Dealing with Racism: Black Middle-Class Health in the 21st Century

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There is widespread evidence that health disparities between whites and blacks in the U.S. cannot be fully explained by inter-group socioeconomic differences. Further, research shows that racism plays a significant role in explaining racial health disparities. However, there is less research that attends to what psychosocial and socioeconomic resources may be protective of black middle-class health over time. My research starts to fill this gap by examining whether racial identity and childhood socioeconomic status are protective of black health over time.

In Chapter 2, I use data from the American Changing Lives Study (ACL) and examine whether a strong racial identity is a protective mechanism in the relationship between racism and two health outcomes: self-rated health and depressive symptoms. My findings suggest that whether racial identity is protective depends on the health outcome and the frequency of racism respondents experience. My results also indicate that middle-class is not consistently a protective factor for black health.

In Chapter 3, I use data from the National Survey of American Life (NSAL) and the ACL to investigate whether childhood socioeconomic status is associated with adult health for blacks, and particularly black women. I argue that relative childhood socioeconomic advantage is more important for disadvantaged race and race/gender groups. Further, using an intersectional approach, I argue that it is most important for black women. My findings indicate that the association of childhood socioeconomic status and adult health is significant for blacks, but not whites. I also find that childhood socioeconomic status is especially important for black women.






Tavares, Carlos (2018). Dealing with Racism: Black Middle-Class Health in the 21st Century. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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