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The Black-White Paradox Revisited: Understanding the Role of Counterbalancing Mechanisms

Sun, August 12, 2:30 to 4:10pm, Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, Floor: Level 4, 410

Abstract

The tendency for Blacks to report similar or better mental health than Whites has served as an enduring paradox in the mental health literature for the past three decades. However, a debate persists about the mechanisms that underlie this paradox. Drawing on the stress process framework, we consider the counterbalancing influences of self-esteem and traumatic stress exposure in the “Black-White paradox” finding. Using nationally representative data, we observe that Blacks have higher levels of self-esteem than Whites, but also encounter higher levels of traumatic stress exposure. Statistically adjusting for self-esteem reveals a net higher rate of mood disorders/distress among Blacks relative to Whites, and differences in traumatic stress exposure mediate this association. In the full model, we show that self-esteem and stress exposure offset each other, thus resulting in a null association between race and mood disorders and a reduced association between race and distress.

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