Population Research Discovery Seminars
Structural Racism and Health Stratification: A New Theory-Driven Empirical Approach
Tyson Brown, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology; Director, Center on Health & Society; Associate Scientific Director of Social Sciences, Center on Aging, Duke University
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Despite the centrality of structural explanations for understanding racialized inequality, less than one percent of studies on the link between race and health have focused on structural racism. Moreover, the disconnect between the conceptualization and measurement of structural racism has hindered our understanding of the relationship between structural racism and health. This study advances the field by 1) distilling central tenets of theories of structural racism into concrete measures of structural racism, 2) conceptualizing U.S. states as racializing institutional actors shaping health, 3) developing a novel latent measure of structural racism in states across multiple domains, including education, economics, politics, housing, and the judicial system, 4) mapping structural racism across states, and 5) quantifying the association between of structural racism and six health outcomes among Black and white adults. We use administrative data measuring state-level racial stratification linked to geocoded individual-level demographic and health data from the HRS (N=9,126) and the BRFSS (N=308,029). Results show that, whereas structural racism is consistently associated with worse health for Black people, it is either unrelated to health or predictive of better health among whites. Findings highlight the utility of rigorously conceptualizing and measuring structural racism and its impact on population health.
Tyson H. Brown is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University, where he is the inaugural Presidential Fellow (2021-2022) and directs the Center on Health & Society. His program of research examines the who, when, and how questions regarding racial inequalities in health and wealth. Dr. Brown has authored numerous articles in leading sociology, population health and health policy journals, and his research contributions have been recognized with awards from the American Sociological Association. Brown is currently working on several projects that address fundamental questions about racial stratification by conceptualizing, measuring and mapping structural racism, as well as quantifying its impact on the life chances. Professor Brown serves on the Board of Directors of the Population Association of America as well as on the editorial boards of several journals, including Demography, Social Forces, and the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. He earned his doctorate degree in sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.