Neighborhood racial composition and perceptions of racial discrimination: Evidence from the Black Women's Health Study

Document Type


Publication Date



Little is known about the effects of social context or "place" factors (e.g., characteristics of local populations) on African Americans' perceptions and experiences of racism. Using data from 42,445 U.S. black women collected during the 1997 follow-up wave of the Black Women's Health Study, we investigated the association between neighborhood racial composition ("percent black" at the block-group level in 2000 Census data) and perceptions of racial discrimination. Perceived racial discrimination was measured using self-reports of the frequency of discrimination in "everyday" settings (e.g., being treated as if you are dishonest) and "lifetime" occurrences of discrimination on the job, in housing, and by the police. There was a linear inverse relationship between neighborhood percent black and perceived discrimination, i.e., higher percent black was associated with lower levels of discrimination. Our results support the conclusions that, relative to contexts in which blacks are a small minority, more evenly-mixed (i.e., integrated) contexts result in lower levels of discrimination (contact hypothesis), and mostly black contexts evidence the lowest levels of discrimination (ethnic density hypothesis).

This document is currently not available here.