and females may not differ in this regard. Policies are needed to reduce discrimination in racially diverse workplaces. This is particularly the case for African Americans who work in predominantly White work environments.

Keywords: African Americans; blacks; discrimination; ethnic groups; income; racism; socioeconomic status (SES).