Ethnicity & Health

Tse-Chuan Yang* and Danhong Chen


Objective: The objective of this study was to answer three questions: (1) Is perceived discrimination adversely related to self-rated stress via the social capital and health care system distrust pathways? (2) Does the relationship between perceived discrimination and self-rated stress vary across race/ethnicity groups? and (3) Do the two pathways differ by one’s race/ethnicity background?

Design: Using the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Survey, we classified 9831 respondents into 4 race/ethnicity groups: non-Hispanic White (n = 6621), non-Hispanic Black (n = 2359), Hispanic (n = 505), and non-Hispanic other races (n = 346). Structural equation modeling was employed to simultaneously estimate five sets of equations, including the confirmatory factor analysis for both social capital and health care distrust and both direct and indirect effects from perceived discrimination to self-rated stress.

Results: The key findings drawn from the analysis include the following: (1) in general, people who experienced racial discrimination have higher distrust and weaker social capital than those without perceived discrimination and both distrust and social capital are ultimately related to self-rated stress. (2) The direct relationship between perceived discrimination and self-rated stress is found for all race/ethnicity groups (except non-Hispanic other races) and it does not vary across groups. (3) The two pathways can be applied to non-Hispanic White and Black, but for Hispanic and non-Hispanic other races, we found little evidence for the social capital pathway.

Conclusions: For non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic, perceived discrimination is negatively related to self-rated stress. This finding highlights the importance of reducing interpersonal discriminatory behavior even for non-Hispanic White. The health care system distrust pathway can be used to address the racial health disparity in stress as it holds true for all four race/ethnicity groups. On the other hand, the social capital pathway seems to better help non-Hispanic White and Black to mediate the adverse effect of perceived discrimination on stress.

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* Denotes CSDA Associates, Affiliates, and Staff