Race and Social Problems

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 133–148 | Cite as

Neighborhood Social Integration and Psychological Well-Being Among African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans

  • Christy L. ErvingEmail author
  • Ornella Hills


Using the National Survey of American Life, this study examines the impact of neighborhood social integration (i.e., contact with neighbors, participation in neighborhood organizations) on mental health (i.e., depressive symptoms, life satisfaction), and the extent to which these associations vary between African Americans (N = 3191) and Afro-Caribbeans (N = 1416). Results reveal that contact with neighbors was associated with greater life satisfaction for both African Americans and Afro-Caribbeans. However, for depressive symptoms, the two groups diverged. Among African Americans, neighbor contact was also associated with fewer depressive symptoms. However, for Afro-Caribbeans, participation in neighborhood groups was associated with fewer depressive symptoms. Thus, it appears that participation in neighborhood organizations is particularly salubrious for Afro-Caribbeans, while frequent contact with neighbors is health-protective for African Americans. This study contributes to a growing literature elucidating how ethnicity shapes the social experiences and psychological well-being of black Americans. In addition, these findings suggest that the neighborhood is a key socio-spatial context that should be included in the broader literature on social integration and health.


Race/ethnicity Black Americans Mental health Neighborhoods Social integration National Survey of American Life 



The authors would like to thank Teresa Scheid, André Christie-Mizell, Evelyn Patterson, and Lijun Song for their helpful comments. This paper was presented at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association. The first author would also like to thank the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars program for its financial support.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA
  2. 2.School of Journalism and Mass CommunicationUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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