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Unequal Associations between Educational Attainment and Occupational Stress across Racial and Ethnic Groups

  • assari, shervin
  • bazargan, mohsen
Publication Date
Sep 21, 2019
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Background: Although other mechanisms are also involved, at least one reason high educational attainment (EA) is associated with better health is lower employment stress in individuals with high EA. Minorities&rsquo / Diminished Returns, however, refer to the smaller protective health effects of EA for racial- and ethnic-minority individuals, particularly African Americans (AAs) and Hispanics, as compared to Whites. We are, however, not aware of many studies that have explored differential associations between EA and work-related stress across racial and ethnic groups. Aims: We aimed to compare racial and ethnic groups for the association between EA and occupational stress in a national sample of American adults. Methods: The National Health Interview Survey (NHIS 2015), a cross-sectional survey, included 15,726 employed adults. Educational attainment was the dependent variable. Occupational stress was the outcome. Race and ethnicity were the moderators. Age, gender, number of jobs, and years in the job were the covariates. Results: Overall, higher EA was associated with lower levels of occupational stress. Race and ethnicity both interacted with EA, suggesting that the association between high EA and reduced occupational stress is systemically smaller for AAs and Hispanics than it is for Whites. Conclusions: In the United States, race and ethnicity limit the health gains that follow EA. While EA helps individuals avoid environmental risk factors, such as occupational stress, this is more valid for non-Hispanic Whites than AAs and Hispanics. The result is additional physical and mental health risks in highly educated AAs and Hispanics. The results are important, given racial and ethnic minorities are the largest growing section of the US population. We should not assume that EA is similarly protective across all racial and ethnic groups. In this context, EA may increase, rather than reduce, health disparities.

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