Middle-class whites' explanations for racial inequalities in health can have a profound impact on the type of questions addressed in epidemiology and public health research. These explanations also constitute a subset of white racial ideology (i.e., racism) that in itself powerfully affects the health of non-whites. This study begins to examine the nature of attributions for racial inequalities in health among university students who by definition are likely to be involved in the research, policy, and service professions (the upper middle class). Investigation of the degree to which middle-class whites attribute racial inequalities in cardiovascular health (between themselves and African Americans, American Indians, or Asian Americans) to biological, social, or lifestyle factors reveals that whites tend to attribute their own health to lifestyle choice and to biology rather than to social factors. These results suggest that contemporary middle-class whites' "self-serving" explanations for racial inequalities in health are comprised of two beliefs: implicit biologism (race is an attribute of organisms rather than a social relation) and liberal belief in self-determination, choice, and individual responsibility-some of the core lay beliefs of the worldview that sustains neoliberal capitalism. Contemporary white middle-class explanations for racial inequalities in health appear to include assumptions that justify class inequality. Liberal approaches to racism in public health are bound to miss a key component of racial ideology that is currently used to justify racial and class inequalities.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy