Race and nutrition: an investigation of Black-White differences in health-related nutritional behaviours


Address for correspondence: Peter Riley Bahr, Department of Sociology, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48202, USA
e-mail: peter.bahr@wayne.edu


Black-White disparities in the incidence and prevalence of chronic disease and premature morbidity are persistent and well documented in the United States. Prevailing explanations for these disparities have focused upon socioeconomic inequality and related mechanisms as the causal factors. Yet, despite the explanatory power of socioeconomic status in models of health outcomes, an unexplained racial gap in health persists. This research contributes to the study of the Black-White health divergence by exploring a mechanism with the prospect of explaining a portion of the racial gap in health remaining after adjustment for socioeconomic status. Specifically, using random coefficient regression to analyse pooled data from the 1993–1999 California Dietary Practices Survey, I identify significant differences between Blacks and Whites, after adjustment for socioeconomic status and other controls, both in global nutritional healthfulness and across a range of nutritional behaviours with established links to the development of chronic disease. Given the compelling body of literature linking nutritional behaviour to health outcomes, these differences between Blacks and Whites constitute evidence for the potential explanatory value of nutrition in future studies seeking to explain the residual racial gap in health remaining after adjustment for socioeconomic status and correlates of socioeconomic status.