132 Annual Meeting Logo - Go to APHA Meeting Page  
APHA Logo - Go to APHA Home Page

Diversity, Racial Inequality, and Social Capital

Behjat A. Sharif, PhD, CHES, Health Science, California State University @Los Angeles, 5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles, CA 20032, 323/ 343-4747, bsharif@calstatela.edu

Social capital presents itself as a potential antidote to materialistic and structural inequalities (class, gender and race) and has a “common sense” appeal to which everyone can relate (e.g., good relationships are good for your health). A number of indicators suggest that social capital is strongly associated with better health outcomes as well as with civic and economic dimensions of equality in the United States. The empirical evidence on recent trends is unambiguous, across space and time, equality and social capital are positively correlated. However, in seeming contradiction to this thesis, social capital and its related factors do not necessarily bridge across racial groups, nor do they always produce relative civic and economic equality between ethnic groups. Most analysis of social capital do not adequately confront conditions associated with race, as a result, conclusions obscure important dimensions and are misleading regarding equality in America. The appropriate assessment of social capital should not depend on whether one lives in a more or less racially heterogeneous community. The central idea is that networks and the associated norms of reciprocity have value both for the individuals and the community.

This presentation inspects the thesis of social capital more directly through the lens of racial diversity. An index of social capital is examined in terms of public health, equality, civic engagement, community volunteerism, sociability, and social trust. Discussion involves the assumptions that civic engagement is lower in more heterogeneous communities and community heterogeneity negatively influences the production of social capital. Suggestions are made related to policy issues in overcoming economic, political and health disparities, and developing social capital.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Health Disparities, Emerging Health Issues

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Difference and Inequality: Mobilizing for Change

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA