Impact of Neighborhood Quality on Mental and Physical Health in African Americans: Evidence for the “Skin-Deep” Hypothesis

Julia Goodwin , University of Wisconsin-Madison

Previous work has found evidence for the “skin-deep” hypothesis: the upwardly mobile from disadvantaged backgrounds are psychosocially no different from their high SES counterparts, but fare worse in health outcomes compared to their non-mobile counterparts, which researchers hypothesize is due to exposures to stress. There is little research on the effects of change in neighborhood quality on health outcomes, which begs the question: when using more direct measures of neighborhood characteristics to track social mobility, does the skin-deep phenomena still hold? Using data from Waves I and IV of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, I find evidence for the skin-deep hypothesis for non-Hispanic blacks: those who lived in disadvantaged neighborhoods at Wave I and less disadvantaged neighborhoods at Wave IV had elevated levels of c-reactive protein — a marker for persistent, physiological stress — compared to their counterparts who lived in non-disadvantaged neighborhoods at Waves I and IV.

See extended abstract

 Presented in Session 11. Health & Mortality 2