Who Is at Risk of Racial Discrimination? Perceived Race and Health Disparities in the United States

Aliya Saperstein, University of Oregon

Recent scholarship argues that the experience of discrimination is an important cause of racial disparities in health. Yet standard methods of measuring race in surveys rely on the respondents’ racial identification – how they choose to describe themselves – rather than a measure (presumably) more directly connected to discrimination: how they are perceived racially by others. This study draws on data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and explores whether adding perceived race to an analysis of health disparities provides more insight than self-identification alone. The results – that perceived race matters but not necessarily in the ways we might expect – raise important questions about how racial discrimination operates and what we are measuring (or want to measure) when we measure “race.”

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Presented in Session 24: Racial Discrimination