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Does racism affect health? Evidence from the United States and the United Kingdom

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Blacks have worse overall health than whites in both the United States and the United Kingdom. However, the relative difference in health between the two groups within each cultural context differs between each context. In this article, we attempt to glean insights into these health disparities. We do so by first examining what is currently known about differences in morbidity and mortality for blacks and whites in the United States and the United Kingdom. We then turn to medical examination data by race and country of birth in an attempt to further untangle the complex interplay of socioeconomic status (SES), race, and racism as determinants of health in the United States and the United Kingdom. We find that (1) longer exposure of blacks to the recipient country is a risk for mortality in the United States but not in the United Kingdom; (2) adjustment for SES matters a good deal for mortality in the United States, but less so in the United Kingdom; (3) morbidity indicators do not paint a clear picture of black disadvantage relative to whites in either context; and (4) were one to consider medical examination data alone, differences between the two groups exist only in the United States. Taken together, we conclude that it is possible that the “less racist” United Kingdom provides a healthier environment for blacks than the United States. However, there remain many mysteries that escape simple explanation. Our findings raise more questions than they answer, and the health risks and health status of blacks in the United States are much more complex than previously thought.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/36067/

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