The Role of Social Context in Racial Disparities in Self-Rated Health

Caryn N. Bell, Roland J. Thorpe, Thomas A. LaVeist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Race disparities in self-rated health in the USA are well-documented, such that African Americans rate their health more poorly than whites. However, after adjusting for health status, socioeconomic status (SES), and health behaviors, residual race differences are observed. This suggests the importance of unmeasured variables. Because African Americans and whites tend to live in differing social contexts, it is possible that accounting for social and environmental conditions may reduce racial disparities in self-rated health. Differences in self-rated health among whites and African Americans were assessed in a low-income, urban integrated community (Exploring Health Disparities in Integrated Communities (EHDIC)) and compared with a national sample (National Health Interview Survey (NHIS)). Controlling for demographics, SES, health insurance, status, and behaviors, African Americans in NHIS had higher odds of reporting fair or poor health (odds ratio [OR] = 1.40, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.18–1.66) than whites. In EHDIC, there was no race difference in self-rated health (OR = 0.83, 95% CI = 0.63–1.11). These results demonstrate the importance of social context in understanding race disparities in self-rated health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)13-20
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Race
  • Self-rated health
  • Social context

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Urban Studies
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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