February 5, 2009
The first multi-dimensional effort to quantify the disparities faced by African-American and Latino boys and men in California across a broad spectrum of health and social factors provides a disquieting outlook for their lives.
Compiled by RAND Corporation researchers at the request of The California Endowment, the report compares how well men and boys of color have fared relative to their white peers across the realms of health, safety, socioeconomic characteristics and readiness to learn.
"This report provides the most complete assessment ever compiled of the diminished life chances of boys and young men of color in California," said Lois Davis, the report's lead author and a senior policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. "While many of these trends have been well publicized, putting them all together in one report should help focus attention on the larger issues that are behind these inequities."
Using a standard method for comparing the information available about disparities, researchers calculated the "odds" that boys and men of color are experiencing social, economic and health disadvantages compared to their white peers.
African-American and Latino young men and boys have predictably fared worse than their white peers across more than 30 different measures examined by researchers, such as high school graduation rates, likelihood of going to prison, family poverty and the chance they will be diagnosed with AIDS.
While equally disadvantaged in some of the areas examined, African-Americans and Latinos differ in the types of outcomes where they experience disadvantage relative to whites. For instance, African-American children are more likely to live in single-parent families and in families where no adult works full-time year around. Meanwhile, Latino children are 10 times more likely to have mothers with less than a high school education.
Both Latinos and African Americans face poor odds in the education realm. African-Americans in California over the age of 25 are nearly twice as likely to be without a high school diploma as whites, while California Latinos are nearly seven times more likely to have not completed high school.
In the health area, African-Americans were more than three times as likely as whites to be hospitalized for asthma and were nearly seven times more likely to have a diagnosis of HIV or AIDS. Latinos were nearly five times more likely to lack health insurance and more than four times more likely to have a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. Across all of the safety indicators studied, the odds faced by African-Americans were worse than the odds for Latinos in areas such as disproportional representation in the foster care system or firearms-related death rates.
A growing body of research suggests that the disparities for these boys and young men of color result from a cumulative set of factors that include adverse socioeconomic conditions and having unequal access to health care, quality education, adequate housing and employment.
"Identifying disparities such as these is only a starting point," Davis said. "The next step is to identify strategies in the policy arena that may help to close the gaps facing boys and men of color in California. The unequal chances that boys and men of color face are not immutable, and we know an increasing amount about how to improve those chances. Our hope is that this report can be used as a baseline for measuring progress over time."
The report, "Reparable Harm: Assessing and Addressing Disparities Faced by Boys and Men of Color in California," is available at www.rand.org and www.calendow.org. Other authors of the study are M. Rebecca Kilburn and Dana Schultz.
RAND Health, a division of the RAND Corporation, is the nation's largest independent health policy research program, with a broad research portfolio that focuses on quality, costs and health services delivery, among other topics.