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

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          Abstract

          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.

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          Most cited references 74

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          Race, socioeconomic status, and health: complexities, ongoing challenges, and research opportunities.

          This paper provides an overview of racial variations in health and shows that differences in socioeconomic status (SES) across racial groups are a major contributor to racial disparities in health. However, race reflects multiple dimensions of social inequality and individual and household indicators of SES capture relevant but limited aspects of this phenomenon. Research is needed that will comprehensively characterize the critical pathogenic features of social environments and identify how they combine with each other to affect health over the life course. Migration history and status are also important predictors of health and research is needed that will enhance understanding of the complex ways in which race, SES, and immigrant status combine to affect health. Fully capturing the role of race in health also requires rigorous examination of the conditions under which medical care and genetic factors can contribute to racial and SES differences in health. The paper identifies research priorities in all of these areas.
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            Unequal Gain of Equal Resources across Racial Groups

            The health effects of economic resources (eg, education, employment, and living place) and psychological assets (eg, self-efficacy, perceived control over life, anger control, and emotions) are well-known. This article summarizes the results of a growing body of evidence documenting Blacks’ diminished return, defined as a systematically smaller health gain from economic resources and psychological assets for Blacks in comparison to Whites. Due to structural barriers that Blacks face in their daily lives, the very same resources and assets generate smaller health gain for Blacks compared to Whites. Even in the presence of equal access to resources and assets, such unequal health gain constantly generates a racial health gap between Blacks and Whites in the United States. In this paper, a number of public policies are recommended based on these findings. First and foremost, public policies should not merely focus on equalizing access to resources and assets, but also reduce the societal and structural barriers that hinder Blacks. Policy solutions should aim to reduce various manifestations of structural racism including but not limited to differential pay, residential segregation, lower quality of education, and crime in Black and urban communities. As income was not found to follow the same pattern demonstrated for other resources and assets (ie, income generated similar decline in risk of mortality for Whites and Blacks), policies that enforce equal income and increase minimum wage for marginalized populations are essential. Improving quality of education of youth and employability of young adults will enable Blacks to compete for high paying jobs. Policies that reduce racism and discrimination in the labor market are also needed. Without such policies, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to eliminate the sustained racial health gap in the United States.
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              Are racial disparities in health conditional on socioeconomic status?

              Racial health inequality is related to socioeconomic status (SES), but debate ensues on the nature of the relationship. Using the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey I and the subsequent follow-up interviews, this research examines health disparities between white and black adults and whether the SES/health gradient differs across the two groups in the USA. Two competing mechanisms for the conditional or interactive relationship between race and SES on health are examined during a 20-year period for black and white Americans. Results show that black adults began the study with more serious illnesses and poorer self-rated health than white adults and that the disparity continued over the 20 years. Significant interactions were found between race and education as well as race and employment status on health outcomes. The interaction effect of race and education showed that the racial disparity in self-rated health was largest at the higher levels of SES, providing some evidence for the "diminishing returns" hypothesis; as education levels increased, black adults did not have the same improvement in self-rated health as white adults. Overall, the findings provide evidence for the continuing significance of both race and SES in determining health status over time.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Brain Sci
                Brain Sci
                brainsci
                Brain Sciences
                MDPI
                2076-3425
                12 September 2018
                September 2018
                : 8
                : 9
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture, and Health (CRECH), School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, USA; assari@ 123456umich.edu ; Tel.: +1-734-363-2678
                [2 ]Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, 4250 Plymouth Rd.; Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2700, USA
                Article
                brainsci-08-00176
                10.3390/brainsci8090176
                6162786
                30213135
                © 2018 by the author.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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