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Clinical Science Brown Bag: Economic Resources and Psychological Assets Better Predict Health

Shervin Assari, Research Investigator, Psychiatry, Medical School
Monday, September 11, 2017
9:00-10:00 AM
4464 East Hall Map
Economic resources (e.g. education, employment, and neighborhood
quality) better predict health outcomes for Whites compared to Blacks.
The same findings have been found for psychological assets (e.g. anger
control, affect, perceived control over life, general self-efficacy,
and self-rated health). For instance, high levels of general
self-efficacy does not predicts higher life expectancy for Blacks.
These findings suggest that these resources and assets may have a less
salient role for physical health of Blacks (a disadvantaged minority
group) than Whites (the privileged majority group). These findings
hold across settings, age groups, designs, predictors, and outcomes.
But why do Blacks gain less than Whites from the same levels of
resources and assets?

One hypothesis is the structural barriers the exist in the U.S. social
system. Due to the labor market preferences and practices, education
and employment are not generating the same income, so Blacks with
education have less purchase power than Whites. The type of jobs that
Whites and Blacks enter are qualitatively different, so employment
will result in a smaller health gain for Blacks. Black men with a
master degree earn $20,000 less than their White counterparts. This
hypothesis has been previously explained as "diminished health gain
for Blacks".

Another hypothesis is that Blacks are more resilient than Whites to a
wide range of adversities due to their life experiences (i.e. a social
rather than a biological view). As life has been difficult for Blacks,
for the sake of their survival, Blacks may have learned and found ways
to deal with their harsh environment. These experiences may have
helped them develop a systematic resilience. Whites, however, do not
have such a training opportunity. In this view, vulnerability should
be seen as a cost of privilege and resilience as a gift of adversity.

Regardless of their developmental origins, these findings have
clinical and policy implications. A high sense of control over life or
self-efficacy may have different meanings across different racial
groups. As psychical factors do not have the same predictive validity
for minorities, reliance on these psychosocial measures as tools to
predict future health outcomes would generate more errors for Blacks
than Whites. These findings are also against universal application of
these measures across racial groups. Policy solutions should focus on
structural barriers in the lives of Blacks and other minorities.
Equalizing access to resources would not be enough for elimination of
racial health disparities, given that resources and assets better
generate health for Whites than Blacks.
Building: East Hall
Event Type: Presentation
Tags: brown bag
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Department of Psychology, Clinical Science