Int J Epidemiol Res. 2019;6(2): 76-82.
doi: 10.15171/ijer.2019.14
PMID: 31363495
PMCID: PMC6666429
  Abstract View: 411
  PDF Download: 269

Original Article

Race, Education Attainment, and Happiness in the United States

Shervin Assari 1,2,3* ORCID logo

1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
2 Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture, and Health, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
3 Department of Psychology, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
*Corresponding Author: *Corresponding Author: Shervin Assari, Tel: +1-734-363-2678, Email: , Email: assari@umich.edu


Background and aims: As suggests by the Minorities’ Diminished Returns (MDR) theory, education attainment and other socioeconomic status (SES) indicators have a smaller impact on the health and well-being of non-White than White Americans. To test whether MDR also applies to happiness, in the present study, Blacks and Whites were compared in terms of the effect of education attainment on the level of happiness among American adults.

Methods: General Social Survey (1972-2016) is a series of national surveys that are performed in the United States. The current analysis included 54785 adults (46724 Whites and 8061 Blacks). The years of schooling (i.e., education attainment) and happiness were the main independent variable and the main dependent variable of interest, respectively. In addition, other parameters such as gender, age, employment status, marital status, and the year of the survey were the covariates and race was the focal effect modifier. Finally, the logistic regression model was used to analyze the data. Results: Based on the results, high education attainment was associated with higher odds of happiness in the pooled sample. Further, a significant interaction was found between race and education attainment on the odds of happiness, showing a larger gain for Whites compared to Blacks. Racespecific models also confirmed this finding (i.e., a larger magnitude of the effect of education for Whites compared to Blacks).

Conclusion: Overall, the MDR theory also applies to the effect of education attainment on happiness. Blacks’ disadvantage in comparison to the Whites in gaining happiness from their education may be due to the structural, institutional, and interpersonal racism and discrimination in the US. Therefore, there is a need for economic and public policies that can minimize the Blacks’ diminished returns of education attainment and other SES resources.

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Submitted: 12 Dec 2018
Accepted: 04 May 2019
ePublished: 21 Jun 2019
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