Higher Income Blacks More Likely to Experience Racism and Discrimination

A new study by researchers at Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, and Harvard University has found that upwardly mobile African Americans are more likely than Blacks from lower-income groups to experience racial discrimination. A possible explanation for this phenomenon is that African Americans who are climbing the socioeconomic ladder find themselves in more situations where they’re in the minority – whether that’s at school, work or in their neighborhood than is the case for lower-income African Americans. The authors also conclude that this increased exposure to discrimination and racism may explain the persisting racial health gap among Blacks and Whites in higher-income groups.

“People assume that as your socioeconomic status improves, your health will improve as well. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be the case for Americans who aren’t White,” said Cynthia Colen, an associate professor of sociology at Ohio State and the lead author of the study. “Our study suggests that upward mobility might expose African Americans to more discrimination and that could have a harmful effect on their health.”

“Socioeconomic status is so often thought to be the fundamental cause of health disparities, but this research shows us that we should consider other factors, including racism,” Dr. Colen added.

The study, “Racial Disparities in Health Among Nonpoor African Americans and Hispanics: The Role of Acute and Chronic Discrimination,” was published on the website of the journal Social Science & Medicine. It may be accessed here.

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Comments (4)

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  1. Alex says:

    Interesting study. I always thought it was upwardly black in the corporate industry who faced the most racism. This maybe the case for upwardly Blacks in all economic sectors. I guess the more we progress, the more stubborn other people become in their way of thinking.

  2. Celesti Colds Fechter, Ph.D. says:

    This rings true. Doing all of the right things and still facing discrimination has a really detrimental effect on both physical and mental health. It gets even worse when you give your children a “good life” and experience the gut-wrenching pain of seeing them targeted, or challenged by police officers about whether they “belong” in the very neighborhoods where they live.

  3. Dr. William N. Moore, DBA, MBA says:

    Unfortunately, this type of discrimination also occurs as people of color advance in higher education earning MBA (Master of Business Administration) Degrees and DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) Degrees. Most of the jobs in these categories pay in excess of $75,000. a year so generally the employers paying these high salaries do not interview or hire these candidates. Of course there may be exceptions for certain connected people of color.

  4. Savannah says:

    I speak from experience, the racism spreads to many sectors. There are still events, meetings etc., where my colleagues and I are the “new” faces. There are still sectors of our society that are segregated.

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