On Nothing and Everything

The Relationship between Ethnicity and Health
  • Pamela M. Kato
Part of the The Plenum Series in Culture and Health book series (PSCH)


The use of ethnicity as a grouping variable in health research is disturbing to scientists. It is poorly defined, is not objectively measured, and cannot be studied in a true experiment. Thus, scientific conclusions about the causal relationship between ethnicity and health are difficult to make. To a large extent, ethnic categories are problematic because they are socioculturally constructed categories. Depending on the culture, definitions and criteria for ethnic categories vary. Even within cultures, such as the United States, criteria for membership differs from one context to another. However, ethnicity as a grouping variable should not be discarded because it is not scientific. It deserves careful study because it is associated with important health outcomes. It is well known that ethnic groups differ dramatically on many measures of health outcomes (e.g., U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1985).


Breast Cancer Ethnic Group White Woman Ethnic Difference White Female 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pamela M. Kato
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesStanford University School of MedicineStanford

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