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Race-based job discrimination, disparities in job control, and their joint effects on health


  • John D Meyer MD, MPH

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, SUNY-Downstate School of Public Health, Brooklyn, New York
    2. Divison of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Department of Preventive Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, New York
    • Correspondence to: John D Meyer, MD, MPH, Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, SUNY-Downstate School of Public Health, 450 Clarkson Ave Box 43, Brooklyn, NY 11203. E-mail:

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  • Disclosure Statement: The author has no conflicts of interest to declare.



To examine disparities between job control scores in Black and White subjects and attempt to discern whether self-rated low job control in Blacks may arise from structural segregation into different jobs, or represents individual responses to race-based discrimination in hiring or promotion.


Data from the National Survey of Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) were analyzed by mixed-effects linear regression and variance regression to determine the effects of grouping by occupation, and racial discrimination in hiring or promotion, on control scores from the Job Content Questionnaire in Black and White subjects. Path analyses were constructed to determine the mediating effect of discrimination on pathways from education and job control to self-rated health.


Black subjects exhibited lower mean job control scores compared to Whites (mean score difference 2.26, P < 0.001) adjusted for age, sex, education, and income. This difference narrowed to 1.86 when adjusted for clustering by occupation, and was greatly reduced by conditioning on race-based discrimination (score difference 1.03, P = 0.12). Path analyses showed greater reported discrimination in Blacks with increasing education, and a stronger effect of job control on health in Black subjects.


Individual racially-based discrimination appears a stronger determinant than structural segregation in reduced job control in Black workers, and may contribute to health disparities consequent on work. Am. J. Ind. Med. 57:587–595, 2014. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.