IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

The intersection of school racial composition and student race/ethnicity on adolescent depressive and somatic symptoms


  • Walsemann, Katrina M.
  • Bell, Bethany A.
  • Maitra, Debeshi


Schools are one of the strongest socializing forces in the U.S. and wield considerable influence over individuals' social and economic trajectories. Our study investigates how school-level racial composition, measured by the percentage non-Hispanic white students in a school, affects depressive and somatic symptoms among a representative sample of U.S. adolescents, and whether the association differs by race/ethnicity. We analyzed Wave I data from the US National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, resulting in a sample size of 18,419Â students attending 132Â junior and senior high schools in 1994/5. After controlling for individual and school characteristics, our multilevel analyses indicated that with increasing percentages of white students at their school, black students experienced more depressive symptoms and a higher risk of reporting high levels of somatic symptoms. After including students' perceptions of discrimination and school attachment, the interaction between black student race and school-level racial composition was no longer significant for either outcome. Our findings suggest that attending predominantly-minority schools may buffer black students from discrimination and increase their school attachment, which may reduce their risk of experiencing depressive and somatic symptoms.

Suggested Citation

  • Walsemann, Katrina M. & Bell, Bethany A. & Maitra, Debeshi, 2011. "The intersection of school racial composition and student race/ethnicity on adolescent depressive and somatic symptoms," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(11), pages 1873-1883, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:72:y:2011:i:11:p:1873-1883

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Robert Erikson & John H. Goldthorpe, 2002. "Intergenerational Inequality: A Sociological Perspective," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 31-44, Summer.
    2. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.2005.064543_8 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Gee, Gilbert & Walsemann, Katrina, 2009. "Does health predict the reporting of racial discrimination or do reports of discrimination predict health? Findings from the National Longitudinal Study of Youth," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 68(9), pages 1676-1684, May.
    4. Macintyre, Sally & Ellaway, Anne & Cummins, Steven, 2002. "Place effects on health: how can we conceptualise, operationalise and measure them?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 55(1), pages 125-139, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Bradby, Hannah, 2012. "Race, ethnicity and health: The costs and benefits of conceptualising racism and ethnicity," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(6), pages 955-958.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:72:y:2011:i:11:p:1873-1883. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.