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Exploring the nature of occupational health disparities between racial and ethnic minority and non-minority groups.

Roberts RK; Swanson NG; Murphy LR
Work Stress and Health: New Challenges in a Changing Workplace, March 20-22, 2003, Toronto, Canada. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2003 Mar; :CD-ROM
Health disparities between racial and ethnic minority and non-minority populations in the United States have been widely documented over the last decades, receiving renewed and focused attention in very recent years. A large body of literature has noted significant racial and ethnic disparities in a variety of health outcomes, with people of color generally suffering worse health. Extending to the work arena, the disparity phenomenon poses a potentially cataclysmic problem for North American work organizations. At least 25% of the current U.S. population is thought to consist of racial minorities. It is anticipated that this statistic will reach 32% by 2010, more than 40% by 2035, and 47% by 2050. Given the current demographical reality and these projected shifts, the sustainability of work organizations hinges upon the preservation of minority occupational health. Unfortunately, the research community is currently limited in its understanding of the experiences of minority workers. Conceptualizations of people, health, and work have been developed from a largely mono-majority orientation and have been assumed to be exhaustive and universally applicable. The reality, however, is that there is uncertainty surrounding whether current paradigms fully apply to those workers who comprise a large and increasing proportion of the American workforce. A multifaceted framework that provides a thoughtful description of the work organization factors influencing minority health is desperately needed. Guided by existing literature on the general life experiences of American minorities, a portion of such a conceptual model is presented here. Exploratory analyses of the Quality of Work Life (QWL) survey, a module developed by NIOSH and included in the 2002 administration of the General Social Survey (GSS), were conducted to provide a preliminary test of this paradigm. The analyses provide answers to these and other questions: What percentage of minority workers reports experiences of workplace discrimination and harassment? Do the data provide evidence for a relationship between these experiences, stress and health outcomes? Is there evidence of an "organizational" discrimination that disproportionately places racial and ethnic minorities in "high strain" occupations? The ultimate goal of this research is to provide direction for further paradigm construction and empirical research on minority occupational health.
Racial-factors; Demographic-characteristics; Sociological-factors; Psychological-stress; Job-stress
Rashaun K. Roberts, Ph.D., National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Applied Research and Technology, 4676 Columbia Parkway (C-24), Cincinnati, Ohio 45226, USA
Publication Date
Document Type
Conference/Symposia Proceedings; Abstract
Fiscal Year
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Work Environment and Workforce: Organization of Work
Source Name
Work Stress and Health: New Challenges in a Changing Workplace, March 20-22, 2003, Toronto, Canada
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division