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What Cory Booker is missing about health and race

Senator Booker talks passionately about health care access and the low-income black and brown community he lives in.

And while nationwide roughly 26% of blacks and 23% of Hispanics live in poverty, the majority of blacks and Hispanics do not. The focus on the problems of the poor, significant though they are, ignores the very real health problems associated with higher income blacks and Latinx. Research has revealed—surprisingly–that racial disparities in health tend to be more pronounced at the upper ends of the socioeconomic (SES) spectrum.

Despite having access to above average social and economic resources, nonpoor blacks and Latinx report significantly worse health outcomes when compared to non-poor whites. (Non-poor is defined as households with income greater than $55,000.) That is, black-white racial disparities in health are often more pronounced among higher than lower SES status populations–and upward mobility does not seem to bring similar improvements in health for blacks as it does for whites.

For Hispanics, particularly those born outside the United States, the association between higher SES status and health is so tenuous that investigators have coined the term “Hispanic health paradox” to describe this particularly troubling finding. While the problems of racial disparities in health means a great deal to poor black and brown Americans, Senator Booker, by focusing solely on the poor misses an even greater problem.

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