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Addressing Racial Disparities in Health Using Life Course Perspectives: Toward a Constructive Criticism

Publication Abstract

Colen, Cynthia. 2011. "Addressing Racial Disparities in Health Using Life Course Perspectives: Toward a Constructive Criticism." Du Bois Review, 8(1): 79-94.

In the United States, African Americans face stark inequalities in health. The life course perspective offers a unique viewpoint through which racial disparities in morbidity and mortality may be understood as the result of repeated exposures to risk factors during both childhood and adulthood. However, the utility of this approach is limited by its failure to investigate the degree to which racial/ethnic minorities are able to translate gains in socioeconomic status into favorable health outcomes, both for themselves and for their children. In order to adequately reflect the realities of marginalized groups, life course models must explore the interactive nature of linkages across lifecourse stages, pay particular attention to the unique processes that create and maintain health disparities over time, and consider the specific contexts in which these processes occur. To this end, I examine the ways in which exclusionary forces and discriminatory conditions are likely to prevent African American women and their children from reaping the health benefits typically associated with upward socioeconomic mobility.

DOI:10.1017/S1742058X11000075 (Full Text)

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