Education in the Jim Crow South and Black-White inequities in allostatic load among older adults.

TitleEducation in the Jim Crow South and Black-White inequities in allostatic load among older adults.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsWalsemann, KM, Pearson, J, Abbruzzi, E
JournalSSM Population Health
ISSN Number2352-8273
KeywordsEducation, Measurement, race disparity

In the U.S., Black adults consistently have higher allostatic load - an indicator of physiological dysregulation - than White adults. Education is considered a likely mechanism given racial differences in attainment, but evidence is mixed. This may be due, in part, to data limitations that have made it difficult for scholars to account for the structurally rooted systemic racism that shaped the U.S. education system and led to large racial inequities in school term length and school attendance among older adults who grew up in the Jim Crow South. Our study addresses this limitation by linking historical data on Black and White segregated school systems in the U.S. South from 1919 to 1954 to the Health and Retirement Study (HRS) to determine if a new measure of educational attainment that accounts for structural racism that led to differences in the number of school days attended by Black and White students across years and states better explains Black-White inequities in allostatic load among older adults who attended school during Jim Crow. We restrict our sample to HRS respondents racialized as White or Black, who resided in the South when they were school-aged, completed primary/secondary school between 1919 and 1954, and provided a measure of allostatic load (n = 1932). We find that our new measure of schooling - duration in school - reduced the Black-White inequity in allostatic load more so than self-reported years of schooling whether we measured allostatic load continuously (34% vs 16%) or categorically (45% vs 20%). Our findings highlight the importance of identifying and using historically informed measures of schooling that account for structurally rooted systemic racism when trying to understand how education shapes the health of individuals racialized as Black in the United States.

Citation Key12679
PubMed ID36124258
PubMed Central IDPMC9482141