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Race/Ethnicity, Health, and Mortality


Frisbie, W. Parker & Hummer, Robert A. (2007). Race/Ethnicity, Health, and Mortality.. Ritzer, George (Ed.) (pp. 3756-3760). Oxford, England: Blackwell.


Few issues are of greater importance for a society than the health of its members. And, based on the US Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2000 and 2010 reports, few issues are of greater concern than race/ethnic differentials in health and mortality in the United States. Any discussion of this topic places us squarely at a crucial interface of sociology (especially social demography) and social epidemiology. Although health (or morbidity) and mortality clearly are biological phenomena, one point of general agreement across these disciplines is that race/ethnicity is properly conceived as a sociocultural construct, not a genetic one. That is, we assume that if all race/ethnic compositional differences could be controlled, race/ethnic disparities in health and mortality would vanish – or at least be greatly reduced. A useful definition of an ethnic group is “a collectivity within a larger society having real or putative common ancestry, memories of a shared historical past, and a cultural focus on one or more symbolic elements defined as the epitome of peoplehood” (Schermerhorn 1970: 12). It is from this vantage point that the American Sociological Association (ASA) has endorsed and encouraged the continuation of research on race disparities across a wide range of topics (ASA 2003, as cited by Takeuchi & Williams 2003).


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Frisbie, W. Parker
Hummer, Robert A.