Racial and Ethnic Inequalities in Health: Environmental, Psychosocial, and Physiological Pathways

  • Burton Singer
  • Carol Ryff


In Chapter 13 of the Bell Curve, Herrnstein and Murray (H&M) note that “ethnic differences in cognitive ability are neither surprising nor in doubt.”1 This is largely true. What is not so obvious is (1) the causes of such differences, (2) their immutability, and (3) the consequences of ethnic and racial differences in cognitive ability. H&M argue that the causes are largely genetic, that cognitive ability is more or less fixed over an individual’s lifetime, and that it effects a wide array of social consequences, ranging from unemployment to family income, etc. There are, of course, alternative explanations for ethnic and racial differences in cognitive ability and for their consequences. H&M’s favorite statistical tool of multiple regression is not the only way to explore such values. In this chapter we offer an alternative approach focused on health outcomes, and we demonstrate how nongenetic biological, environmental, and social pathways can explain much of the racial and ethnic differences.


Racial Difference Allostatic Load Physiological Substrate Ethnic Inequality Psychosocial Adversity 
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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Burton Singer
  • Carol Ryff

There are no affiliations available

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