Blacks' Diminished Return of Education Attainment on Subjective Health; Mediating Effect of Income

Brain Sci. 2018 Sep 12;8(9):176. doi: 10.3390/brainsci8090176.


Background: Minorities' Diminished Return (MDR) can be defined as smaller health gains from socioeconomic status (SES) indicators, such as education attainment among ethnic minorities compared to the majority group. The current study tested whether income explains why Black and White adults differ in the association between education attainment and self-rated health (SRH). Methods: With a cross-sectional design, this study used data from Cycle 5 of the Health Information National Trends Survey (HINTS), 2017. With a nationally representative sample, the HINTS study generates results that are generalizable to US adults. This study included 2277 adults who were either non-Hispanic White (n = 1868; 82%) or non-Hispanic Black (n = 409; 18%). The independent variable was education attainment. The dependent variable was SRH, measured using a standard single item. Age, gender, and health insurance status were covariates. Ethnicity was the focal moderator. Income was the mediator. A structural equation model (SEM) was applied for data analysis. Results: Overall, higher education attainment was associated with better SRH, net of covariates. However, a significant interaction between ethnicity and education attainment suggested a smaller SRH gain from education for Blacks compared to Whites. This interaction could be explained by Black⁻White differences in income. Conclusion: Our study results suggests that labor market preferences may explain smaller effects of education attainment on SRH for Blacks relative to Whites. Given this finding and other studies documenting MDR, policies should reduce labor market discrimination, increasing job opportunities and reducing the racial pay gap for Blacks. Programs should help Blacks compete for prestigious and high-paying jobs.

Keywords: African Americans; Blacks; economic inequalities; ethnic health disparities; ethnicity; population groups; race; self-rated health; socioeconomic status.