Racial Disparities in Cleanliness Attitudes Mediate Purchasing Attitudes Toward Cleaning Products: a Serial Mediation Model

  • Leib Litman
  • Monnica T. Williams
  • Zohn Rosen
  • Sarah L. Weinberger-Litman
  • Jonathan Robinson


The present study has three objectives (1) to examine whether there are differences in cleanliness concerns between African Americans and European Americans toward kitchen items that are known to be vectors of disease, (2) to examine whether disparities in cleanliness attitudes have an impact on purchasing attitudes toward kitchen cleaning products, and (3) to explore the mechanisms that may account for these differences utilizing a serial mediation model. Five hundred participants, 50% African American and 50% European American were shown a picture of a sponge cleaning product and filled out multiple survey instruments relating to cleanliness attitudes. We found greater concern with cleanliness of kitchen items (d = .46) and a greater willingness to purchase cleaning products among African Americans compared to European Americans (17 vs 10%). A serial mediation analysis revealed that general cleanliness concerns account for the increased willingness to spend money on cleaning products among African Americans. These results suggest that African Americans are more sensitive to issues of cleanliness compared to European Americans and, in particular, are more sensitive to cleanliness of kitchen items such as sponges, which can be vectors of food-borne pathogens. Potential reasons for the observed racial disparities in cleanliness attitudes and the implications of these results for public health are discussed.


Racial disparities Cleanliness attitudes Contamination attitudes Public health African Americans 



The authors would like to thank Matthew W. Flannery and Tod Maitland, owners of SpongeBath, LLC for their contributions and for providing the stimuli for this study.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Leib Litman, Monnica T. Williams, Zohn Rosen, Sarah Weinberger-Litman, and Jonathan Robinson declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Studies Involving Human Participants

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© W. Montague Cobb-NMA Health Institute 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leib Litman
    • 1
    • 2
  • Monnica T. Williams
    • 3
  • Zohn Rosen
    • 4
  • Sarah L. Weinberger-Litman
    • 5
  • Jonathan Robinson
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyLander CollegeFlushingUSA
  2. 2.Touro College and University SystemNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychological SciencesUniversity of ConnecticutStorrsUSA
  4. 4.Mailman School of Public Health, GRAPH CenterColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  5. 5.Department of PsychologyMarymount Manhattan CollegeNew YorkUSA

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