American Sociological Association

Race-Ethnicity, Poverty, Urban Stressors, and Telomere Length in a Detroit Community-based Sample

Residents of distressed urban areas suffer early aging-related disease and excess mortality. Using a community-based participatory research approach in a collaboration between social researchers and cellular biologists, we collected a unique data set of 239 black, white, or Mexican adults from a stratified, multistage probability sample of three Detroit neighborhoods. We drew venous blood and measured telomere length (TL), an indicator of stress-mediated biological aging, linking respondents’ TL to their community survey responses. We regressed TL on socioeconomic, psychosocial, neighborhood, and behavioral stressors, hypothesizing and finding an interaction between poverty and racial-ethnic group. Poor whites had shorter TL than nonpoor whites; poor and nonpoor blacks had equivalent TL; and poor Mexicans had longer TL than nonpoor Mexicans. Findings suggest unobserved heterogeneity bias is an important threat to the validity of estimates of TL differences by race-ethnicity. They point to health impacts of social identity as contingent, the products of structurally rooted biopsychosocial processes.

Authors

Geronimus, A. T., Pearson, J. A., Linnenbringer, E., Schulz, A. J., Reyes, A. G., Epel, E. S., Lin, J., Blackburn, E. H.

Volume

56

Issue

2

Starting Page

199

Ending Page

224

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