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"Love thy neighbour"--it's good for your health: a study of racial homogeneity, mortality and social cohesion in the United States


  • Reidpath, Daniel D.


This paper explores the idea that in societies that experience racial tension, increasing racial heterogeneity will be associated with poorer health outcomes, and this effect will be observable in the health of both the minority and the majority group. Here, the association between mortality and racial homogeneity in the United States is examined. The level of racial homogeneity, indexed by the proportion of blacks in each state of the 50 states in the US, was examined in relation to all-cause mortality, adjusted for age and disaggregated by race and sex. The level of poverty in each state was controlled for in ordinary least squares regression models. The level of racial homogeneity was significantly associated with age adjusted mortality rates for both blacks and whites, accounting for around 30% of the variance in mortality rates in the total population and the white population. Every 1% increase in the percentage of the state population who were black was associated with an increase in the total mortality rate of 5.06 per 100,000 and an increase in the white mortality rate of 3.58 per 100,000. Based on the data, this suggests, for example, that racial heterogeneity in Mississippi accounts for around 14% of the white mortality rate and in New York and Delaware it accounts for around 7%. These results appear to support the social cohesion thesis that in societies that are intolerant, mortality rates will increase as the proportion of racial or ethnic minorities increase in population. Limitations and explanations for the findings are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Reidpath, Daniel D., 2003. ""Love thy neighbour"--it's good for your health: a study of racial homogeneity, mortality and social cohesion in the United States," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 253-261, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:57:y:2003:i:2:p:253-261

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    Cited by:

    1. Grady, Sue C., 2006. "Racial disparities in low birthweight and the contribution of residential segregation: A multilevel analysis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 63(12), pages 3013-3029, December.
    2. Lee, Matthew R., 2010. "The protective effects of civic communities against all-cause mortality," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(11), pages 1840-1846, June.
    3. Hutchinson, Rebbeca N. & Putt, Mary A. & Dean, Lorraine T. & Long, Judith A. & Montagnet, Chantal A. & Armstrong, Katrina, 2009. "Neighborhood racial composition, social capital and black all-cause mortality in Philadelphia," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(10), pages 1859-1865, May.
    4. Tina Rochelle, 2015. "Diversity and Trust in Hong Kong: An Examination of Tin Shui Wai, Hong Kong’s ‘City of Sadness’," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 120(2), pages 437-454, January.


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