Racial Stratification, Union Formation and Health Risk Indicators

Rhiannon A. Kroeger, University of Texas at Austin

I utilize four waves of data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and fixed-effects regression analysis to assess whether the consequences of marriage and cohabitation for body mass index, binge drinking, and tobacco use differ for non-Hispanic White, non-Hispanic Black, and Hispanic men and women. Results indicate that marriage and cohabitation are associated with increases in BMI that are greatest in magnitude for Blacks, followed by Hispanics, followed by Whites. Further, Blacks experience increases in tobacco use following cohabitation, whereas Whites and Hispanics do not. I situate my results in the context of the U.S. racial stratification system, speculating that 1) the effects of racism and discrimination limit prospects for high quality, stable unions, and 2) chronic exposure to discrimination places strain on otherwise healthy relationships, thereby lowering relationship quality and moderating the impact of intimate union involvement on health risks.

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Presented in Session 57: Production of Racial, Ethnic and Gender Disparities