Is Racial Discrimination a Risk Factor for 9/11-Related Psychological Trauma?

Nathan Fosse, Harvard University
Ethan Fosse, Harvard University

Using cumulative risk theory as a framework, this study provides the first evidence linking perceived racial discrimination to fear of terrorism in a nationally representative sample of African Americans interviewed up to two years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Based on data from the National Survey of American Life, findings reveal that African Americans who had experienced racial discrimination in the past were 63.3% more likely to report that the 9/11 terrorist attacks had shaken their sense of safety “a great deal,” compared to those who had never experienced discrimination. Moreover, this association is only slightly attenuated and remains statistically significant after controlling for a number of hypothesized confounders. These results suggest that racism poses a significant risk factor for psychological vulnerability to acute stressors, even if such stressors are unrelated to the experiences of racial discrimination.

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Presented in Session 24: Racial Discrimination