Race and Social Problems

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 269–281 | Cite as

Inequality in Process: Income and Heterogeneous Educational Health Gradients Among Blacks and Whites in the USA

  • Michael H. EspositoEmail author


Though considerable research demonstrates that non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic whites in the USA vary in how much their health improves from educational attainment, empirical work that explains why these populations arrive at unequal returns to education is sparse. In this study, to flesh out our understanding of how heterogeneous educational gradients arise among racial populations in the USA, I examine how income—a crucial mediator of the education–health association—contributes to racially disparate health returns to college. In particular, I compare how the association among college completion and health status would manifest across blacks and white subpopulations if income were factored out of the underlying educationhealth generative process. I use data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (n = 7222) and sequential g-estimation for this investigation. Results demonstrate that income plays a larger role in mediating the association among college completion and health status for blacks and, as such, that sizable racial differences in the health benefits of college persist after controlling for income.


Health disparities Educational gradients in health Mediation analysis Sequential g-estimation 



The authors wish to thank Jerald Herting, Hedwig Lee, Stewart Tolnay, and Anjum Hajat for their feedback on this project. This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by Grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website ( No direct support was received from Grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 69 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Social ResearchUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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