Neighborhood Contexts, Identity-relevant Stressors, and Health
Racism is a persistent and pervasive social problem embedded throughout U.S. society. Previous research has established that racism, particularly racial discrimination, is a strong risk factor of various health statuses among racial/ethnic minorities, but the contexts that modify the health burden of racial discrimination are less understood. This dissertation aims to investigate how race-related micro- and meso- level contexts modifies the link between racial discrimination and health. In addition, I pay attention to the moderating role of nativity status to address the potential differences in individuals’ perception on American racial/ethnic categorizations and experiences of racial discrimination. On the micro level, I focus on racial/ethnic identity given that it is particularly important cultural group membership status for many racial/ethnic minorities whose identities are rooted in collectivistic cultures. I test the identity-relevant stressor hypothesis which argues that stressful events can be particularly detrimental based on its pertinence to the valued identities of individuals. On the meso level, I pay attention to racial residential segregation, which has been identified as the hallmark of U.S. urban areas and the fundamental cause of racial/ethnic health disparities. This three-paper dissertation utilizes multiple existing population-based data sources. The first and second papers use data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions-III (NESARC-III). The third paper uses data from the 2000 U.S. Census and the National Latino and Asian American Study (NLAAS). Several analytical strategies, including binary logistic regression, heterogeneous choice models, and nested logistic regression, are employed. Taken together, the present dissertation underscores great complexity in the link between race and health. Through the course of three studies, I show that the dynamics between race-related stressors and health status are not uniform, and should be understood in the realm of individuals’ social identity and their neighborhood environment. Specifically, the findings of this study contribute to expanding stress theory in the context of identity-relevance and living environments. Moreover, the study results evince that efforts to ameliorate racial health disparities should be accompanied by the consideration of the centrality of the race/ethnicity of individuals and their residential environments.