Living in an Ethnically Homogenous Neighborhood Boosts Health of U.S. Minority Seniors

Timothy S. Paul, Columbia University, October 18, 2012

An African-American or Mexican-American senior living in a community where many neighbors share their background is less likely to have cancer or heart disease than their counterpart in a more mixed neighborhood.

Results of the new study by Kimberly Alvarez, a PhD student at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, and Becca Levy, PhD, associate professor of Epidemiology and Psychology at the Yale School of Public Health, appear in the American Journal of Public Health.

Counter to prevailing notions, researchers found that “living in the barrio or ethnically dense communities isn’t always bad for your health,” says Alvarez. “For older minority adults, it’s actually the reverse: living in an ethnically dense neighborhood is beneficial when it comes to heart disease and cancer,” adding that these are the two most common chronic conditions and causes of death among minority older adults.

The researchers used survey data to look at health outcomes of 2,367 Mexican-American and 2,790 African-Americans over age 65 living in communities with high percentages of African-Americans (New Haven, Conn., and north-central North Carolina) and Mexican-Americans (Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas). Among African-Americans, those living in a county with an ethnic density of 50% or more (that is, where half or more of the population shared the same background) were 46% less likely to report doctor-diagnosed heart disease and 77% less likely to report cancer than those who lived in an ethnic density of less than 25%. Mexican Americans living in a county with an ethnic density of 50% or more were 33% and 62% less likely to report heart disease and cancer, respectively, than those who lived in an ethnic density of less than 25%. Ethnic density was significantly more protective for heart disease in African-Americans than Mexican-Americans; the association between ethnic density and cancer was equally strong for both groups.

Cultural factors could help to explain the phenomenon. “Communities with high ethnic density may be more likely to share values like respect for elders and have close-knit family structures,” says Dr. Levy. Earlier studies showed high levels of social support within communities of Hispanic immigrants. “These networks may facilitate better health behaviors and, in turn, better health outcomes,” adds Alvarez. “For example, information about free health clinics may be more freely exchanged in these communities.”

Past studies showed a health benefit of ethnic density for Hispanics, but the reverse for African-Americans; these results were in keeping with what is known as the Hispanic Paradox: that even with similar levels of socioeconomic status, Hispanics have comparable, or in some cases better, health outcomes than White Americans. Adding a wrinkle to this rule, Alvarez and Dr. Levy are the first to find a positive effect for ethnic-density among African-Americans. The difference, Alvarez explains, may owe to the fact that past studies have looked at African-American children and young adults rather than seniors and measured ethnic density in relation to whites rather than within subsets of other minority populations.

“Having this information is important given the rapidly growing population of older adult minorities,” says Alvarez.

Support for the study was provided by grants from the National Institute on Aging (R01AG032284), the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (R01HL089314), and the Patrick and Catherine Weldon Donaghue Medical Research Foundation (to Dr. Levy).


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  • Triarius

    I guess they can’t release the data fr whites in a homogenous neighborhood for some reason. But the statistics would sow tha not only would health go up, but likelyhood to be robbed, raped, car jacked, and home invaded would go down.

    But of course facts are racist. This article is further proof that segregation is beneficial for all, much like the study done by that ultra lib Harvard prof. that said trust of neighbors go down when diversity goes up.

    • Angry White Woman

      Basically what I was going to say. Elderly white people who live in “diverse” neighborhoods have a much greater incidence of sudden death due to attacks from non-whites on the streets or in their homes. The stress from fear of same leads to many other illnesses and eventual deaths.

  • potato78

    I guess that “An White-American or European-American senior living in a community
    where many neighbors share their background is less likely to have
    cancer or heart disease than their counterpart in a more mixed
    neighborhood.” Am I right?

  • Oil Can Harry

    So the conclusion of this study is …DIVERSITY KILLS.
    Every majority white nation must now close their borders as a public health measure.

    • Allwyn Mayer

      It wasn’t diversity that kept black people poor for 300 years in this country. It was RACISM and racial prejudice. If black people got the same “handouts” white people got in the US since the early 1600s (free land, slave labor and relative lack of discrimination for starters) they would’ve been far richer and healthier than they are today. America grabbed land from the Indians and gave it to white men for free, but they balked at giving black people ANY land. A land so steeped in racism has never in the world been seen. Tsk. tsk.

      • Sherman_McCoy

        Actually, it is the genetically lower intelligence level of blacks, coupled with their inability to delay gratification, compounded by their chieftains’ constant bloviating that their inability to achieve outside of the athletic and entertainment fields is “whitey’s fault” that keeps them down.

        You are not the sharpest pencil in the pack, are you, “Allwyn?”

      • Howard W. Campbell

        Why is it that people who don’t speak a word of English when they arrive can be quite successful in a fairly short period of time? My sister in law’s grandfather arrived here from Sicily in the 1930’s with a pregnant wife in tow. He was able to secure a job at the Gary Steel works and retired from there 40 years later. Granted the man was not “wealthy” when he died, but he was able to put 3 kids through college and no one in that family line has ever been in trouble with the law. None have been career welfare collectors.

        I read an interview with a black woman one time where she stated “We have been here for 400 years and don’t even have a Walgreen’s”. It is not the legal system that holds people back. You cannot build a supply chain when people are stealing all of the links. Whites are not going into black neighborhoods and stealing all of the links, blacks are doing that to themselves.

        The US may not be perfect, but there are opportunities that one does not see in most other places. How did Samuel B. Fuller rise from $25 in his pocket to being the wealthiest black in America in the 1950’s?

        If you think you have it so bad here, go volunteer to live like a third country national from Bangladesh living in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. Just about any black in the US would get 100 times better treatment from his/her local Grand Dragon of the K than from a typical employer in the above mentioned countries.

      • toldev

        So you have explained the reasons for black poverty in The United States. How do you then explain black poverty in other areas of the world where blacks have had little contact with whites? In fact, American blacks have about the highest standard of living of any blacks on the planet. That would suggest that the racism you are talking about has had a positive effect on black socio-economic status.

      • Dan Reardon

        Are you Jon Engleman’s twin sister?

      • Classicist

        Try typing “We were better off during Jim Crow” into the You Tube search box. The Black Community had much to offer its own people before the Civil Rights Movement destroyed it. And, had the nation not taken the path of Liberalism, things might well have continued to improve for the American Blacks.

      • Oil Can Harry

        Nce try, Allwyn. Problem is, blacks are poor everywhere around the globe and ESPECIALLY in black-run lands like Haiti and Sub-Saharan Africa.

      • Bon, From the Land of Babble

        Non-Whites have benefitted greatly from White achievement. You’re using a machine that a bunch of White people invented.

        I wouldn’t listen to a word this “Allwyn” says. He obviously hates Whites and doesn’t know what they really think and feel. He is a propaganda artist for the “No More White Kids” movement.


  • preparationHbomb

    I’m a senior living in a nearly all-white community, and I LOVE IT!!!! My health is better than it has been in years, due at least partially to the fact that there is NO RACIAL TENSION here. We don’t have guns going off at night here. We don’t have gangs of young black males wandering around at night. Most of us have a metal sculpture of a handgun that says under it, “We Don’t Call 911” on the outside of our homes, front and center, and we’re armed. I’m not particularly close to my neighbors, but we all know we can count on one another should there be a need to do so. This is definitely the best place I’ve ever lived!

    • pcmustgo

      RACIAL TENSION is the issue here. I’m sure blacks do experience some racism- hostile glares, etc…. even if they don’t deserve it. Diversity = Racial Tension…. under most circumstances. Asians are not violent, and yet I’ve had some racial tension/nasty moments with them.

      It’s not all about violence. It’s about not having people scowl at you and glare at you with pure hatred.

      • pcmustgo

        It all becomes one complicated soup of racial tension and hatred. The black or asian experiences some racism from a white, and then goes out and takes it out on or begins hating whites. The whites who experience their racism begin hating them and sometimes “taking it out on” a black or asian or whatever, It spreads like cancer. “Getting Revenge”!

        That being said, Blacks are, of course , the most racist, aggressive and violent on average. + they have the most problems and logically blame it all on “white racism”. Not excusing them away, just explaining this phenonmen,

        I know all the reverse racism I experienced in life is what turned me into a race realist/racist. I try to be good to everyone, but it’s hard.

        • There is no such thing as “reverse racism”. That term implies that only whites are supposed to be “racist” and, as such, it’s a slur against whites.

    • Sherman_McCoy

      AND , , , , in an all-white community one is far less likely to have bullets or knives (or forced black genitalia) entering one’s body: something which i am given to understand by most physicians to be rather detrimental to one’s health.

      • preparationHbomb

        Truly!!! I carry an 800,000 volt stunner on me at all times, as well as knives, because if any black (or other) male genitalia is displayed in my vicinity, it’s my goal to geld the gonads!

  • white dude

    I think most Whites feel the same too. But you can’t say that, that be rayisss!

  • Of course they cannot come right out and say the Dieversity is causing increasing harm to white of all ages. But the fact is, being around racial hostiles drives up stress for us, which triggers ailments such as hypertension and heart disease which are killing whites every day. All this study proves is that seniors need to be with others like them, which benefits everyone. The only way to dial down the hate is to separate and let people associate with others of their own kind without interference from government.

  • It goes without saying that there is no funding for studies about older whites. Funding is only available to study how we can make life better for non-whites – because hatred of whites is what passes for “progressive” these days, while any concern for whites, as a group, is considered “hatred”.

  • LHathaway

    Translation: It’s Ok for people of color to be racist. Their lives depend on it.

    White need to be anti-racist, even if it kills every last one of them.

  • Well then-good. Let’em stay with their compadres or brothas.