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Behav Sci (Basel). 2018 May 17;8(5). pii: E50. doi: 10.3390/bs8050050.

Income and Self-Rated Mental Health: Diminished Returns for High Income Black Americans.

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Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture, and Health (CRECH), School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, USA.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, 4250 Plymouth Rd.; Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2700, USA.
Department of Public Health and Health Sciences, University of Michigan, Flint, MI 48502, USA.
Division of Public Health, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, Flint, MI 48502, USA.


Background: The minorities' diminished return theory suggests that socioeconomic position (SEP) generates smaller health gains for racial/ethnic minorities compared to Whites. The current study was a Blackā»White comparison of the association between household income and self-rated mental health (SRMH). Methods: This cross-sectional study used data from the 2017 State of the State Survey (SOSS). With representative sampling, the SOSS generates results that are generalizable to the state of Michigan. This study included 881 adults, (n = 92) Black and (n = 782) White. The independent variable was household income. The dependent variable was SRMH, measured using a single item. Age, gender, and participation in the labor force were covariates. Race/ethnicity was the focal moderator. Logistic regression models were used for data analysis. Results: Overall, higher household income was associated with better SRMH, net of covariates. An interaction was found between race/ethnicity and household income on SRMH, suggesting a smaller, or nonexistent, protective effect for Blacks compared to Whites. In race/ethnicity-stratified models, higher household income was associated with better SRMH for Whites but not Blacks. Conclusion: Supporting the minorities' diminished return theory, our study documents differential effects for income on SRHM for Blacks and Whites, where Whites but not Blacks appear to benefit from their income. Given this, researchers and policy makers are cautioned against making assumptions that racial groups benefit equally from similar economic resources.


African-Americans; Blacks; race; racial and ethnic health disparities; self-rated mental health; social and economic inequalities; socioeconomic position; socioeconomic status

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