Mismatched racial identities, colourism, and health in Toronto and Vancouver

Posted in Articles, Canada, Health/Medicine/Genetics, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Social Science on 2011-08-29 19:17Z by Steven

Mismatched racial identities, colourism, and health in Toronto and Vancouver

Social Science & Medicine
Volume 73, Issue 8, October 2011
pages 1152–1162
DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.07.030

Gerry Veenstra, Associate Professor of Sociology
University of British Columbia

Using original telephone survey data collected from adult residents of Toronto (n=685) and Vancouver (n=814) in 2009, I investigate associations between mental and physical health and variously conceived racial identities. An ‘expressed racial identity’ is a self-identification with a racial grouping that a person will readily express to others when asked to fit into official racial classifications presented by Census forms, survey researchers, insurance forms, and the like. Distinguishing between Asian, Black, South Asian, and White expressed racial identities, I find that survey respondents expressing Black identity are the most likely to report high blood pressure or hypertension, a risk that is slightly attenuated by socioeconomic status, and that respondents expressing Asian identity are the most likely to report poorer self-rated mental health and self-rated overall health, risks that are not explained by socioeconomic status. I also find that darker-skinned Black respondents are more likely than lighter-skinned Black respondents to report poor health outcomes, indicating that colourism, processes of discrimination which privilege lighter-skinned people of colour over their darker-skinned counterparts, exists and has implications for well-being in Canada as it does in the United States. Finally, ‘reflected racial identity’ refers to the racial identity that a person believes that others tend to perceive him or her to be. I find that expressed and reflected racial identities differ from one another for large proportions of self-expressed Black and South Asian respondents and relatively few self-expressed White and Asian respondents. I also find that mismatched racial identities correspond with relatively high risks of various poor health outcomes, especially for respondents who consider themselves White but believe that others tend to think they are something else. I conclude by presenting a framework for conceptualizing multifaceted suites of racial identities and relating their various components and inconsistencies between them to health outcomes.

Tags: , , ,