Disparities at the intersection of marginalized groups

John W. Jackson, David R. Williams, Tyler J. VanderWeele

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Purpose: Mental health disparities exist across several dimensions of social inequality, including race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status and gender. Most investigations of health disparities focus on one dimension. Recent calls by researchers argue for studying persons who are marginalized in multiple ways, often from the perspective of intersectionality, a theoretical framework applied to qualitative studies in law, sociology, and psychology. Quantitative adaptations are emerging but there is little guidance as to what measures or methods are helpful. Methods: Here, we consider the concept of a joint disparity and its composition, show that this approach can illuminate how outcomes are patterned for social groups that are marginalized across multiple axes of social inequality, and compare the insights gained with that of other measures of additive interaction. We apply these methods to a cohort of young men from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, examining disparities for black men with low early life SES vs. white men with high early life SES across several outcomes that predict mental health, including unemployment, wages, and incarceration. Results and conclusions: We report striking disparities in each outcome, but show that the contribution of race, SES, and their intersection varies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1349-1359
Number of pages11
JournalSocial psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Attributable proportion
  • Decomposition
  • Disparities
  • Excess intersectional disparity
  • Heterogeneity of effects
  • Interaction
  • Intersectionality
  • Joint disparity
  • Ratio of observed to expected joint effects
  • Relative excess risk for interaction
  • Synergy index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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