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The mental health issues

Segregation probably has a larger impact on the health of African Americans than other groups because blacks currently live under a level of segregation that is higher than that of any other immigrant group in U.S. history (Massey and Denton 1993). In addition, the association between segregation and SES varies by minority racial group. For Latinos and Asians, segregation is inversely related to household income but segregation is high at all levels of SES for blacks (Massey 2004). The highest SES blacks (incomes greater than $50,000) in the 2000 Census were more segregated than the poorest Latinos and Asians (incomes less than $15,000) (Massey 2004).

At the individual level, experiences of discrimination have been shown to be a source of stress that adversely affects health (Williams and Mohammed 2009). Research has documented elevated levels of exposure to both chronic and acute measures of discrimination for socially stigmatized racial and immigrant groups in the U.S., Europe, Africa, Australia and New Zealand (Williams and Mohammed 2009). Exposure to discrimination has been shown to be associated with increased risk of a broad range of indicators of physical and mental illness. In addition, discrimination, like other measures of social stress, adversely affects patterns of health care utilization and adherence behaviors and is predictive of increased risk of using multiple substances to cope with stress including tobacco, alcohol and illicit drugs. Several studies have found that, in multiple national contexts, racial discrimination makes an incremental contribution to SES, in accounting for observed racial disparities in health (Williams and Mohammed 2009).

While much research has focused on the pervasive role of racism in perpetuating health disparities, sociologists have also enhanced our understanding of the complex ways communities respond to discrimination. Some research has explored the harmful health effects of internalized racism—in which minority groups accept the dominant society’s ideology of their inferiority as accurate (Williams and Mohammed 2009). Other research has identified cultural and psychosocial resources that foster resilience. For example, sociological research has found that religious involvement can enhance health in the face of racial discrimination and also buffer the negative effects of interpersonal discrimination on health (Bierman 2006Ellison, Musick, and Henderson 2008). Other research indicates that ethnic identity can serve as a resource in the face of discrimination (Mossakowski 2003). Having a sense of ethnic pride and engaging in ethnic practices can enhance mental health directly and the strength of ethnic identification can reduce the stress of discrimination on mental health.