Racial disparities in health tend to be more pronounced at the upper ends of the socioeconomic (SES) spectrum. Despite having access to above average social and economic resources, nonpoor African Americans and Latinos report significantly worse health compared to nonpoor Whites. We combine data from the parents and children of the 1979 National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY79) to address two specific research aims. First, we generate longitudinal SES trajectories over a 33-year period to estimate the extent to which socioeconomic mobility is associated with exposure to discrimination (acute and chronic) across different racial/ethnic groups (nonHispanic Whites, nonHispanic Blacks, and Hispanics). Then we determine if the disparate relationship between SES and self-rated health across these groups can be accounted for by more frequent exposure to unfair treatment. For Whites, moderate income gains over time result in significantly less exposure to both acute and chronic discrimination.
Upwardly mobile African Americans and Hispanics, however, were significantly more likely to experience acute and chronic discrimination, respectively, than their socioeconomically stable counterparts. We also
find that differential exposure to unfair treatment explains a substantial proportion of the Black/White, but not the Hispanic/White, gap in self-rated health among this nationally representative sample of upwardly mobile young adults. The current study adds to the debate that the shape of the SES/health
gradient differs, in important ways, across race and provides empirical support for the diminishing health returns hypothesis for racial/ethnic minorities.