Princeton University Study Suggests Racial Bias in Access to Mental Health Care

princetonA new study by a graduate student in sociology at Princeton University shows that African Americans seeking the care of mental health professionals may face bias.

Heather Kugelmass left voicemail messages for 320 New York City therapists, randomly selected from health insurance company lists of providers. Using names and vocal clues, the racial identity and gender of the caller were strongly suggested. The callers asked to make an appointment with the mental health provider.

The study found that 30 percent of all callers received a return call to make an appointment. But Black men were called back only 13 percent of the time and Black women had their calls returned 21 percent of the time.

Kugelmass stated that “unlike employers or real estate agents, psychotherapists have not previously faced empirical scrutiny for potentially discriminatory behavior. This research provides a window into an otherwise private exchange that may subtly perpetuate disadvantage.”

The study, “Sorry, I’m Not Accepting New Patients’: An Audit Study of Access to Mental Health Care,” was published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. It may be accessed here.

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