Race – and Place – Matters for Health

Plos: 12/13/12

A child is born in the United States. How much information do you need to predict her future health? To predict if she will enjoy a healthy life? If she will die an early death?

One important piece of information is where she lives. And more specifically, if she lives in an area of racial residential segregation. In 2001, David R. Williams and Chiquita Collins called racial residential segregation “a fundamental cause”of health disparities. For some time researchers had known socioeconomic status (SES) was linked to health inequalities. But what they had not asked, Williams and Collins point out, was what causes racial disparities in SES. Building on a literature that began in 1950, when Alfred Yankauer found a link between infant mortality and segregation, Williams and Collins show how segregation limits socioeconomic mobility – and, thus, access to education and employment and, ultimately, health. Read More