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Black Caribbeans do better in America than in England

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Black Caribbeans living in America enjoy better health, higher incomes and less discrimination at work than both their English counterparts and black Americans, according to the first international comparative study of these populations.

The study, published this month online in the journal Sociology of Health and Illness, was led by sociologist James Nazroo of the University of Manchester, U.K., and social psychologist James Jackson, director of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR).

For the study, Nazroo, Jackson and colleagues compared survey data from national probability samples of five groups: Black, Caribbean and white Americans, and white and Caribbean English. In all, they analyzed data on approximately 20,000 individuals.

The surveys were independent, but similarly designed, allowing researchers to sort out how differences in health were affected by economic and cultural factors, and by migration experiences. The U.S. survey data are part of the National Survey of American Life, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.

They found that Caribbeans in the United States were more than twice as likely as Caribbeans in England to say their health was good.

They also found that whites and Caribbeans in the United States had similar levels of good health whereas Caribbeans in England had much worse health than their white counterparts.

The team also found that Caribbean Americans are wealthier than their English counterparts---with an income profile close to that of white Americans. In addition, Caribbean Americans reported less discrimination at work than their English counterparts, although levels of experienced racial abuse were similar in the two countries.

In contrast to the findings for Caribbean Americans, other black Americans fare just as badly as English Caribbeans in terms of health, wealth and racism.

Other findings:

  • The prevalence of self-reported bad and poor health decreases steadily with increasing income for all groups.

  • Poor health is strongly related to exposure to racism.

  • In both countries, second-generation Caribbean immigrants are financially better off than first-generation immigrants but more likely to report exposure to racism and discrimination.

  • Differences in health between populations in the two countries appear to be related to both socioeconomic inequalities and differences in patterns of migration.

"A common British perception is that Caribbeans who have settled in America endure similar levels of disadvantage to their black American counterparts and to Caribbeans living in England," Nazroo said. "But actually, our research shows that they do well and, beyond their experiences of racism, much better than Caribbeans in England.

"One of the most striking findings is the differences in health between the two Caribbean groups and how this appears to be driven by economic inequalities and migration factors. The situation is so different that American Caribbeans actually have a very similar health profile to their white American contemporaries."

According to Jackson, these differences can be at least partly explained by the different patterns of migration of Caribbeans to America and to England.

"Around 80 percent of the English Caribbean group came to the U.K. before the 1970s in a wave of migration driven by a shortage of labor after the war," he said. "On the other hand, over 80 percent of American Caribbeans migrated during and after the 1970s, just after the period when the U.S. civil rights movement had succeeded in opening up opportunities for black Americans.

"However, the social and economic disadvantage of long-settled black Americans is still apparent and born out by a long history of institutional racism and discrimination going back to the years of slavery."


Contact: Diane Swanbrow
University of Michigan

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