Race, socioeconomic status, and health: Complexities, ongoing challenges, and research opportunities

David R. Williams, Selina A. Mohammed, Jacinta Leavell, Chiquita Collins

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

979 Scopus citations


This paper provides an overview of racial variations in health and shows that differences in socioeconomic status (SES) across racial groups are a major contributor to racial disparities in health. However, race reflects multiple dimensions of social inequality and individual and household indicators of SES capture relevant but limited aspects of this phenomenon. Research is needed that will comprehensively characterize the critical pathogenic features of social environments and identify how they combine with each other to affect health over the life course. Migration history and status are also important predictors of health and research is needed that will enhance understanding of the complex ways in which race, SES, and immigrant status combine to affect health. Fully capturing the role of race in health also requires rigorous examination of the conditions under which medical care and genetic factors can contribute to racial and SES differences in health. The paper identifies research priorities in all of these areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Biology of Disadvantage Socioeconomic Status and Health
PublisherBlackwell Publishing Inc.
Number of pages33
ISBN (Print)9781573317702
StatePublished - Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameAnnals of the New York Academy of Sciences
ISSN (Print)0077-8923
ISSN (Electronic)1749-6632


  • Genetics
  • Migration and health
  • Race and health
  • Social factors and health
  • Socioeconomic status and health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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