Saturday, March 26, 2016

An Empirical Analysis of White Privilege, Social Position and Health

Accumulated evidence has demonstrated that social position matters for health. Those with greater socioeconomic resources and greater perceived standing in the social hierarchy have better health than those with fewer resources and lower perceived standing. Race is another salient axis by which health is stratified in the U.S., but few studies have examined the benefit of White privilege

In this paper, we investigated how perceptions of inequality and subjective and objective social status affected the health and well-being of N = 630 White residents in three Boston neighborhoods lying on a social gradient differentiated by race, ethnicity, income and prestige. Outcomes were self-rated health, dental health, and happiness. Results suggested that: neighborhood residence was not associated with health after controlling for individual level factors (e.g., positive ratings of the neighborhood, education level); objective measures of socioeconomic status were associated with better self-reported and dental health, but subjective assessments of social position were more strongly associated; and White residents living in the two wealthiest neighborhoods, and who perceived Black families as welcome in their neighborhoods enjoyed better health than those who believed them to be less welcome. However, those who lived in the least wealthy and most diverse neighborhood fared worse when reporting Black families to be welcome. 

These results suggest that White privilege and relative social position interact to shape health outcomes.

Below:  Relationship between perceived neighborhood welcome to Black families and health outcomes (self-rated health, dental health, and happiness). Values for self-rated health ranged from 1 to 4; dental health from 1 to 5; and happiness from 0 to 2. For both self-rated health and dental health, lower scores are better.

Full article at:

By:  Kwate NO1Goodman MS2.
  • 1Departments of Human Ecology and Africana Studies, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 55 Dudley Rd, Cook Office Building, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8520, USA. Electronic address:
  • 2Division of Public Health Sciences Department of Surgery, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, 660 S. Euclid Avenue, Campus Box 8100, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA. 
  •  2014 Sep;116:150-60. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.05.041. Epub 2014 Jun 13.

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